What: I drink both red and white wines throughout the year, but as the weather warms up, then I get serious about white wine. Often you need a cool white wine after being in the heat. Other times you need a white to pair with lighter meals that we tend to eat in spring and summer.
The B.R. Cohn Chardonnay is great in either situation. It’s a wonderful sipper by itself, but when you pair it with seafood or chicken it really shines.
We had it with grilled tuna that we brought back from a recent trip to Edisto Beach, and by the end of the meal there wasn’t a scrap of tuna or a drop of wine left.
The winery is somewhat of a rock-n-roll winery because owner Bruce Cohn managed the Doobie Brothers for 45 years, and the wines certainly are rock stars.
The Chardonnay is a gorgeous golden yellow in the glass with inviting aromas of crème brûlée, honeydew melon and some baking spices. This complex wine has a rich texture as layer after layer of flavor unfolds, giving you a hint of Asian pear, apple, cantaloupe and meyer lemon. Ripe fruit surrounded by toasty oak gives way to a pleasant minerality in the finish.
The grapes come from the Sangiacomo Vineyard in Carneros, which is filled with alluvial soil in the Sonoma Mountain foothills. The vines are on a south-facing slope, warmed by morning sun and cooled by afternoon breezes from the San Francisco Bay, an ideal climate for slow ripening of the grapes, leading to better flavor development.
The grapes are all barrel fermented and aged sur lee for 10 months in 70 percent new French oak and 30 percent one-year-old Burgundy barrels. After fermentation, the lees are stirred regularly. Complete malolactic fermentation further mellows the wine.
I would serve this wine well chilled and let it warm in the glass for 5-10 minutes.
Winery: Founder Bruce Cohn has been around music all his life. Growing up in Chicago he heard his father sing Italian arias, and his mother was known to have sung with Frank Sinatra at nightclubs.
The family moved to the San Francisco area in 1956, settling in Sonoma County. Bruce got involved in the Bay Area music scene while in college, studying broadcasting and communications. He ran a music rehearsal studio during the day and worked as a television engineer at night.
In 1970, he met the Doobie Brothers and became their manager.
To enhance the family’s quality of life Cohn bought an old dairy that included a vineyard in Glen Ellen in 1974. He named it Olive Hill Vineyards after the 140-year-old Picholine olive trees that had been brought from France in the mid-1800s and planted on the property. A drawing of an olive branch appears on the winery’s label.
He got involved in all aspects of growing grapes, tutored by Charlie Wagner of Caymus fame. After 10 years of success selling his grapes to other wineries, he founded B.R. Cohn winery.
The winemaking team included Helen Turley, who went on to have a distinguished career as a winemaker of blockbuster wines. The first four vintages of B.R. Cohn grabbed the attention of critics and the wine world in general.
The winery’s cabernet sauvignon became an immediate hit. The Olive Hill vineyard was ideal for cabernet grapes because of underground hot springs and cool ocean breezes that make for a long growing season.
The 1980 Gundlach-Bundschu Olive Hill Cabernet made with grapes from Cohn’s property was chosen by the White House as a gift to China, because it represented an outstanding example of California wine.
The winery hosts musical concerts and special events throughout the year, donating most of the proceeds to charity. For many years the Doobie Brothers usually performed at the winery each year.
The estate includes 90 acres, 61 planted with cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, malbec, merlot, petite sirah and zinfandel. They grow their chardonnay in Carneros. The winery produces 75,000 cases a year, as well as olives, olive oil, vinegar, and gourmet food products.
The tasting room is in Glen Ellen, about an hour from San Francisco in the Sonoma Valley. It includes a room of Doobie memorabilia.
Goes With: I would serve this wine with many dishes, especially seafood and chicken. But I think I hit the jackpot by pairing it with inch-thick tuna steaks cooked on the grill.
I combined orange juice, soy sauce, garlic and parsley for a marinade in which I soaked the tuna for 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Then I cranked the grill up as high as I could and cooked the tuna for four minutes on one side and three minutes on the other.
The meat was tender and juicy, with a nice char and great flavor. It was fork tender and flaky. Every time we go to Edisto we try to bring back a load of shrimp and fish because they are so fresh. Even after freezing, the seafood has a bright, fresh flavor, and the tuna was no exception. We added french fries and cut up veggies to complete the feast.
The winery also recommends roast duck, herb crusted salmon, curry chicken with mango chutney, cobb salad, baked brie and flat bread and many vegetarian dishes.
½ cup orange juice
½ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 cloves garlic minced
½ teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
3 or 4 four-ounce tuna steaks
Mix all the seasonings in a non-reactive bowl. Slosh the tuna steaks around to coat them. Cover the bowl and place it in the refrigerator, or pour the steaks and marinade into a plastic bag and seal it. Leave the mixture in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
While the tuna marinates, heat the grill.
Cook for four minutes on one side and three minutes on the other. Spray olive oil on the grill so the tuna won’t stick. The steaks are warm and pink on the inside and lightly crusted on the outside.