Tasting With Truffles

1/31/2022 7:26:30 PM

By Florencia Palmaz | February 2022

Cabernet and Truffles – Tricky bedfellows that spark magic when paired well. 

As a vintner and a chef, it is my pleasure to share unexpected pairings featuring beautiful ingredients and the library of our wines. This winter I have been enchanted with fresh, black Périgord Truffles—and yes, I’ve fallen in love with the unconventional pairing of Truffles and Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Traditional Sommelier training would never imagine pairing fresh back truffles with Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. It is generally believed that the deep earthy aromas of truffles are best highlighted with wines that mirror such earthy (almost funky) undertones, like Barolo or a library vintage of Burgundy. Thankfully the mysteries of Napa are great. With all its varied microclimates and soil types you can find a vintage and a vineyard that pairs well with almost any season’s treasured ingredients.

Here at Palmaz Vineyards we are proud to have just celebrated our 20th harvest season. The vines are mature, and the resulting wines more finessed with each year’s passing. Thankfully, gravity flow winemaking lengthens the wine’s cellar-ablity, slowly releasing a complex expression with each year stored. This gentle unwinding in the bottle expresses an incredible complex mélange of flavors and aromas. 

I recently discovered that the 2013 Palmaz Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon and Fresh black truffles are a match made in heaven. The cooler climate of 2013 allowed for the wine to be nuanced with forest floor, light touches of blackberry bramble, and fine textured tannins. Now nearly 10 years old, this subtle beauty is ready to shine! The earth notes of the wine are elevated with truffle, and thankfully, this wine still has plenty of finish to hold up to our grass-fed wagyu beef. This month I’ve been working in the kitchen, searching for the techniques that celebrate a trifecta of my favorite flavors: Wagyu, Truffles, and the 2013 Palmaz Cabernet Sauvignon. Join us at the winery to experience this seasonal tasting menu!

Also available is our Wine & Wagyu Seasonal Offering, featuring Truffles. If you cannot visit us at the winery for our truffle tasting menu, this At Your Table experience of a curated selection of wine and wagyu cuts (including our aforementioned 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon and a Périgord Black Truffle, among other delicious pairings) will satisfy any truffle cravings you might have.

The Truffle – a lockdown confession

During the 1st lockdown of COVID, I discovered that many artisan ingredient suppliers were struggling due to the sudden closure of fine dinning restaurants. This network of specialty wholesalers and producers were suddenly online and willing to ship their exclusive products to our homes. As a locked-down chef stuck at home feeding the same three guests each night, shipping in special ingredients became almost an obsession. Each Fed Ex package that arrived allowed me to play with something new; creating a meal that was not just the same combinations of online groceries and bits from the garden. A fresh Truffle was the highlight of that obsession and brought much needed joy to our table during that trying time. 

One chilly Spring morning, the largest fresh back truffle that I ever dared to own arrived to our door. Each day we would discuss what dish was worthy of a few shavings. It began simply with a few threads on an omelette, then a simple pasta with truffle cream. Each week something got truffled. Quickly we began to get more daring and broke into our inventory of Wagyu from the ranch. With the last of that glorious truffle, I prepared a Valentines dinner for Christopher and I that will be remembered for years.

Now the world is opened back up, and thankfully home chefs still have access to these glorious ingredients. This season we were able to find a truffle source willing to allocate some of their inventory for our Brasas members. The acquisition of a singular special truffle has become a winter tradition in my home, and I hope this little treasure will bring as much joy to your table as it does ours this chilly winter season.

Wagyu and Truffles – an intense synergy of flavor. 

The flavors of a truffle are amplified by fat. Without the presence of fat, the truffle’s magic is lost. With our grass-fed ultra marbled wagyu beef, there is plenty of fat to elevate a truffle’s flavor. Here are a few tricks that will maximize your truffle: 

1. Pan sear the steak with plenty of salt in olive oil, butter and a sprig of herb such as rosemary or thyme. While searing the meat, make sure to spoon baste the hot oil and butter combination on the steak. This helps the beef to sear all the flavors together and ensure that the crust is crispy and not dried out. After all sides are nicely seared, I like to finish the steak in the oven and pull out about 5˚F before your desired doneness.

2. Truffle top the steak while it is resting and still hot. To really maximize the truffle flavors, it’s best to place a dollop of truffle butter and a few shavings of truffle on the steak right out of the oven and while it is resting on the counter. 

3. Just before serving, finish with a light dusting of truffle salt. This will really ensure the truffle aromas pop. Make sure to serve your steaks while they are still warm. The truffle aromas will not last a re-heat and will dissipate quickly if the dish is left in the warmer. 

Notes on storing your truffles from Palmaz Chef Michael Binder:

  1. When truffles are fresh, they are at their peak from one to two weeks. While still edible after that duration, they start to drastically lose pungency.
  2. Moisture is very bad for truffles. Storing them in rice works well for short term storage. However, make sure that your truffles are in an airtight container. You can wrapped your truffle inside a paper towel in an airtight container too—you will need to change the paper towel daily.
  3. Always keep truffles refrigerated, whether you put them in rice or a paper towel.
  4. Truffles can also be frozen—up to sixty days. Think of it like freezing bread: the fresher your truffle is when it is frozen, the better its quality when thawed out. (Freeze in an airtight container with no moisture.)