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The Vineyard Project

From a young age I came to understand that three of the key components to my happiness involve great food, great wine and great music.  That holy trinity was born within my family’s kitchen, on many an evening spent with my father cooking dinner, sipping on whatever wine he chose and listening to the music he taught me to love. I came to fall in love with the world of food and wine on many separate occasions thereafter, but the seed was planted there.

            Our connection to wine was rooted more deeply than just an admiration. My Great Uncle Ben had had a vineyard in the Hudson Valley of New York since 1976. We grew up regularly visiting the vineyard, frolicking in the vines, learning about each year’s new creations and helping with the occasional harvest.  Here in the tasting room of Clinton Vineyards (named after its location in Clinton Corners, NY) I learned about how wine was made, about the méthode champenoise that my uncle used on our Sparkling Seyval and consequently why it couldn’t be called Champagne and about the wonderful experiment that turned into our famous award winning Cassis.  My father still likes to brag that our Cassis “beat the pants off of France” and naturally we mock him for telling everyone that.  Joking aside, it is truly delicious.

            My Uncle Ben was quite a culinary talent onto himself.  He, along with my Grandpa Bud, his brother, was the first to expose me to classic French food.  Meals at his house always consisted of some signature French dish: pommes darphin, tart tartin, local pates- you name it.  I’ll never forget my visit during my freshman year of college when my uncle seamlessly whipped up an apple tart.  I watched him as he sliced the apples perfectly thin and uniform, marveling at its perfection.  Every meal he made was glorious and of course was accompanied by some delicious wine.

            My Uncle Ben passed away four years ago and I never got to show him my first apple tart.  Each time I make one, I think of him and know he would be very proud.  Even though he is no longer with us, my Aunt Phyllis continues to carry his torch at the vineyard and produce their delightful wines, which we continue to enjoy on a regular basis.  In thinking about how I wanted to approach our Menu Project, I knew I wanted to honor my uncle’s memory in some way. Initially I thought about simply pairing the dishes with his wines.  A pairing would be relatively easy as Clinton Vineyards produces such a wonderful array of delights, from their Sparkling Seyval and Seyval Blanc to its various scrumptious dessert wines.  Upon further reflection I decided to take it one step further and feature one of his wines in each of the dishes.

            The first dish that came to mind was the Duck in a Cassis Sauce. Duck was one of my Grandpa Bud’s favorite foods and always made me think of him and my uncle. Furthermore the Hudson Valley produces marvelous ducks and I always love to make dishes who’s ingredients are neighbors!  The dessert soufflé was a natural take on a Grand Marnier soufflé, featuring his Desire Blackberry Dessert Wine.  My Aunt Phyllis was the first person to debunk the myth that mussels were something to be ordered at a restaurant and not to be replicated at home; so, I thought I would honor her and I decided to make them. I had never been so decadent as to use a sparkling wine in my mussels before but here I had a golden opportunity to give it a try. And finally for the Victory White, I struggled with a few concepts initially, but alas decided to go with risotto.  I always associated my time on the vineyard with the harvest and the fall and so incorporating roasted butternut squash seemed all too appropriate.

            Perhaps to my Aunt, it was slightly blasphemous to cook with our beloved wines, but I will say the result was indeed quite glorious.  Starting the evening with Kir Royals and then featuring the wines and pairing them with each dish, led to a beautiful harmony throughout the meal.  The Jubilee Sparkling Sevyal in the mussels was dry yet velvety, the Victory White echoed the warmth of the squash and sage in the risotto, the sweet and tart of the Cassis sauce perfectly rounded out the richness of the duck and while the Desire Blackberry Wine in the soufflés was subtle, when paired with the blackberry wine itself, the combination was a small revelation.

            The beauty of food and its taste and smell lies in the memories it evokes and the new ones we create each time we experience it.  Through that meal, I was able to share my family’s story with my friends. I finished that last sip of Desire and bite of soufflé with a smile on my face knowing that my Uncle Ben and Grandpa Bud would have greatly enjoyed the evening.  Great food. Great wine. Happiness.

The Menu

Served September 28, 2013

Jubilee Sparkling Sevyal Naturel Poached Mussels

Creamy Herb Broth with Buttered Baguette Toast

Served with Clinton Vineyards Jubilee Sparkling Sevyal

Victory White Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto

Crispy Sage

Served with Clinton Vineyards Victory White

Duck au Cassis

Cauliflower Puree & Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Blackberry Desire Soufflé

Crème Anglaise & Desire Reduction

Served with Desire Blackberry Dessert Wine

The Vineyard Project


Four Courses Inspired by Clinton Vineyards

Jubilee Sparkling Sevyal  Poached Mussels

Creamy Herb Broth with Buttered Baguette Toast

 (Recipe adapted from The Fundamentals of Classic Cuisine, the French Culinary Institute)

Serves 8


For the mussels:

30 g unsalted butter

60 grams shallots, ciselé

300 ml Jubilee Sparkling Sevyal 

1.5 kilo mussels, cleaned, debearded and soaked in a flour/salt mixture

400 ml heavy cream, reduced by half

Salt & pepper to taste

20 grams chives, haché

10 grams tarragon, haché

For the Baguette Toasts:

1 baguette

113 grams butter


10 grams chives, haché


  1. 1 Sweat shallots in butter

  2. Add Sparkling Seyval and bring to a simmer.

  3.  Add mussels and cook until the just open, tossing after 2 minutes to ensure even cooking and continue to cook for 5 more minutes, or until mussels have opened

  4.   Remove mussels from broth, cover with a little bit of jus and parchment paper.

  5.  Reduce broth till flavorful and add reduced heavy cream.

  6.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

  7.   Add herbs and mussels to broth. Toss and serve with toasts in a shallow bowl.

For the Toasts:

  1.   Cut baguette in half and then into fourths on a bias

  2. Melt butter in a sautoir and lightly brown bread till on both sides and saturate with butter

  3. Remove and sprinkle with salt and chives.

Victory White Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto

Crispy Sage

(Recipe adapted from Classic Culinary Arts Level 2, the French Culinary Institute)

Serves 8


For Risotto

1 medium size butternut squash

Canola oil

1 tablespoon maple syrup

Salt & pepper

3 quarts of chicken stock

Sage oil (see crispy sage)

250 gram white onion, ciselé

750 g Carnaroli rice

250 g Victory White Wine

½ bunch of sage, washed & dried, separate out small sage leaves

20 g unsalted butter

2-3 handfuls grated parmesan cheese

For Crispy Sage

16 small sage leaves

Canola Oil


  1. Peel and remove seeds from butternut squash, reserve

  2. Cut into ½ inch cubes, toss with oil, maple syrup, salt and pepper. Roast at 425 ° F for 45 minutes or until tender and lightly browned

  3. Combine butternut squash rind and seeds (or any excess flesh) with chicken stock and bring to a simmer and allow to infuse. Cook for 15-20 minutes and strain.

  4.  Meanwhile separate small and large sage leaves. Chiffonade large sage leaves and then cut in half. Reserve.

  5. Take small sage and fry in canola oil at 350° F until translucent. Set aside & reserve fry oil for sautéing

  6.  Sweat onion in some of reserved fry oil till translucent.

  7. Add rice and stir till all the grains are coated and translucent.

  8.  Add Victory White Wine and let cook till almost completely evaporated

  9.  Slowly add hot squash infused chicken stock, one ladle at a time, just covering the rice and stir continuously

  10. Meanwhile sauté the chiffonade of sage in butter and sage oil. Add the roasted butternut squash and sauté lightly to absorb the sage and butter flavor

  11.  Add half of the squash into the risotto

  12.  Continue to cook, adding the stock, until the rice is tender and creamy

  13.  Finish with remaining butternut squash and parmesan cheese

  14. Serve with crispy sage to garnish

Duck au Cassis

Cauliflower Puree & Roasted Brussels Sprouts

(Recipe adapted from The Fundamentals of Classic Cuisine, the French Culinary Institute)

Serves 8


For the Duck

4 mullard duck breasts

Salt and Pepper

For the Cassis Sauce

1 liter veal stock

250 ml Cassis Wine

160 g  granulated sugar

240 g red wine vinegar

20 g unsalted butter (optional)

For the Cauliflower Puree

Cauliflower puree

1 head cauliflower

4 cloves  garlic, roasted

30 g salted butter, cut into cubes

3 tbls heavy cream

4 tbls milk (whole)

Salt to taste

For the Brussels Sprouts

750 g Brussel Sprouts

4 tbls olive oil

Salt and Pepper


For the Duck:

  1. Score the skin of each breast

  2. Season with salt and pepper

  3. Place medium to large pan over medium-high heat.

  4. Add seasoned breasts, skin side down

  5.  Lower the heat and cook slowly about 15 minutes, removing the breasts from the pan frequently to discard fat, until the skin is crisp and the fat has rendered out

  6. Turn the breasts over, increase the heat to medium-high and sear for 1-minute or until cooked to desired temperature- ideally medium rare (You can slightly undercook these and then finish them off in the oven)

  7. Let rest before slicing.  Serve over cauliflower puree, next to Brussels sprouts and top with Cassis sauce

For the Cassis Sauce:

  1. Reduce the veal stock to a demi-glace

  2. For the gastrique: place the sugar in a small non-stick saucepan over medium heat. Cook, without stirring until it begins to carmelize. Add vinegar and continue to cook for about 5 minutes until syrupy.  Remove from heat

  3. Finish: Pour Cassis into a saucepan and reduce slightly. Add veal stock and some of gastrique, a little at a time, until the proper sweet/tartness is accomplished

  4. Finish off the heat with a small dab of butter if desired

For the Cauliflower Puree:

  1. Wash cauliflower and cut up into large florets

  2. Blanche in salted boiling water until tender (a l’anglaise)

  3. Blend with cream, milk, butter and roasted garlic

  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste

For the Brussels Sprouts:

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F

  2.  Wash and dry Brussels sprouts. Cut off brown end and cut in half

  3.  Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper

  4.  Place on sheet tray and roast 35-45 minutes, until tender and lightly browned

  5.  Sprinkle with more salt to taste

Blackberry Desire Soufflé

Crème Anglaise & Desire Reduction

 (Recipe adapted from The Fundamentals of Classic Cuisine, the French Culinary Institute)

Serves 8


For the Soufflés:

20 g unsalted butter, softened

270 g sugar

500 ml milk

1 vanilla bean

6 large egg yolks

60 g AP flour, sifted

50 ml Desire Blackberry Dessert Wine

8 large egg whites

20 g confectioners sugar

For Crème Anglaise:

(Makes about 4 cups)


500 ml whole milk

½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped and reserved

5 large egg yolks, at room temperature

100 g sugar

For Desire Reduction:


400 ml Desire Blackberry Wine


For the Souffles:

  1.  Preheat oven to 400° F

  2. Lightly coat the inside of each ramekin with butter.  Sprinkle about 20 g of sugar into each mold, swirling as to generously coat each one, shaking out any excess. Store in the refrigerator

  3. Place the milk in a medium pot over medium heat

  4. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the milk along with the bean. Bring to a boil, immediately remove from the heat and let set for 10 minutes

  5. Blanchir 4 of the yolks with 80 g of sugar in a stainless steel bowl. When well combined, whisk in the flour. Set aside

  6.  Strain the vanilla from the milk. Return the milk to a medium heat and bring to a simmer.  Once at a simmer, slowly temper the yolks with the milk.  Slowly pour the tempered mixture into the pan of hot milk and whisk constantly. Return to a simmer for about 1 minute

  7.  Scrape mixture into a clean bow. Whisk in Embrace Blackberry Wine

  8. Whisking constantly, beat the remaining yolks into the milk mixture

  9. Place the egg whites in a non-reactive bowl and whisk/beat until the whites form soft peaks. Gradually add the remaining 15 g of sugar and beat till firm peaks.

  10.  Fold in one quarter of the beaten whites into the milk mixture and gradually add the remaining whites

  11. Remove the molds from the refrigerator and spoon an equal portion of batter into each mold.

  12. Reduce the oven temperature to 375° F and bake for 8-15 minutes

  13. Remove from oven. Make a small incision in each soufflé and fill with crème anglaise. Drizzle with Desire reduction and dust with confectioners sugar. Serve immediately

For the Crème Anglaise:

  1. Place milk and vanilla bean and seeds in a medium pot and place over medium heat

  2. Bring to a boil, then immediately remove the pot from the heat and allow the milk to cool for a moment

  3. Blanchir yolks with sugar

  4. Temper yolks with milk and vanilla solution

  5. Pour back into a clean pot and cook over low-medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spatula until nappant

  6. Strain and cool

  7. Refrigerate until service

For the Desire Reduction:

  1.  Place Blackberry wine in a small saucepan and cook over a medium heat till reduced by at least half and thick and syrupy


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