Spring - this year more than any, the changing of seasons from the cold, gray, biting chill of winter, to the warm, hopeful, optimistic springtime feels more welcomed and needed than ever - like a deep breath in after being held underwater. After the year we’ve all endured, it's time we finally rid ourselves of the past and look forward to what’s ahead, like a snake shedding its skin to reveal something new, brighter, and with any luck, more gentle.
It seems all too perfect and poetic that nearly a year to the day from when everything came to a screeching halt, with businesses boarding up their doors and the world we once knew being turned upside down, that things are beginning to reopen, people are receiving vaccines, daylight savings has given us one more hour of sunlight, and the weather has become warm, inviting us outside to enjoy the outside world after being shut in.
Along with the changes in seasons comes a change in the fresh produce available at the markets and grocery stores. The move from sturdy winter root vegetables to the softer more tender fruits and vegetables like asparagus, peas, strawberries, morels, and spring lamb all seem to flow with the current of the times.
In accordance and celebration to the change of the seasons, I wanted to cook something with the newly arrived produce - Spring Pea Agnolotti with Crispy Bacon, Pecorino, and Roasted Hazelnuts. Fresh pasta sheets are topped with dollops of homemade ricotta seasoned with salt, pepper, lemon zest, and blanched peas. The pasta is then folded over, pressed, and trimmed with a fluted cutter before the stuffed pillows are cooked in a pot of salted simmering water, and once removed, tossed in a simple sauce of melted butter and pasta cooking liquid. It’s plated and garnished with chopped bacon, hazelnuts, Pecorino, and additional blanched spring peas. A recipe as simple, delicious, and representative of the season needs a wine to match, and the Florez Moonmilk Chardonnay is just that wine.
Created in 2017, Florez Wines is the project of Santa Cruz native James Jelks. A fascination with wine and winemaking at a young age led him to a degree in oenology and viticulture at UC Davis. Following his studies, he worked around the world for a decade before heading back to his hometown to create his own winery. Florez Wines was born, and Jame began crafting cuvées from his own small organically farmed vineyards along with purchased fruit from other local organic and sustainable farms.
The Moonmilk Chardonnay comes from a vineyard entirely farmed by Jelks himself. All work, including pruning and canopy work is done alone, with friends and family aiding at harvest. The fresh fruit was hand-picked and direct pressed. Then the juice, once settled, was racked to stainless, and as soon as the spontaneous fermentation began, it was transferred to neutral French oak to allow for barrel fermentation. The wine was left on the lees without stirring for ten months before it was eventually bottled unfined and unfiltered, with only minimal SO2 added at bottling.
On the nose, white flowers, citrus, fresh herbs, and sun-drenched orchard fruit intermingle elegantly, with a rich and soft texture balanced by racy acidity on the palate. When paired with the agnolotti, fresh lemon zest notes connect both food and wine, and the creamy texture of the fresh ricotta matches the Chardonnay’s weight while the bright acidity cleans your tongue.
Simple, clean, springtime food and wine pairings such as this one remind us of the beauty and bounty of the new season, and the optimistic outlook for the year ahead. Cheers!
(fresh pasta ready to be folded over dollops of seasoned ricotta)
(making fresh ricotta)