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Cooking With Marcassin

Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: May 10, 2006 12:00pm ET

If you cook much, you know how important it is to use good wine (and it’s crucial not to use bad or spoiled wine).

No one would expect you to pour Montrachet into your soup, but I came close a few weeks ago.

After the Marcassin tasting, we split up some of the leftovers, and I took home the 1998 Marcassin Marcassin Vineyard Chardonnay and the 1998 Marcassin Vineyard Pinot Noir. (My previous post contains full notes from the verticals of the estate wines.)

A day later, at a dinner party where I cooked porcini risotto, I used a cup of the Chardonnay. Once it hit the simmering pan. a wonderful crème brulée aroma filled the kitchen.

Eventually the wine worked itself into the core flavors and the porcini mushrooms had a strong aromatic earthiness (perfect for either a Pinot Noir or mature Chardonnay).

I debated writing about this, but then, a couple of weeks later, while tasting with Helen Turley at Blankiet in Napa Valley, we talked about cooking with wine, and Helen shared one of her culinary secrets for oxtail soup.

“My marinade is pretty simple,” she said, with a laugh. “Three gallons of wine.”

What wine did she use the last time?

“Some very expensive red and white Burgundies,” she replied. “They were undrinkable.” She and her husband, John Wetlaufer, are big Burgundy fans, but the wines they'd bought for a comparative tasting left them both nonplussed.

And into the oxtail soup marinade they went.

Tim Sylvester
Santa Monica, CA —  May 10, 2006 8:02pm ET
Sorry JL, I'm usually on your wavelength but cooking with Marcassin??? A day after your profound tasting with Helen and John?? Sacrilege! I would have savored both wines quitely by myself on their own for at least another few days . . . .
Gene Keenan
san francisco —  May 10, 2006 10:34pm ET
I have done this more times than i care to admit. The last time was after a vertical of Lynch Bages (61,77,82,83,89,95,97). The 89 was the clear winner and after the tasting there was a good cup and a half left. My friends were gracious enough to let me take it home. I corked it and the next day added it to a veal reduction that i had been working on for a few days. It was fantastic, the rich cocoa flavors of the LB really came through in the sauce. I sat smirking as i looked around the room at the smiles that broke out as they tasted the mesquite grilled NY with LB infused demi glace. I had no regrets that time or any other time i have used great wine to cook with.gene keenan
Anthony Clapcich
May 13, 2006 6:30pm ET
In the Colonial days, lobsters were so plentiful that they were actually considered a nuisance. Farmers buried them in the ground as fertilizer, and convicts were fed lobster as a cheap food source. Now, lobster runs you 9-14$/lb...it would be a crime to bury it in the backyard! If you had a leftover bottle of priceless wine that was oxidized and lacking its punch, then by all means, use it any way you can. But, to take a perfectly good bottle of a legendary wine, and boil it down over a stove, is a completely different matter....it would be akin to wiping one's bottom with twenty dollar bills because you the good fortune of having a large bank account.
Roger P Smith
May 24, 2006 2:37pm ET
I am absolutely convinced that the more pleasant the taste from glass, the more pleasant the taste when served as a sauce or braising liquid at table. Although I rarely would use such top-notch wines as the Marcassin in culinary pursuits, I have noted time and again that using that left-over and somewhat flat wine that you wish not to drink leaves less than a satisfactory result when served in a cooked dish. As a marinade, I have thought this less important than in cooking a risotto where the wine stays with the finished dish. The marinade usually stays behind and is subsumed by much stronger flavors during the actual cooking process. Thus, I can believe completely that you both obtained good results by using great and not so great wines in very different cooking processes.
Robert Glass
delray beach, fl —  May 29, 2006 2:20pm ET
Please, please, just let me get my hands on someMarcassin. I'll drink with it, cook with it if Ihad a little left over, do any danm thing I want with it; just let me get hold of some.
James Laube
Napa, CA —  May 29, 2006 2:25pm ET
Let me know the next time you're headed to Napa and we'll uncork one...if I haven't cooked with what's left...

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