The rolling hills of Texas wine country in and around Fredericksburg have become the popular day trip or weekend get-a-way spot for city dwellers needing a change of scenery. We’ve seen an increasing number of restaurants in places such as Austin and San Antonio listing local wines, not only because the quality has improved dramatically over the past several years but because customers are starting to request it with their meal. We can only assume these growing requests stem from the drink local movement, and from many newly converted Texas wine supporters returning from their trips or trails in the Central Hill Country region, 2nd most popular wine destination behind Napa Valley according to travel mega-site Orbitz.
With November comes crisp breezes, preparing us for the cold winter season which inevitably brings a new year. We look to warm soups and hearty fare to keep our body and spirit toasty. November Texas Two Taste Chef Justin “Raif” Raiford, Culinary Director of Bess Bistro, has paired Bess Bistro’s PEI Mussels with Grape Creek Vineyard Viognier, and shares his tasting notes below.
Grape Creek Vineyards
Grape Creek Vineyards is a family-owned and operated labor of love and has won over 100 medals in the last two years. The list includes multiple medals from California, including the San Francisco Chronicle Competition which is largest American wine competition in the world, New York, and of course Texas. The tasting room is an exceptional old world experience. “Tuscany in Texas” awaits with rustic beams, rock and stucco all nestled under a tile roof reminiscent of the hills of Italy. The Villa on Grape Creek is located on the winery property and affords beautiful views of the vineyard, the banks of Grape Creek, the rolling hills and natural landscape of the area – all only 10min from downtown Fredericksburg.
10587 East US Highway 290
Fredericksburg, Texas 78624
Phone: (830) 644-2710
Chef Raiford Tasting Notes
Everyone knows that white wine pairs delightfully with shellfish, however with the thick and smoky flavors of the bacon tomato broth with Bess Bistro’s Mussels, some people might assume that a red wine would be more appropriate. However, with the Grape Creek Viognier, a lovely full-bodied Texas white wine, you get beautiful citrus and honey notes, while the oaky and dry finish makes it the perfect wine to both stand up to, and compliment, our mussels. The long mid-palette and subtle granite notes play nicely with the freshness of the shellfish while the creamy mouth feel accentuates the richness of the broth.
PEI Mussels in a Smokey Tomato Broth
1 cup of smoked pork belly lardons (raw)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (split)
1 cup minced sweet onion
½ cup minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon chili flakes
3 cup fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (or use canned if tomatoes are not in season)
1 cup dried white wine
4 tablespoons finely chopped parsley leaves
3 pounds fresh mussels, well scrubbed and debearded
Grilled ciabatta as an accompaniment
In a large sauté pan, cook the lardons until their fat is starting to be released and they are golden brown, over medium-high heat, about 4-5 minutes. Add half the butter and when melted, add the onion and garlic, cook, stirring, for 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, and chili flakes, cook, stirring and scrapping the bottom, for 1 minute. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add the mussels, cover, and cook until the shells have opened, about 4 minutes, then finish with the other 2 tablespoons of butter.
Discard any shells that do not open. Transfer to a deep bowl, garnish with chopped parsley, and serve immediately with hot grilled ciabatta bread for dipping.
Bess Bistro photo credit here.