Haak Texas Madeira Tasting & Dinner: An Evening with the Maestro of Madeira
Think Madeira is just for old people, or worse, just for cooking? Well, those that attended the Haak Winery Madeira Tasting and Dinner last night definitely came away saying, “think again”.
Attendees celebrated in grand fashion the release of the new Haak Winery Texas Madeira campaign and new Madeira website: www.texasmadeira.com with the Maestro of Madeira – Raymond Haak.
As you may know, Madeira is originally a fortified Portuguese wine made in the Atlantic Islands of Madeira. To prevent spoilage on long voyages by ship, neutral grape spirits were added, as is the case with Port wines. However, on the long sea voyages particularly those to America, the wines would be exposed to excessive heat and movement which transformed the flavor of the wine. Today, Madeira is noted for its unique winemaking process which involves heating the wine up to about 105 F for several months. Deliberately exposing the wine to heat produces oxidation of the wine leading to nutty aromas and flavors, and it concentrates the wine’s flavors. Because of this unique process, Madeira is a very robust wine that can be quite long lived even after opening. Madeira has over the centuries received worldwide acclaim. It was also known to be Thomas Jefferson’s favorite and America’s forefathers reportedly toasted the Declaration of Independence with Madeira wine. It must have been some party (and headaches for all the following morning) withwhat I’m sure were multiple toasts and libation of this rich, hearty and highly alcoholic fluid that comes packing 18-20 percent alcohol.
This Haak “Madeira Experience” featured multiple vintages and special limited offerings pulled from the Haak wine library that are no longer available to the general public.
We started with a vertical Madeira tasting and Q&A lead by winery owner and winemaker Raymond Haak in the winery’s cellar. Raymond told us about how he began his foray into Madeira-making.
Raymond said, “It all started with a critical evaluation of my Port wine that I made from local Black Spanish grapes (also known as Lenoir, or as Raymond prefers to call it, Jacquez)/ The reviewer of my wine was Master of Wine and wine purveyor, D.C. Flynt.” Raymond continued, “D.C. told told me that my Port had many of the qualities of Madeira wine. You know, at the time I didn’t know really what Madeira was, but I started to research it. I ended up building an Estufa, the heated room used to age barrels of wine into the classic Madeira style. We now use it to age up to 40 barrels of our Texas Madeira wine at a time.”
I remember talking to D.C. Flynt after his encounter and comments on Raymond’s Port and after Raymond had asked him to arrange for a blind tasting of his Madeira against a flight of ten first-class Madeira Island wines, including some that were over a 100 years old. D.C. said that he was just a little concerned about the sanity of Raymond’s venture into Madeira winemaking; all based on his brief commentary on the Haak Port wine. However, his fears were put to rest when the results of the Haak Madeira blind tasting were made public. Raymond’s Texas Madeira Jacquez came in around the middle of the pack When considering the stature of the competition and caliber of the Madeira wines represented in the tasting, this was a mighty fine performance for a wine that at the time of only a little over two years old. Since then, Raymond’s Texas Madeiras made from both Jacquez and Blanc Du Bois have received many accolades and awards including international gold medals and critical tasting notes from Jancis Robinson for Raymond’s 2006 Blanc Du Bois Madeira with a scoring of 15-17 points (in ”superior” range).
Last night, we tasted four of Raymond’s prized Madeiras. The first two, from the 2006 and 2007 vintages, were made from Blanc Du Bois for which Raymond has proven to have a particular fondness. It’s grown in the Texas Southeast and Gulf Coast region where the usual European varieties won’t grow, and he now makes Blanc Du Bois into six different-styled wines. These two Madeiras had an amazing green-hued, iridescent orange-gold color, with the 2007 being a shade deeper-to-gold. They were rich with cooked peach, caramel and toasted nut characteristics with the 2007 tending to also exude overtones of baking spices.
These wines were followed by two more classically-styled Haak Madeira wines made from Jacquez. They varied from dark copper to dark mahogany in color going from 2003 to 2005 vintages. These two Texas Madeiras were strong on the coffee and toffee characteristics with hints of tobacco on the 2003 and black tea on the 2005.
After the tasting, we were tantalized* with a four-course Madeira dinner, but NOT where these wines were used for cooking! Each of the four Haak Madeira wines were expertly “reverse” paired with four flavorful food courses. *Excite the senses or desires of (someone).
1st Course: Cioppino – An Italian seafood stew with fish, clams and shrimp. Paired with 2007 Blanc du Bois Madeira
2nd Course: Barely Buzzed Salad – Barely Buzzed coffee crusted cheddar, maple bacon, fresh spinach, butter lettuce and radicchio topped with a Madeira caramel vinaigrette. Paired with 2003 Jacquez Madeira
3rd Course: Quail and Beef Tenderloin – Honey soy glazed quail, stuffed with shallot and mushroom wild rice, with a mini beef tenderloin steak topped with Madeira infused caramelized onions and mushrooms. Roasted sweet potatoes and butternut squash with pecan pralines. Steamed edamame (shell-on soybeans) with melted roasted garlic butter. Paired with 2005 Jacquez Madeira
4th Course: Caramelized Peach Cheesecake with peach and walnut caramel topping. Paired with 2006 Blanc du Bois Madeira
I called this a reverse pairing dinner specifically because the Haak Winery house chef had to work backwards; first starting with four uniquely-styled Texas Madeira wines and developing the menu items to work with each one. Note that each course was a rich and flavorful preparation, as they needed to be to match the intense flavor characteristics and savoriness of the wines.
This event was a grand affair and was perfectly timed in the lead up to the upcoming Fourth of July – Independence Day celebration. While the Haak wines are not the Madeira wines of our forefathers (Raymond’s are likely better-made and flavorful by virtue of modern winemaking technology), they are still grand wines of our American revolutionary heritage and tradition with which to toast this years celebration of our forefathers and our Declaration of Independence.
Haak Madeiras are available for purchase at the winery. You can also use the online locator to find establishments that sell and serve Haak Madeira (click here).
When in the Houston-Galveston area, please stop by Haak Vineyards and Winery and get a taste of some darn good wines and a good dose of original “Haak Hospitality”.
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Haak Vineyard & Winery Inc.
6310 Avenue T, Santa Fe, TX 77510; Phone: (409) 925-1401; Fax: (409) 925-0276
Web site: www.haakwine.com
Gladys and Raymond Haak, Owners
Tours, Tastings, Weddings, Concerts, Festivals, Corporate Meetings, Picnics
“A Taste of the Old World in Galveston County,” Haak Vineyards is owned and operated by Gladys and Raymond Haak, who have been growing grapes in the coastal region of Texas since 1969. Haak Vineyards produces premium award-winning wines from grapes grown in the couple’s vineyard in Santa Fe, Texas, as well as from other premium grape-growing regions of Texas. Haak Vineyards was the first winery in Galveston County. Enjoy the Sunday afternoon concerts, themed festivals, private events and weddings. Full time kitchen staff for all your catering needs.
Closed Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Visitors Welcome:
Mon-Fri 11am–6pm; Sat 11am–7pm; Sun noon–6pm