Sunday, October 14, 2012

Maple Bacon Braised Brussels Sprouts + Lancaster Estate Winery

Within the heart of Sonoma County is the beautiful town of Healdsburg and wine growing region of Alexander Valley, which I am absolutely enamored with.  Among the many distinctive and intriguing wineries, is Lancaster Estate.  Ted Simpkins is the founder and creator of this magnificent winery.  The terroir embodies diverse soils and the sun drenches the vines perfectly to produce idiosyncratic wines. A marine influence rushes over the vineyards to which extends the growing season and allows time-honored Bordeaux varietals to mature, gain tannins, along with a impartial structure that is vibrant and perfectly balanced.

It was in 1995 that Lancaster Estate debuted under the Simpkins name and began to produce their rich and distinctive wines. The wineries creates four different Bordeaux style wines that are produced on this 53 acre estate along with being micro-farmed vineyard blocks and own the founder’ vision.

The actual winery tasting room and building was designed by Eugene Silva and seamlessly melds into the landscaping.  One of the distinguishing landmarks of this estate is the hillside cave.  The unique cave is 9,000 square feet of serenity, natural cool air and a peaceful quietness.  The cave embodies a unique round tasting room that hubby and I experienced our private tasting.  The wall is surrounded by a unique racking system for the many wine bottles to call home.  Deeper in the cave is another tasting area for larger parties set up with a luxurious leather chairs and a large wood table.

I first experienced Lancaster wines when one of my employees gave me a bottle as a gift.  This was over 5 years ago.  It was love at first sip.  I jumped onto the internet to learn more and join their wine club called the Guild of Six.  With just this one bottle, I knew I needed to join the club without even visiting the actual winery. Three times a year, I receive a present of this elegant wine – okay, not quite a “present” since my visa is charged, but it is a gift each time we open and enjoy a bottle.

Jesse Katz is the gifted wine maker behind this well-designed and highly crafted wine.  He earned a degree from Enology degree from Fresno State University with a minor in chemistry.  He mastered his wine making skills in Argentina and Napa.  Jesse was recruited from the cult producer Screaming Eagle in 2010 and has worked with legendary wine makers Andy Ericson, Paul Hobbs, Hans Vinding-Diers and Robert Foley.  Jesse certainly has the pedigree to make phenomenal wine and he is accomplishing this at Lancaster.

After being a long time club member of Lancaster, hubby and I finally made an appointment to have a private tour and tasting at this magnificent winery.  We ventured to Healdsburg for my birthday in JuneLancaster was one of our excursions for the weekend.  The grounds are simply perfect along with the cave and of course the wines are among our favorites.  We were treated to a glass of Samantha’s Sauvignon Blanc while our private tour started with a ride in the estates suburban around the entire estate. Samantha’s Sauvignon is named after one of the Simpkin’s twin daughters.  This wine is aged in stainless steel Bordeaux size barrels with a small number of new French Oak barrels to round out the flavor profile. Immediately you sense floral aromas and tropical notes.  A rich and smooth wine that is perfect for sipping on a warm summer day.

After our mobile tour around the estate, we were treated to a red wine tasting in the small round room within the cave.  The walls are surrounded by wine bottles that are uniquely secured to the wall; a striking light hangs over a large wood table where our pre-poured glasses awaited us.  We first enjoyed Lancaster Estate Sophia’s Hillside Cuvee and this vintage is named after the other twin daughter of the Simpkins.  This Bordeaux style wine is primarily cabernet sauvignon with a hint of merlot.  It embodies aromas of clove, cinnamon and hints of fresh berry.  After the long finish, you will experience hints of dark chocolate and taste the French oak.

Next was the Lancaster Estate Cabernet Sauvignon or as I always associate as the “purple label” bottle.  This is the noble wine of the group with traditional Bordeaux blending of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.  It is a rich wine that will surely be a teeth stainer, in good way.  With a balance of dark fruit, cherries, dark chocolate, cassis and vanilla this wine is a true winner.  Among the other things I love about this wine is the earthy quality and nutmeg undertones. Robert Parker gave this wine a 94 rating and deemed it “outstanding”.

Last but not least is the Lancaster Estate Nicole’s Proprietary Red named after Ted’s lovely wife Nicole.  This wine is reserved for the wine club members and I am so happy that I am a member of this exclusive club and aptly named the guild.  This wine is made from the 18 best barrels from that particular vintage.  It has expressions of espresso, clove and dark fruit.  The wine has a finely woven minerality and is bottled unfiltered.  This wine is simply exceptional.

If you are headed to the Healdsburg area or the Alexander Valley region, put Lancaster Estate on your list of  must places to visit.  Lancaster takes appointments by making a reservation only.  It is a unique wine country experience that you will be completely impressed by and is quite unforgettable. 

Speaking of unforgettable, I thought I would include a simple yet extremely flavorful recipe for Maple Bacon Braised Brussels Sprouts that I discovered on the food network while watching Dinners, Drive ins and Dives.  The recipe is courtesy of Brian McDaniel from South of Beale Gastropub in MemphisTennessee is on my bucket list and this gastropub is a must visit restaurant.  I guarantee that you will be making this recipe over and over again!  Enjoy!

Maple Bacon Braised Brussels Sprouts

4 Cups Brussels Sprouts, cut in half
6 Strips of Applewood Smoked Bacon
6 Tablespoons butter, cubed
4 Tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Rinse the brussels sprouts under cold water and dry.  Once dry, cut each sprout in half.

Place the bacon strips on a cutting board and cut into 1/2 strips.  In a medium saute pan, heat the bacon over medium heat until crips.  Strain the bacon out of the pan and place on paper towels.  Keep the bacon fat in the pan and add the butter and heat until melted.  Once the butter is melted, add the Brussels Sprouts and stir frequently.  Saute until the sprouts begin to brown.  Add the bacon back to the sprouts and add the maple syrup.  Heat until the syrup appears to stick to the Brussels sprouts and a deep caramelization is reached.  Season with salt and pepper.


  1. We have always loved Healdsburg too and still get rel estate listngs to tempt much quieter than Sonoma or Napa Valley.Thanks for your posts!

  2. Lancaster Estate is beautiful! Your brussels sprouts sound delicious with those wonderful flavors - I just had some roasted ones the other night that made me a huge fan so I will have to try braising next!

  3. How much bacon do you use? It's not listed in the ingredients. . . This sounds so yummy!

    1. Thank you for noticing! I have since updated. 6 Strips but you could add more if you really love bacon! Happy Sunday!!

  4. Thank you for taking me on a beautiful tour of this gorgeous winery! I hope their wines are sold on the east coast. I'm going to look for a bottle next visit to our wine store. Thanks, Lisa!

  5. This dish looks beautiful and so tasty too, perfect side dish for the cooler months too. Your photos of the winery look so nice, I bet it was a fun visit.

  6. Gorgeous photos Lisa! I love roasted brussels sprouts, so I am all over this recipe;-) Hasn't our Fall weather been just gorgeous? Great time to get out and see the wineries in our area;-) Lancaster looks just amazing;-)

  7. I was just going to say that it looks way too sunny there to be October...a-ha, but I see that this was in June?

    Hmmm, I'm not a big fan of Brussels sprouts, although when done well, I can eat them. There are very few Brussels sprout recipes that piques my interest - and this is one of them!

  8. What a great winery, so pretty! The brussels sprouts with the bacon and maple sound wonderful.

  9. I don't think I've ever visited Lancaster--what a treat! Must put on the to-do list soon. Any excuse to visit the area. :)

    The brussels sprouts sound wonderful, too. That would have been a complete meal. No need for anything else. :)

  10. Sending your review to my husband who loves wine. I'm not sure if he knows this wine but I'm hoping that he'd say let's go to the winery. ;)

    I love Brussel sprouts (despite so many people are not a fan... why?) and I've never used maple before (but bacon is a must!). I can't wait to try this soon!

    1. Nami, maple give a distinctive flavour. If you are concerned about level of sugar, you could easily replace it with Agave syrop. This will provide a good sweet taste but would not raise your blood sugar levels.

  11. Lisa, I've been following your blog for a while, but life was a bit hectic and time was too little to write. I love the pictures, and the recipes, and I certanly remember this winery from my vacation trip to the area a few years ago. A great place!

    Now, I tried out the brussels sprouts and the experience was magnificient!! Yes, I do cook with maple on regular basis (I'm a Canadian:-) and we have a lot of maple trees, plus maple stuff in any thinkable form).
    Thank you!!
    All the best.


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