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March 2014 Issue / Vol. 2, No. 5                                                                                    Monks, Legends & Legendary Libations

Iron Chef Lee Hillson

Pastry Chef Jill McCormick

Chef's Larder

Chef Michael Rusconi

Artist Patsy Lowry
Talks Table Art

Chef Ryan Clark
Modern Southwest
Cooking Book Review

The herb of merriment

Savannah & the Iron Chef

KAI Restaurant Revue

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Synopsis:  Foodies West article on spirits created by monks

Bénédictine may not have a spiritual lineage, but there’s no doubt where the herbal liqueur, Chartreuse, came from. In the 1600s, its story goes, one of King Henry IV’s marshals entrusted Carthusian monks in Vauvert, near Paris, with a manuscript containing a recipe to make the Elixir of Long Life.“The monks,” said Tim Master, director of specialty spirits for Frederick Wildman and Sons, “were alchemists.” A century later, they sent the recipe to the Mother House in La Grande Chartreuse. Frère Jerome Maubec deciphered the recipe and developed a formula using 130 different herbs. Chartreuse liqueur is a spin-off of the tonic. Presently, only two monks, Dom Benoit and Brother Jean-Jacques, know this super-secret recipe. Trappist Cistercian Monks of the Abbey of New Clairvaux in Vina, California, turned to beer to raise money to rebuild a chapter house from the stones of the former 800-year-old Santa Maria de Ovila chapter house that once stood in Trillo, Guadalajara, Spain. The padres partnered with Sierra Nevada Brewing Company to create the Ovila Abbey rotating seasonal series. Part of the proceeds from the sale of the beer go to the Sacred Stones project.“For the past three years we’ve collaborated with them to create several different beers,” said Ryan Arnold, spokesperson for Sierra Nevada. ”They’re all brewed on sight at Sierra Nevada.” In 1955, the abbey bought part of the vineyard once owned by Leland Stanford (as in Stanford University). Stanford planned to produce the best Bourdeaux in the world at this vineyard, but the climate didn’t match his aspirations, and he failed miserably. “We’ve been very successful due to the varietals, cultivation practices we are learning, and Aimee Sunseri, a fifth generation vintner,” said Schwan. “Her family came from northern Italy to Napa Valley in the 1800s. When you combine all those factors, we have an excellent product being recognized in national competitions.”The vines grown at the New Clairvaux Vineyard come from uncommon varieties, such as Tempranillo, Albarino, and Barbera. These varietals make good matches with the climate. “Some people refer them to them as the seven percenters,” said winemaker, Aimee Sunseri. “Ninety-three percent of the wines planted in northern California contain eight grape varietals—Cabernet, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Petit Syrah, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, and Zinfandel. We grow seven percenters.” And then there’s that Poor Souls Block, which produced a Petit Sirah that just won a double gold at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. The Vina Ranch Petite Temptation (51% 2011 St. James Tempranillo and 49% Poor Souls Petite Sirah) won a Bronze.