I have long been a fan of the architecture of the late Viennese architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser. This week, we visited Quixote Winery, the facilities of which were designed and built by Hundertwasser himself. It will stand out in our minds as a stellar day, as we had a wonderful time. The art….the wine….the company…the perfect weather made this a memorable occasion.
Quixote Winery produces Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon varietal wines under its own “Quixote” label. The fruit used in this exceptional wine is sourced from the 27 acres, sustainably-farmed Stags’ Leap Ranch estate vineyard, and was planted in 1996. It is located between Stags’ Leap Winery and Shafer Vineyards off of the beautiful Silverado Trail, near where my family lives. The interior and exterior alike were all about art…and design…and stunning beauty. It felt like a wonderland to me. I loved it all!
Quixote is not just about the wine. It is also about the art. The owners have a staggeringly beautiful collection of contemporary art. The furnishings were astounding…and even the wine tanks were covered with colorful canvases.
The wine, which retails at $90 per bottle is bottled with screw caps rather than corks for better quality and storage. I am rather old school in this regard, and was taken aback by the screw caps, but after tasting this exceptional wine, I have changed my opinion about the need to always use corks. The wines are highly rated and receive numerous awards. Deservedly so. Food and Wine Magazine rated Quixote one of the twenty best new wineries in the world between 1999 and 2004. We are now proud owners of a case of Cab from there, one bottle of which we enjoyed last night after we got back to the Bay Area. Except for the one bottle that we shared with our friend, we will save the rest for 6 years.
The building, including grounds, is the only United States project built by Hundertwasser and it is magnificent! Some of his original art hangs there as well. The winery is designed in a whimsical, exotic way, with ceramic tiles, irregularly rounded and painted columns. The deliberately uneven floors are designed for their tactile effect on occupants’ feet. There are no right angles, except in the basement. The design style has been called, “…phantasmagoric, psychedelic, and Dr. Seuss-like”. It resonated with my very soul! I loved everything about it. The winery structure is dominated by an onion dome covered in gold leaf, as well as a living roof topped with grass, bushes, and trees. Even the light fixtures were artful.
One of my favorite trees there was the Buddha’s Hand. These citrus fruits can fill a room with their light, wonderful fragrance. I sometimes buy the fruit at Whole Foods, but had never seen it growing on a tree. I just place it in a dish and its fragrance fills the whole house with lemony goodness.
Ours was a private tour, and Carlo, our guide, was terrific. The sweet French-German wine expert made sure we had the low-down on Quixote’s history and plied us with delicious imported cheeses and dark chocolate as we talked about the wine. And oh, the wine! It was so magnificent! I had not tasted a wine that resonated with me so much in years!
After we left Quixote, we took our guest to see Castillo di Amorosa. We didn’t tour the castle this year, but instead, walked around the grounds and hung out for awhile and snapped some pictures. Lovely experience, as always.
When we left, we went into Calistoga and bopped around in some art shops, had veggie burgers at our favorite Hydro Bar and then headed to St. Helena to pick up some English muffins from Model Bakery.
These legendary English muffins were featured on the Food Network when one of the country’s top chefs recommended them as a “must try” item. We tried them last year for the first time, and just had to buy more this year. Pricy, at $14.00 per half dozen, they are worth every penny! I have never attempted to make them, but did find a recipe online to share with you this morning.
Overall, I’d say we had a damned good day yesterday!
Model Bakery’s English Muffins
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup/ 75g bread flour
- 3/4 teaspoon instant (also called quick-rising or bread machine) yeast
- 1 1/3 cups water
- 3/4 tsp instant (also called quick-rising or bread machine) yeast
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3 1/2 cups/ 510g unbleached all-purpose flour, as needed
- 1/4 cup/ 35g yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
- 6 tablespoons melted Clarified Butter (recipe follows), as needed
To make the biga: At least 1 day before cooking the muffins, combine the flour, water, and yeast in a small bowl to make a sticky dough. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours. The biga will rise slightly.
To make the dough: Combine the biga, water, yeast, olive oil, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Affix the bowl to the mixer and fi t with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the mixture looks creamy, about 1 minute. Mix in 3 cups/435 g of the flour to make a soft, sticky dough. Turn off the mixer, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let stand for 20 minutes. (To make by hand, combine the water, biga, yeast, oil, and salt in a large bowl and break up the biga with a wooden spoon. Stir until the biga dissolves. Mix in enough flour to make a cohesive but tacky dough. Cover and let stand for 20 minutes.)
Mix in enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough that barely cleans the mixer bowl. Replace the paddle with the dough hook. Knead on medium-low speed (if the dough climbs up the hook, just pull it down) until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface to check its texture. It should feel tacky but not stick to the work surface. (To make by hand, knead on a floured work surface, adding more flour as necessary, until the dough is smooth and feels tacky, about 10 minutes.)
Shape the dough into a ball. Oil a medium bowl. Put the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil, leaving the dough smooth-side up. Cover with plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm place until almost doubled in volume, about 2 hours. (The dough can also be refrigerated for 8 to 12 hours. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before proceeding to the next step.)
Using a bowl scraper, scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured work surface. Cut into twelve equal pieces. Shape each into a 4-in/10-cm round. Sprinkle an even layer of cornmeal over a half-sheet pan. Place the rounds on the cornmeal about 1 in/2.5 cm apart. Turn the rounds to coat both sides with cornmeal. Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm place until the rounds have increased in volume by half and a finger pressed into a round leaves an impression for a few seconds before filling up, about 1 hour.
Melt 2 Tbsp of the clarified butter in a large, heavy skillet (preferably cast-iron) over medium heat until melted and hot, but not smoking. In batches, add the dough rounds to the skillet. Cook, adjusting the heat as needed so the muffins brown without scorching, adding more clarified butter as needed. The undersides should be nicely browned, about 6 minutes. Turn and cook until the other sides are browned and the muffins are puffed, about 6 minutes more. Transfer to a paper towel–lined half-sheet pan and let cool. (It will be tempting to eat these hot off the griddle, but let them stand for at least 20 minutes to complete the cooking with carry-over heat.) Repeat with the remaining muffins, wiping the cornmeal out of the skillet with paper towels and adding more clarified butter as needed.
Split each muffin in half horizontally with a serrated knife. Toast in a broiler or toaster oven (they may be too thick for a standard toaster) until lightly browned. Serve hot. (The muffins can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.)
To make the clarified butter: Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until completely melted and boiling. Cook until the butter stops sputtering, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Skim the foam from the surface of the butter.
Line a wire sieve with dampened, wrung-out cheesecloth and place over a medium bowl. Carefully pour the clear, yellow melted butter through the sieve, leaving the milky residue behind in the saucepan. (Discard the residue.) Pour into a small container and cover. Refrigerate until ready to use.