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Katz Zinfandel Agrodolce Vinegar
Late harvest grapes make a deep, port-like red wine vinegar. Slow-fermented using the Orleans Method. Grown and made in Suisun Valley, California. (more info)
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Like wine, making good vinegar is a craft. Katz's Zinfandel agrodolce vinegar combines the centuries-old Orleans Method together with modern creativity. Zinfandel grapes harvested late in the season take on rich, port-like flavors that Katz ferments first into wine, then a red wine vinegar, producing a contrast of sour and sweet with a subtle acidity. The vinegar goes great in salad dressings and tomato sauces, and in more unexpected places, like reduced and drizzled over a pile of fresh figs and mint.
Katz is a darling of the Slow Foods Movement, and true to the ethos, the company makes their vinegars slowly. The agrodolce vinegar ferments and ages for several months, allowing the alcohols in the wine to react with air and the vinegar “mother” at their natural pace in small oak barrels. The resulting vinegar is full of subtle but complex flavors and a less biting acidity.
By contrast, industrial vinegars are fermented in steel drums in just five hours by forcing air through the liquid and stirring in additives that put the acetic acid-producing acetobater into overdrive. Flavors and acidity vary with industrial vinegars, but will always taste distinctly different from vinegars made in the Orleans Method.
Stately red Zinfandel harvested late in the season concentrates the grape's sugars, producing a rich, sweet juice. The sweetness mellows in fermentation, but enough remains to balance the crisp acidity of the wine vinegar.
Katz Vinegar fermenting in barrels.
In cooking, contrasting flavors brings out the merits of the other — a little sweetness with salt make savories taste better — so the sour-sweet agrodolce is appropriately versatile. With a little experimentation, you can make some great food.
Zinfandel agrodolce goes great with tomato dishes: splash a bit into a sauce or ratatouille. Mix it with a bit of oil for a salad of greens, blue cheese and peaches. Drizzle a bit on sourdough toast and eat with a poached egg.
Katz Ranch Vinegar House
The company started when Albert and Kim Katz moved to Napa, California. Former restaurateurs, the pair knew firsthand that good food comes from good ingredients, and they set about making olive oils worthy of foodie devotion. Being that they lived in a wine producing region, wine vinegars were a natural progression. Albert Katz converted his stone carriage house into a vinegar house and began producing distinctly Californian wine vinegars using a traditional French process.
The Orleans Method for making vinegar was perfected during the Middle Ages in the southern French city of Orléans. Barrels of spoiled Bordeaux and Burgundy wine passing through the city on their way to Paris, were identified and salvaged for vinegar. The Orleans Method is the simplest, slowest and oldest method. Unlike other vinegar-making processes, there is no hurried aeration — at any given moment only the surface of the wine is being fermented and converted to vinegar. The slow fermentation leaves time for reactions among the alcohol, acetic acid and other molecules, and produces the best flavor in vinegar.
Napa Valley, California