Say the word “scallop” and my ears perk up and my nose gets to sniff’n. Seared sea scallops drew me to the Bokisch Vineyards Winter Fiesta Single-Barrel Wine Release party at the Cellardoor in downtown Lodi, held January 27. I’ve been to my share of food and wine pairings but this one was the cat’s meow.
Before I could indulge in tasty fare and imbibe in delicious wine, Markus and Liz Bokisch, proprietors and winemakers, took the intimate gathering of guests on a slide-show tour of their trip to Spain and Portugal to educate us on the history of Iberian varieties. And, who wouldn’t want to go to the Iberian Peninsula, even if the excursion was a virtual one?
With Iberian-grape knowledge in hand, Markus “let the wines loose” much to the applause of his fans. The food was prepared by Ruben Larrazolo, executive chef of Alebrijes Mexican Bistro. The first dish was a delectable sea scallop prepared in a basil lemongrass sauce and surrounded by a mint and cilantro salad. It was paired with a barrel sample of the Bokisch 2012 Verdelho from Vista Luna Vineyard. Verdelho is a Portuguese variety, associated primarily with the island of Maderia. Bright, crisp, and clean, the 2012 Verdelho is positively pungent with stone fruit and citrus.
Grilled Cornish game hen in a chipotle and orange marinade came next, and was paired with a 2010 single-barrel Bokisch Tempranillo, Liberty Oaks Vineyard. Historically, Tempranillo is grown in the Rioja region of Spain, as well as in Portugal where it is called Tinta Roriz. The 2010 Bokisch Tempranillo is smooth and rich in dark cherry and raspberry. It married perfectly with the game hen and rode nicely on the heels of the orange marinade.
Following the hen was a library wine: Bokisch 2006 Graciano. This variety is a big boy among Spanish wine grapes. Hailing from Rioja, Graciano is rare in that it is not widely planted. Furthermore, you’ll be hard-pressed to find many standalone Gracianos because the grape is often blended with Tempranillo and Garnacha, particularly in Rioja. Dark purple—bordering on black—in color, the 2006 Graciano is bursting with aromas of blueberry and blackberry, leading to black cherry and spice on the plate. The wine was served with a stuffed smoked beef loin with goat cheese, cranberries, and cinnamon—the latter of which is a major characteristic of Graciano.
Last was the Pork loin prepared in a smoky Guajillo chili sauce topped with Oaxacan chocolate shavings, and paired with a Bokisch 2010 single-barrel Graciano.
Aside from being rare, Graciano is also a “finicky” grape. The Bokisch’s are responsible for bringing Graciano cuttings from Spain to California, planting them in 1999. Markus says it is one of the most difficult varieties to grow because it ripens late in the season and has an uneven growth pattern. Given this, the new shoots that grow each year do so “at different sizes and at different rates, which means that some of the fruit on the vine is more advanced than others.” Because of this, Markus says it takes more effort to go through the vineyard and clip back the more advanced shoots. This process, called “shooting thin,” has to be done more than once to ensure that the fruit ratio is even.
Hopefully this bit of Graciano knowledge will make you want to explore this fun and zesty varietal—along with other Bokisch wines—which also pairs well with roasted root vegetables such as beets, parsnips, carrots, and even yams; pumpkin risotto, ribs with barbeque sauce, and desserts like pumpkin pie. Now if only I can find a scallop recipe that will hold up to the bold character of Graciano.