Magazine article Sunset

Malbec of Our Own

Magazine article Sunset

Malbec of Our Own

Article excerpt

When it comes to the latest red-wine craze, our advice? Go West

RED-WINE ADVENTURERS have discovered Malbec. And there's a lot to like about the grape: dark, juicy fruit, hits of pepper, and tannins gentle enough to allow for easy drinking. The downside, to my shamelessly West Coast loyalty, is that the bulk of bottles being snapped up traveled here from South America - and landed on bargain-basement shelves. Argentina might have adopted this French variety (one of the five Bordeaux blenders) as its signature red, but those bottom-shelf Malbecs (not the country's handcrafted, old-vine bottles) tend to be simple sips.

I give you Washington instead. Based on my recent tasting, just as inky purple and peppery as Argentine versions, Malbec from eastern Washington offers even more intense fruit - blackberry and black cherry - plus spicy black licorice, resiny herbs, leafy tobacco, and interesting textures that come from firm but finegrained tannins and good acidity.

According to longtime Washington winemaker Charlie Hoppes of Fidélitas, Malbec is a grape that can adapt to both warmer and cooler sites. And since the large Columbia Valley contains both, he can buy grapes that offer the rich black fruit of a warm site and blend them with grapes that show more herbaceousness and spice from a cooler vineyard, ending up with a more complex, interestingwine.

Slow-braised red chile beef


Serve this stew with diced avocado, crumbled cotija cheese, and warm flour tortillas.

4 to 5 cups reduced-sodium beef broth, divided

12 dried California or New Mexico chiles (about 3 oz.), stemmed, seeded, and rinsed

1 large onion, cut into chunks

4 large garlic cloves

1 tbsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 boned, tied beef chuck roast (3½ to 4 lbs.), rinsed and patted dry

Kosher salt and pepper

2 tbsp. olive oil

1. Bring 3 cups beef broth to a boil. Put chiles in a blender and pour boiling broth over them. Let stand, mixing occasionally, until chiles are limp, about 10 minutes. Add onion, garlic, cumin, and orégano and whirl until very smooth.

2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325°. Sprinkle beef all over with salt and pepper. Pour oil into a large, heavy pot (not extremely wide) over medium-high heat. When hot, add roast and cook, turning as needed, to brown all over, about 10 minutes total. Pour chile mixture over meat and add enough beef broth to come a third to half of the way up roast. …

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