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The Freewheel line with a couple of English friends.

It takes a lot of beer to keep the wine business running smoothly. Here in Redwood City, we are very fortunate to have a great English style ale producer right in our backyard: Freewheel Brewing Company. The staff of K&L are fictures at our local pub, and it is a rare moment when one of us isn't there having a pint and a bite of their excellent food. We are also lucky enough to be the first place to offer their bottled beer for sale. If you have never had it, the Freewheel Brewing "FSB" Freewheel Special Bitter, California (500ml) is the benchmark in fresh, balanced, smashable ale. We will do our best to keep some in stock for you, the customer too!

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Pinot Noir-Lavender Sorbeto

The 2010 grape harvest is officially underway. In some cases two to three weeks late. According to the Press Democrat, Hunter Vineyards near Glen Ellen was on schedule to start picking Pinot Noir yesterday, and Mumm in Napa reported starting to pick in the cool, pre-dawn hours this morning. 

But not all of the grapes being harvested across the state in the next few months will wind up in wine, as I was reminded at the Hollywood Farmers' Market on Sunday. Piled between peaches and pluots were delicate clusters of Pinot Noir grapes. (There were also the deceptively named "Champagne" grapes, which are actually Corinth grapes, the source for currants and not grapes used for production of Champagne or any other sparkling wine for that matter.) Each violet-black Pinot Noir berry, the size of a large English pea, held in it all of the subtle flavors that make wines, be they still or sparkling, made from Pinot Noir among the world's favorites. All they needed was a little fermentation to tease out the individual notes.

Or did they?

There weren't enough grapes at the farmers's market to experiment with a little home winemaking. But just because they were wine grapes didn't mean the only thing they were good for was wine. I popped a few berries in my mouth and was wowed by the sweet lavender notes that lingered like trails of perfume. There were faint nuances of cherry, cranberry and blueberry too, and the grapes were slightly tannic but not overpowering, with refreshing acidity. Then I started thinking: I've made ice cream out of sweet corn and sorbet out of epazote (the Mexican herb usually reserved for black and pinto beans) and grapefruit, so why not Pinot Noir grapes? 

And what do you do with Pinot Noir Sorbeto? It would make a lovely intermezzo between a rich pasta course, like tagliatelle with sweet corn pesto, and rosemary chicken, or as a light and refreshing dessert. Or how about as an aperitif at your next dinner party? Try a small scoop in a flute topped with your favorite blanc de noir (mine is the Fleury "Carte Rouge" Brut Champange) and experience Pinot Noir in all its iterations .


Pinot Noir-Lavender Sorbeto

yields one pint

12 ounces de-stemmed Pinot Noir grapes (approx 1 1/4 pounds on the vine)

3/4 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

1/8 tsp citric acid

3-4 springs lavender leaves, crushed

In a large container crush the Pinot Noir grapes with your hands. Let grapes sit n the skins for 30 minutes to extract some color (too long and you'll start extracting tannins from the skins and pips, which doesn't make for tasty sorbet).

While the grapes are soaking, mix the sugar, water and citric acid in a saucepan and heat until the sugar has dissolved. Throw in the lavender sprigs. Simmer for 2-3 minutes. Then transfer to a glass container to cool.

When the simple syrup is cooled, drain off the grape juice, then press the grapes into a sieve to get every last drop of liquid out and combine with the lavender simple syrup. Chill overnight and freeze according to your ice cream maker's instructions. 


 Leah Greenstein

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Reader Comments (1)

I used to collectively call all small grapes as "champagne" grapes. Shame on me, I learn something new everyday. Thanks!
How lovely this sorbeto is, especially with the delicate touch of lavender!
August 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdiane and todd

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