Just How Much Does a Wines Rating Matter? An Evening with an Anonymous Wine and Steak Au Poivre…


In the past few weeks the subject of ratings and the average consumer has come up again and again. From a visit to a local tasting room where I overheard a patron asking to sample only the wines that have won awards to a discussion with a California winemaker stating that he has a much harder time selling wines with lower or no scores it seems that the general population depends more and more on ratings when selecting wines.

While browsing my local wine shop for a merlot I happened upon a Washington wine that peeked my curiousity. Stating loud and proud on the label that this wine was never rated, scored or wants to be and priced very reasonably at 12.99 I decided to give it a try for the steak dinner I was planning. After all the discussion of recent weeks I wondered about the concept behind this wine from The House of Indepdent producers. Did the fact that it wasn’t rated make me want to buy it more? I have to admit I’ve always had a weakness for renegades!

House of Independent Producers was founded by Christophe Hedges, son of the Red Mountain Hedges wine family. Christophe’s label represents wines from some of the best indivual sites using single varietals. Made to showcase the unique terroir of each site the vineyards are also enviromently friendly using sustainable farming methods. No mention of winemaker is made, no scoring is sought out and no flashy adds are used to market these wines.

With flavors of plum, cherry, light sweet spice and soft tannins this wine paired exceptionally well with the steak au poivre, scalloped potatoes and portabello spinach I made for my weekly gluten free dinner with my roommate.It had just enough tannin to complement the steak while also having some rich fruit that played up the cheddar in the potatoes.

To stay true to the idea behind this wine I won’t offer up any of my own ratings. I will say it was a great tasty value for $12.99! In today’s market anything drinking well under $15 is a find. Even without the rating!

Steak Au Poivre with Gluten Free Sauce

2 NY Strip Steaks trimmed
4 tablespoons cracked black pepper, course grind
1 pint heavy cream
3 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup beef broth, make sure that you check ingred, many canned broths contain gluten
1 oz. brandy
2 pinches sea salt
1 small shallot finely chopped

Rub pepper into both sides of each steak. Press down firmly to crust each side. Heat shallow frying pan over medium heat adding half of butter. Cook steaks for 4 min on each side till a crust forms on both sides of steak.Remove steaks to rest on platter.

Add the rest of butter and shallots sauteeing till transparent. Slowly add cream scraping up browned bits from pan and simmer on low stirring occasionally till thickened. Depending on the size of your pan times vary, a larger pan will work better. When cream is thickened slowly add broth and brandy simmering for 5 minutes more. Add steaks back to pan and continue simmering for 5 more minutes turning once. Add salt to taste. Steaks will be medium. Adjust cooking time in sauce for rare or well done. Transfer steak back to platter and plate pouring sauce over steaks.

Portabello Mushrooms with Baby Spinach

1 bag baby spinach rinsed and dried
2 portabello mushrooms wiped clean and sliced thin
1 clove garlic chopped fine
2 shallots chopped fine
2 tablespoons butter
2 pinches each sea salt and white pepper
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

melt butter over low heat in medium sautee pan. Add shallots, garlic and mushrooms stirring while over medium heat till mushrooms are almost soft. Add spinach and cover pan for 1-2 minutes turning heat back to low. Uncover, add salt and pepper and stir to incorporate veggies. Transfer to serving bowl and garnish with sesame seeds.

Enjoy this with mashed, baked or scalloped potatoes. I’ll be adding more gluten free recipes and wine pairings on a monthly basis. My good friend artist Anna Drastik has inspired me to create meals that are gluten free that we can both enjoy! Anna has celiac disease a condition that prohibits any form of wheat,barley and other grains containing gluten.

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