We Heart Artichokes


October is an especially wonderful month to be in Boulder. The air is crisp and the colorful leaves highlight the city’s year-round beauty. But at the Cork, we’re always thinking in terms of food, and October is an ideal time for foodies in town to experience the warmth and depth of fall flavors. One of our favorites is the artichoke.

The artichoke is available at the Cork all year, but in the fall, its flesh is especially tender with remarkable flavor. The mild nuttiness of the vegetable makes it incredibly versatile, holding up well to grilling, steaming and pickling. They’re also great in soups and dips, and are even used as an ingredient in Cynar, an Italian amaro.

Artichokes are a staple of our menu, served as an appetizer with clarified butter and curry mayonnaise on the side, and incorporated into various specials. The artichoke is notoriously difficult to pair with wine, which makes finding the perfect vino to accompany this veggie one of our favorite challenges.

Because of a naturally-occurring chemical in the artichoke, cynarin, everything you eat after tucking into our sumptuous starter will taste sweet. This can have a particularly noticeable effect on wine, influencing your taste buds so that the wine seems unbalanced and lacking in structure. That’s why we’re selective about the wines we pair with artichokes, favoring light-bodied, very dry wines with high acidity and no oak.

Depending on the artichoke’s preparation and accompaniments, certain wines that fit the description above may be better suited to complement the dish. For example, the strong herbal notes in plain steamed artichokes will go well with dry sauvignon blancs that feature notes of citrus and green apple. In contrast, add just a little curry mayonnaise to your bite, and a (still dry) fuller, more rounded wine like verdelho or vermentino may be a better option. In brighter dishes using raw or pickled artichokes, like Jim’s Spring Salsa Verde, we’d recommend something interesting like a fino sherry!

If you’ve been looking for an excellent fall dish and a new wine recommendation, we’ve got you covered. Come on in and join us!

Opus One: The Old World and the New

Opus OneIf you’re a Cabernet fan who has trouble deciding between old world and new, consider Opus One, a blended Cabernet. Founded in Napa Valley in 1979, Opus One comes from the marriage of two countries, two continents, and two of the world’s most famous wine families: Robert Mondavi of California and Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Mouton Rothschild, France. In the 1970s, Rothschild’s involvement was big news in the wine industry and added considerable respectability to an up-and-coming Napa Valley. In 1981, a single case of Opus sold for $24,000 at auction, the highest price ever for a California wine.

Opus One began modestly on 35 acres. The vineyards have since come to span 170 acres, producing 25,000 cases annually. Opus appears to have reached an astounding level of respect in both old and new worlds: close to 50 percent of its wine is now sold overseas, with a distribution office in Bordeaux. Its popularity extends beyond even France and the United States; Japan is one of its leading importers.

To produce its world-class wine, Opus One relies on a gentle, unhurried process. It begins with harvesting the grapes, transporting them carefully in small batches before sorting them by hand. Opus also employs the use of a highly advanced optical sorter, which recognizes a grape’s color, size and shape to ensure that only the most optimal grapes have been hand-selected. Opus dedicates each of its 50 elevated fermentation vats to a particular parcel of the vineyard, so the grapes grow and ferment together. The elevated vats use gravity to release the juice, after which the wine is aged in French oak barrels for a year and a half. Another year and a half of aging in the bottle finishes the wine.

Boulder Cork is pleased to offer Opus One in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 vintages by the bottle as well as the 2011 vintage by the glass (a steal at $72). A winery famous for its Bordeaux-style blends (referred to as Meritage blends when from American soil), varietal percentages vary across Opus vintages to make the most of the year’s grapes and their flavor profiles. The 2010 vintage, for instance, consists of Cabernet Sauvignon 84%, Cabernet Franc 5.5%, Merlot, 5.5%, Petit Verdot 4%, and Malbec 1%. Detailed information on each year’s growing conditions is available on the Opus One website. It’s worth noting that the 2010 vintage received especially strong critical acclaim, described, for instance, as “picture perfect” by wine critic Antonio Galloni.

In the tradition of many great Bordeaux estates, Opus One began crafting a second non-vintage wine, Overture, in 1993. Because of the highly selective Opus One blending process, some lots, despite possessing outstanding qualities, are ultimately not selected for the final Opus One. These lots are afforded more time in the barrel and subsequently blended with other lots across vintages. Overture is aged in the same French oak and consists of the same five varietals as Opus One. Boulder Cork is pleased to offer Overture as well.

If you’re looking for an excellent wine this holiday season, ask us about our Opus One vintages. We love talking about wine!

From the Wine List: Inglenook Vineyards

Inglenook VineyardsHere at the Cork, we pride ourselves on our deep and diverse wine list, featuring vintages for the ages alongside everyday favorites. One wine I was particularly pleased to include on our current list is the Inglenook Cask Cabernet Sauvignon from 2010. The Inglenook tasting notes put it best – this wine offers an “alluring nose of dark cherries, blueberries, chocolate, tobacco and sweet toasted oak.” It is smooth and delicious, and has a unique story to go with its unique taste.

The Inglenook winery is inextricably linked in modern times to the filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola. Inglenook is located in Rutherford, California, and is one of the most famous properties in the Napa Valley. Founded in 1879 by Finn Gustave Niebaum, Inglenook boasts one of the Valley’s most historic vineyards, and the mansion and chateau that overlook the lands bear Niebaum’s name. In 1972, following the success of his film The Godfather, Coppola and his wife Eleanor purchased the Niebaum mansion for $2.2 million.

The purchase did not include the Inglenook vineyards, although it did include 100 acres of grapes attached to the mansion. Flush with his film’s success, Coppola gave no thought to winemaking at the time, only of providing a summer home for his family in the Napa Valley. The Niebaum mansion became that Coppola family home, while the nearby chateau became a museum for Coppola’s movie memorabilia – an attraction that drew tens of thousands of tourists. Over the 20 years tourists were flocking to the chateau, Coppola gradually realized how the intensity of the tourism was ruining the legacy of historic Inglenook.

While Coppola’s was souring on the commercial and tourist nature of the chateau, the legendary Inglenook winery itself had undergone a similar souring. By the time the Coppolas bought the Niebaum mansion in 1972, the quality of a wine once known as one of the finest in the Napa Valley now rated only as a jug wine. The winery had passed through a series of owners who valued profit over quality, and the vintage had suffered.

In 1979, with Apocalypse Now suffering in the press and Coppola’s filmmaking career stalled, Coppola decided to begin dabbling in winemaking with the small 100 acres of grapes that had come with his purchase of the Niebaum mansion in 1972. He bottled a few years and experienced no success until the 1992 release of his successful film Bram Stoker’s Dracula. With the success of Dracula, Coppola bought the Niebaum chateau and the mistreated Inglenook vineyards, and decided to enter the winemaking business in earnest.

Coppola has dedicated himself to turning around the vineyard and restoring quality to the Inglenook name. In 2011, he reacquired the rights to use the Inglenook name and returned the estate to its traditional title. The estate’s previous name, Rubicon, now graces the label of the Inglenook winery’s flagship red. Today, the Inglenook vineyard produces excellent wine once more, and the Cask Cabernet Sauvignon is a perfect example.

Next time you are at the Cork, consider the Inglenook Rubicon, Inglenook Blancaneaux or the Inglenook Cask Cabernet Sauvignon with your steak, fish or prime rib, or ask your server about any of the other amazing wines we feature by the bottle and the glass.