Notes from the Winemaker

Christmas with Kelby and Julia

A Sneak Peek in the Wine club

by Kelby James Russell

We sent out our inaugural Wine Club Holiday Packs one week ago. So, we thought you might like a little peak into what we offer. Every Wine Club shipment comes with a newsletter and recipes from members of our team to go along with each wine. Below, you will find what Kelby submitted for his recipe. 

“In this unique holiday season in a rather difficult year, I find myself thinking back to holidays past.  These memories are warm and wonderful, but also a reminder that every year has its ups and downs, challenges and rewards.  The first year a loved one isn’t at the table, or that a new face is.  A holiday when gifts are an afterthought, but the laughter is not.  The holidays are our collective and individual prism on the year, and it is worth cherishing them past and present.

This year, I am thinking about the 2012 holidays.  Newly appointed the winemaker here at Red Newt, I was also in the midst of closing on my first home.  At the same time, Julia was living and working in Avignon in Southern France for a seven month stint.  While it was difficult being apart, we had secretly made plans to elope in Paris when I came to visit that holiday season.  And on a shoestring budget, we did just that.  

But where do you go for a honeymoon when you can barely afford to elope?  We settled on the Alsatian city of Strasbourg, the self proclaimed capital of Christmas, and found an impossibly inexpensive (and small) AirBnB to rent for a few nights.  And when I think back on that trip, I no longer remember those financial worries about making everything work out.  Instead, I remember the Christmas markets.  Snowflakes on our tongues and a skip in our hearts as we dashed about town.  The flash of Julia’s smile as she joked with a vendor in French, the sparkle of the Christmas lights in her eyes. 

And we both remember the dish below, even though it took us years to sort out what it was called.  A Christmas market staple of potatoes cooked with bacon, onions, and a ridiculous amount of cream and mountain cheese; easy enough to cook over an open fire, even easier in an oven.  A steal for a couple of euros, enough to fill both of us without worrying about the cost.  And the perfect companion for a rich and elegant Riesling to counterbalance the winter-hardiness of the dish: tartiflette.”

Ingredients

  •             Sea salt
  •             2 pounds waxy potatoes, like fingerlings, peeled
  •             1 tablespoon olive oil
  •             1 small onion, thinly sliced
  •             ½ cup diced bacon or pancetta
  •             1 tablespoon chopped thyme
  •             ¾ cup white wine
  •             Butter, for buttering gratin dish
  •             ¼ cup crème fraîche or heavy cream  
  •             ½ pound fragrant semi soft cow’s milk cheese (raclette, gruyere, limburger, or camembert)

 

Preparation

  1.           Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Fill a large pan with water, season with a generous amount of salt. Add potatoes, and bring to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are almost tender but still slightly firm in center, about 10 minutes. Drain and slice thickly.
  2.           Return pan to medium heat. Add oil and bacon or pancetta, cook until the pork begins to brown.  Add onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes, then mix in potatoes and thyme.  Cook for 5 minutes, then pour in white wine and reduce until almost gone. Season potatoes with salt, if needed. (If potatoes are not yet cooked through, place a lid on the pan and cook over low heat until tender.)
  3.           Butter a medium gratin dish. Pour in potato mixture and spoon over crème fraîche or heavy cream. Cut rind from cheese, and slice into large, thin wedges. Lay cheese over potatoes. Bake until the cheese is melted, bubbling and golden brown.

Happy Holidays to all of you. Be well, stay safe and we hope to see all of you again soon. You can follow the link below to join the Wine Club. 

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