Vin de Paille Quintessence from Tablas Creek Vineyards in Paso Robles
Vin de Paille (pronounced “Vaa d’Pie”) is a delicious dessert wine. The translation from French means (literally) “Wine of Straw” or “straw wine”. However, this wine is definitely NOT made from straw. Tablas Creek uses the traditional Mediterranean technique for producing it: ripe grape bunches are carefully laid down on straw-covered benches in their greenhouses and allowed to dehydrate in the sun. When the grapes reach the desired sugar concentration, they are pressed and the juice is moved to oak barrels for fermentation. The juice ferments until it reaches an alcohol level at which the sweetness of the juice is balanced by the acids and mineral characteristics of the wine itself.
Drinking Vin de Paille brings to mind the scene of a tranquil farm after harvest. The crops are picked, the hay is mown, and the produce is off to market. The sun sets low in the sky, pumpkins are stacked up near the other autumn vegetables, and everything is right with the world.
So how does it taste? Excellent! A honey-like flavor touched with a little maple syrup, caramel, and apricots. It’s sweet and tasty, but not overpowering. It’s more viscous than regular wine, but it’s not syrupy. And one unique thing: this dessert wine has backbone. Its flavor is powerful enough that it can stand up to foods and/or desserts. Some dessert wines are best by themselves, but this one can be drunk by itself or with a dessert.
Which dessert, you ask? Easy: coffee caramel crème brulee! The caramel flavor in the brulee combines with the hint of caramel in the dessert wine, and the mild coffee flavor offsets the sweetness very nicely.
Coffee-Caramel Crème Brûlée
2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
1/4 cup dark-roast coffee beans, coarse-ground or crushed
1 cup sugar, divided
1/2 cup water
2 cups half and half
8 large egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 teaspoons raw sugar
1. Bring 1 cup cream and coffee beans to simmer in heavy small saucepan.
2. Remove from heat; cover and let steep at least 20 minutes and up to 1 hour.
3. Preheat oven to 325°F.
4. Stir 2/3 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves.
5. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil, brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush.
6. Boil without stirring until syrup is deep amber, swirling pan occasionally, about 11 minutes.
7. Remove pan from heat.
8. Add remaining 1 cup whipping cream (mixture will bubble up).
9. Stir over low heat until caramel is smooth.
10. Stir in half and half. Strain coffee-infused cream into caramel cream; discard coffee beans in strainer.
11. Whisk yolks, salt, and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in large bowl to blend.
12. Gradually whisk in cream mixture. Strain custard into large measuring cup.
13. Arrange eight 2/3-to 3/4-cup ramekins or custard cups in roasting pan.
14. Divide custard among ramekins.
15. Add enough warm water to roasting pan to come halfway up sides of ramekins or custard cups.
16. Bake custards until just set in center, 65 to 70 minutes.
17. Transfer custards from water bath directly to refrigerator.
18. Chill uncovered until cold, at least 3 hours and up to 1 day.
19. Sprinkle top of each custard with 1 teaspoon raw sugar.
20. Using a kitchen torch, melt the sugar on each custard until deep amber. (Alternatively, preheat broiler. Arrange custards on small rimmed baking sheet; broil until sugar topping melts and browns, about 2 minutes.)
21. Refrigerate custards until sugar topping hardens, at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour. Serve cold.
My review: I just can't stop loving you.
So pour yourself a glass of Vin de Paille and relax in front of the fire. It’s going to be a long winter, but this is a great dessert wine that will make it go by nicely.