There’s just one wine for this release, but it’s a doozy: the 2013 Okei-San Syrah is a rich, heady blend of Syrah from both the David Girard Estate and Fenaughty Vineyard in Camino. It’s from just two French oak barrels, one of them new, with luxuriously spicy notes that frame lush aromas of ripe boysenberry, violet, plum, and bittersweet chocolate. A stony minerality arrives on the palate, delivered by cedar and light oak much the same way graphite and wood intertwine in a freshly sharpened pencil. Heavier clay soils at the volcanic Fenaughty Vineyard build the wine on a sturdy foundation, which is filled in by the more delicate finesse that comes from the sandy granite at DGV Estate.
I usually talk a little about what’s going on in the vineyard or cellar, but this month I think that a wine-pairing recipe will tell the story itself: We’re just barreling down the last wines from this harvest – more on that next month – but the timing feels downright strange. Our vintage was so early that this winding-down time, which usually coincides with a trip home for Thanksgiving, has arrived when days are still long, windows are open, and it’s still too hot too braise, roast, or bake. Here's a rub for the grill that has served us well this summer, and suits a bold complex wine like this one perfectly. However, if El Nino has finally started to deliver rain before you get around to grilling, that’s a good thing! Just save the whole plan for a few summers from now, wine included – it’ll be even better with age.
Cocoa, Coffee and Chipotle-rubbed Skirt Steak with Summer Summer Method Potatoes
The spicy, earthy chocolate notes of this rub marry perfectly into the 2013 Okei-San’s flavors; this is an example of the whole being even greater than the sum of the parts. Any cut of beef can be used, but make sure it’s fatty: not only do you want the grill hot without fear of overcooking, but you’ll get that Syrah tannin to meld perfectly into the meat’s flavors if you let the fat do its job. Lastly, that’s not a typo with the potatoes! The idea comes from our Harvest Intern, named Summer, who ingeniously devised this method of getting all of the tender crispiness of roast potatoes without turning on that dreadful oven. Measurements are rough and are best honed to your own taste.
For 2 pounds steak: mix 1-2 tbsp. salt and pepper, .5 tsp. chipotle powder, and 2-3 tbsp. finely ground light-roast coffee in a small bowl. Slather the skirt steak in olive oil and spread the bowl’s contents evenly. Cocoa powder tends not to play well with other ingredients, so when you’re done with the first step, dry your hands and sprinkle as much as you like. You can add a little sugar too, if you like.
For 1 pound small Yukon or red potatoes: par-boil the potatoes in salty water for about 15 minutes until soft and easily penetrable with a knife. Drain and cool slightly, then add to large cast iron skillet with the fat of your choice (olive oil, ghee, bacon fat?). Add salt and pepper, toss in fat, then lightly smush each potato with a fork (they should be already cooked enough to smush easily).
On the grill: Light a nice hot fire, big enough to handle everything. Put the potatoes on first, in my experience. Once you start to hear the fat sizzle, then start the steak on direct heat until one side is almost crispy. With skirt steak, the second side will cook much faster, and the first side will be the “show” side, with a nice caramelized layer of incredible flavor. Summer (the person) doesn’t recommend flipping the potatoes lest they fall apart, but I’ve found that it’s worth a shot at least once. Either way, cook them until they’re nice and crispy. The inside will stay soft! A simple balsamic-dressed salad is a refreshing foil to all this richness.