Lush Life

To be a lush chef, does not mean to drink in excess - this can result in scary fires and bad dishes. A lush chef is one who enjoys gourmet cooking/baking, often with fresh ingredients and the smart use of one's home bar. If there happens to be half a bottle of beer, a glass of wine, or a sip of brandy left over...well, one cannot be wasteful. I give you permission to imbibe.

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The Lush Chef
Twitter: @thelushchef Provenance: Santa Monica Dish: Coq au Vin Spirit: Whiskey Wine: Malbec Beer: Hefeweizen Farmer's Market: Santa Monica on Main Street
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Feb 9, 2012

Libation Education: Ice Wine

When I moved to California from chilly Michigan, I found out that many of my friends had never tasted, or even heard of ice wine.  While one can certainly buy it out here, California obviously doesn't make it.  Most ice wine is made in Germany (you may have seen it labeled "eiswein"), Canada (primarily Ontario), Michigan and some areas in New York.  What is ice wine and how is it different from other wines?  It's a sweet dessert wine and it's freakin' good, that's what.

The grapes are harvested when they've been iced up and frozen on the vine, which allows a more concentrated and sweet grape juice when pressed.  Only the water freezes in the grapes and not the sugars and dissolved solids, so they're still healthy when harvested.  They really don't experience what's called "noble rot" or "Botrytis" where the grapes go through a minor rot and drying when they're ripe.  Those Botrytized grapes are used for other kinds of dessert wines like Sauternes.

Because such a small amount of concentrated grape juice is pressed from these frozen grapes, ice wines tend to be on the pricey side.  If a winter has light snow and minor freezing, this can drastically affect a region's ice wine harvest.  Michigan is actually experiencing this right now, so expect those 2012 ice wine bottles to be expensive...

Because the Lush Chef's parents hit up a lot of Michigan and Canadian wineries (this little grape doesn't fall far from the vine), they always have a nice selection of ice wines on hand.  The wines in the first picture are from from Reif Estates and Kittling Ridge in Ontario.  Yes, there's such thing as Ice Wine & Brandy and it packs a punch—it's also one of my favorite dessert wines ever.  The last one is a Fenn Valley Ice Wine near Grand Rapids, Michigan.  We cracked open this bottle of Fenn Valley Vidal Blanc Ice Wine during the holidays and it was a perfect end for a post-Christmas dinner.