12 large egg yolks (freeze the egg whites for a future use)
16 ounces sugar
1.5 teaspoons grated whole nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
1 pint half-and-half
1 pint whole milk
1 pint heavy cream
1 cup characterful rum (I use Maraud Steelpan)
1 cup Cognac (I use Martell VSOP)
1 cup bourbon (I use Bulleit Bourbon)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup maple syrup (I'm Canadian, what do you expect?)
1) Place the egg yolks, sugar, nutmeg and vanilla paste in a mixing bowl and beat a medium speed for four minutes.
2) In a separate bowl, combine the half-and-half, milk and cream along with the liquors, maple syrup and salt; drizzle into the egg mixture at a slow speed.
3) Pour your tasty treat into well-sealed glass containers. Store for three weeks in the refrigerator. During this time, the alcohol will kill off any nasty bacteria, according to popular science.
4) Serve with freshly ground nutmeg. This treat only gets better with time. Tell your friends about this ASAP -- they need to make it now to provide a nectar to friends and family for the holidays.
A friend recently gave me a wine by Luis Duarte from the Alentejo region of Portugal, and I was curious to examine the treasure. Everything about the 2013 Rubrica was surprising, especially the lead grape: Alicante Bouschet. I had been reading about this grape in a book titled "American Rhône: How Maverick Winemakers Changed the Way Americans Drink." In the book, author Patrick Comiskey explained that the Prohibition's Volstead Act included loopholes that allowed the making of sacramental wine and also, most excitingly, the homebrewing of wine for personal consumption in the home. As a homebrewer, I was intrigued to learn that during the first five years of Prohibition, acreage and production of wine in California nearly doubled to meet the demands of the holy as well as homebrewers throughout the country. As a sommelier, I read with interest that Alicante Bouschet grapes were considered star performers during this time because of their thick skins, resistance to rot and vigorous growth. It was a matter of survival of the fittest, not quality and finesse. These characteristics made Alicante ideal for long and arduous shipments to the Midwest and East Coast. Charles Sullivan of Napa Wine made a case for why other varietals such as Zinfandel were superior to the "coarse Alicante," and I thought it was a pity that a grape with such a beautiful name was such a loser. With that background in mind, I was rather afraid to taste the 2013 Rubrica and set it aside for about a week while I built my courage (and thickened my own skin).
Yesterday, I opened the Luis Duarte Rubrica Tinto 2013 and reviewed it on Vivino. This was no loser: The black plum, racy dried cranberries and forest floor riding on fresh tobacco, charred wood and hazelnut made it a darling in my book, any day of the week. The wine is a blend of Alicante, Touriga Nacional (a Port grape), Aragonez, Sarah and Petit Verdot. I have found it difficult to locate exciting still red wines from Portugal, even in Los Angeles, and it is my understanding that much of the good stuff stays in the homeland. Tasting this wine was a treat, and it got me to thinking about "lesser" wine varietals that are relegated to the blending grape category, as has the Alicante. When treated with compassion and finesse, the Alicante is a treasure that can stand on its own, and you will find varietal examples of this grape in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France, Spain and even here in California.
Alicante was originally cultivated in France by viticulturist Henri Bouschet in 1866. The parents of the grape are Petite Bouschet (created by Henri's dad, Louis) and Grenache. This is one of few wine grapes in the world that has red flesh. The deep color of the wine makes it a perfect blending partner with light red wines. The intensity of the grape's color also makes it vulnerable to rogue winemakers interested in "stretching" the wine by pressing the grapes several times or diluting it. This is a grape that needs loving and knowledgable hands to make it into a single varietal or unique blend. Luckily, the Alicante is enjoying a renaissance in France, Portugal, Spain, Chile, California and other locales. Look her up when you get a chance -- you may find a darling of your own.
What's going on when you open a bottle of wine and smell . . . Band-Aid? Welcome to the world of brettanomyces (aka Brett). This character in our script is a wild yeast that sometimes makes it into your wine -- usually your reds, but sometimes your whites. Brett plays a leading role in the nightmares of most winemakers because it's like a feisty two-year-old child: uncontrollable yet full of potential.
Brett is not necessarily an off-flavor (in palatable amounts). If you were to make a list of Brett's positives, you could include beguiling earthy aromas such as rustic barnyard, spice and horse saddle. When I find Brett to be in a good mood, I am mentally transported to a dark, dusty stable filled with horses, hay and barnyard animals. I hear the horses snorting and pawing at the earth and hens clucking nearby. Perhaps a pig runs through the scene of my imagination. And I am in my happy place -- much like the five-year-old I was when hanging out with horses in my rustic neighborhood of Vista, California. Sidebar: The salt-licks were exotic but not off- menu.
However, Brett has a dark, evil side. Off-flavors that make it impossible to enjoy your wine might include the aforementioned Band-Aid, which I recently encountered in a 2014 Equis from the Saint-Joseph appellation in the Northern Rhone region. The Band-Aid aroma was mild but distracting in what otherwise was a delicious wine. See my review at Vivino. An unruly Brett wouldn't think twice about offering up medicinal, metallic, rancid cheese and other off-putting aromas.
Brett can make itself at home at any stage in the winemaking process, from the grapes to the winery and the barrels. Improvements in cleaning technologies have made it possible to avoid Brett, but these Yeasty Beasties sometimes find a way in.
As a brewer of beer, I find Brett an intriguing dancing partner -- racy, but don't turn your back on him. Brewers are increasingly seduced by the potential of Brett, but it takes a racy type of vintner to embrace the potential of Brett. Many aromatic compounds are shared in the fermented products of wine and beer, so when I study one, it usually helps me with the other. However, in beer, a band-aid aroma is typically associated with Chlorophenols, which is the result of chlorine-based sanitizers like bleach. This differs from wine, where we look to naughty Brett as the villain. Or the hero.