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Enjoying Wine and Beer in the Augusta GA area

Tasty Mi Sueño Chardonnay Result Of The American Dream

Mi Sueño Chardonnay 2015, Carneros

Cost: $41-43

I love it when a great wine and a great story intersect. There are few such meetings any better than Mi Sueño chardonnay and Rolando Herrera.

Mi Sueño Chardonnay 2015 ($41-43) is a lush, elegant wine, a nice combination of Burgundy restraint and California exuberance.

Herrera is a Mexican immigrant whose wine country career began as a dishwasher and who now owns the Mi Sueño Winery, and whose wine has been served at White House dinners. “Mi Sueño” mean “my dream.”

Grapes for this wine are from the cool, breezy Carneros region, at the southern end of Napa and Sonoma. The grapes come from the Tierra Blanca vineyard, named after the light color of the soil. It is on the Napa side of Los Carneros, by the San Pablo Bay. 

The wine is a beautiful golden yellow in the glass with aromas of pear, pineapple and vanilla. On the palate it explodes with flavors of grapefruit, butterscotch and lemon peel. Brisk acidity keeps all the fruit in check, so you get a nicely balanced wine with a long, silky finish spiked with pleasant minerality.

It is a rich, voluptuous wine, but more restrained than many California chardonnays. It doesn’t hit you over the head with its fruit flavors, but offers a complex mix that unfolds while you drink it.

After fermentation the wine spent 18 months in 35 percent new French oak. All this time on the lees  (the dead yeast particles that collect at the bottom of a container during fermentation) gives the wine a creaminess that reminds me of custard. The hints of oak are noticeable, but I would not describe this as an oaky wine. Everything is in balance.

This wine is the one that started it all for Herrera when he and his wife Lorena started making their own wine in 1997.

They now make a wide variety of wines, including some under the Herrera label available only to wine club members.

Winery: Rolando Herrera is the story of the American dream. Born in Mexico he and his family moved to California when he was eight. His father took a job in a vine nursery.

When he was 13 his parents moved the family back to Mexico where they retired. But Rolando missed the American way of life, so when he was 15 he and his brother moved back to St. Helena.

They went to school during the day and worked at night. Rolando’s first job was a dishwasher at Auberge du Soleil. Later he was building a stone wall for Warren Winiarski at Stag’s Leap. After talking to Rolando, Winiarski gave him a job as a “cellar rat” at the winery while he was still a senior in high school. Three years later he was the cellar master.

Later he became assistant winemaker at Chateau Potelle.

After 10 years of friendship, Rolando and Lorena were married in 1997. Later that year he bought grapes from Lorena’s father and produced 200 cases of chardonnay. He was going to sell shares in his winery, but the wine was so popular he and Lorena decided to keep the winery for themselves.

The next year he was hired as winemaker at Vine Cliff Winery and three years after that he became director of winemaking at Paul Hobbs Winery. By 2004 he decided to go all-in on his dream and run Mi Sueño full time.

He and Lorena formed a company to manage vineyards, so they could control the winemaking process from grape to bottle.

Their wine has been served twice at White House state dinners, once by George W. Bush and once by Barack Obama.

Goes with: We had this with a wonderful winter dish of chicken tenderloins in a cream sauce served over noodles. I cooked it two different ways within a week, once for my wife and I and the other for a church supper.

Everyone loved the rich creamy flavors both times.

The Mi Sueño chardonnay matched the chicken flavors beautifully. Each sip brought out new flavors in the wine and made the chicken even tastier.

I’ll give you the recipe for making this dish on the stove. When cooking at church I had to adjust and do part of the cooking in the oven because I didn’t think we could prepare enough for 50 people on the stove.

There are lots of names for this dish, but I call it Thank You Jack Chicken. When I was in my early 20s my wife and I met a nice couple in the apartment next door. We would get together often. Sometimes the women would go off on their own and Jack and I would play music. And we might have drunk a little beer or wine. We mostly played rock, but one time Jack snuck in some opera and I was hooked.

He also taught me how to make chicken breasts sauteed in cream of chicken soup, which he called Chicken Imperial. It was great, and after that I knew I probably would never have to starve.

Over the years I have tinkered with the dish, and I think made it better. It’s great for a weeknight, and only takes 30-45 minutes to make.

Here it is:

Thank You Jack Chicken

Ingredients

4 boneless chicken breasts cut into chicken tenders

Salt, pepper and Morton Nature’s Seasons to taste

Flour for dredging (optional)

4 tablespoons butter

3 chopped shallots

3 celery stalks diced

1/2 cup cream sherry

1 can condensed cream of chicken soup

2 cups heavy cream

1 pound of bacon

1 bag of egg noodles, medium or wide

Instructions

Boil the noodles and set aside

Season chicken with salt, pepper and Morton Nature’s Seasons

Chop half the bacon and cook it in a large skillet until crispy. (I like using pre-cooked bacon. It’s quicker and less messy. Cook the rest of the bacon in a microwave and reserve.)

Over medium high heat melt butter with the cooked bacon and sauté the chicken until golden brown on both sides. Add shallots and celery. Reduce heat to medium and cook until shallots and celery soften, about three minutes.

Add sherry, chicken soup and cream. Simmer uncovered until the sauce reduces by half, about 15 minutes.

Place the noodles in a serving bowl. Pour chicken and sauce over the noodles. Chop the rest of the bacon and sprinkle it over the chicken and sauce.

If you have questions about wine you can email Dennis Sodomka at dennis@bottlereport.com

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