In honor of Texas Wine Month, I thought I would share a few tidbits of knowledge and give you a recipe that calls for a bottle with an apple in it.
Did you know that Texas has more than 220 family-owned vineyards covering 3,700 acres? What about the fact that the Texas wine industry contributes more than $1.35 billion a year to the state’s economy and supports more than 9,000 jobs for Texans? Are you surprised to learn that the Texas Hill Country is the third largest American viticultural area, dwarfing any in California?
The first vineyards in Texas were established by Spanish missionaries in the 1600s, but the modern Texas wine industry as we currently know it began in the 1970s. Because the industry hasn’t been around very long (relatively speaking), vitners are still determining which grapes grow best in the Texas climate. Current front runners include traditional European grapes, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, and Merlot. Texas wineries are also doing great work with grapes such as Sangiovese, Syrah, Blanc du Bois, Viognier, Malbec, and Tempranillo. Plus, some of the cooler climate grapes such as Reisling and Pinot Noir have been successful in West Texas, where the elevation creates a cooler climate.
The major differences between the Texas growing season and that of California are that ours is much warmer with less sunshine and more heat and humidity. Climate is the single most important factor in viticulture, and there are several grapes that are well-suited to the Texas heat, including Syrah, Tempranillo, and Viognier.
Viognier is an intense, slightly spicy white wine. My favorite is from Becker Vineyards outside of Fredericksburg, Texas. It has hints of floral, peach, and apricot, but still maintains a bit of crispness.
Andrea Immer Robinson, Master Sommelier and wine writer, said it is,
“One of the best viogniers made in America, so it’s worth the search.”
I think it works pretty well with dishes that you might pair with a reisling,
such as these pork chops in a recipe modified from Saveur Magazine…
Stuffed Pork Chops with Roasted Apples and Calvados
10 Tbsp butter
10 small yellow onions, peeled and halved lengthwise
2 stalks celery, trimmed and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 tsp dried sage leaves
1 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 double-cut, bone-in, pork chops
6 cooking apples, peeled, quartered, and cored
3/4 cup calvados
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Melt 5 Tbsp of the butter in a large skillet over low heat. Finely chop 3 of the onion halves and add to the skillet along with the celery, garlic, and sage. Increase heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until soft, probably no more than 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat, stir in breadcrumbs, and season stuffing to taste with salt and pepper.
Using a sharp knife, cut a deep pocket in the side of each chop.
Fill each with one-sixth of the stuffing, then close with a toothpick. Season chops with salt and pepper.
Wipe skillet clean and return to medium-high heat. Brown stuffed chops, 2 at a time, making sure that both sides and the edges get nicely browned. It was about 3 minutes per side. Transfer chops to a large roasting pan.
Reduce heat under skillet to low and melt remaining 5 Tbsp of butter. Put melted butter, apples, calvados, and remaining onions in a large bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss well. Increase heat to medium high, put apples and onions in the skillet, and saute until evenly browned all over. It took about 10 minutes.
Scatter and spread the apples and onions around the chops in the roasting pan. Cover pan tightly with foil and roast until chops are tender, about 3 hours. Be sure to pull out the toothpicks before serving.
NOTE: Calvados is apple brandy from the Norman region of France. Apples are pressed into a juice that is fermented into a dry cider, and then distilled into brandy or eau de vie. After aging in oak casks for two years it can be sold as Calvados. The longer the aging, the smoother it becomes and the more expensive the bottle.
You will notice that my bottle of Calvados Pomme d’Eve has an actual apple inside. Cool, huh? After the blossom, and once the apple has started to grow, carafes are attached on the apple trees, so that the fruit can grow inside.