“Care for the Land, Make Exceptional Wine, Enjoy the Journey,” – that’s the mantra at Bjornson Vineyard. Over the last few years we’ve been working very hard on part-one and part-two of this mission by employing Certified-Sustainable farming practices in the vineyard, implementing a Conservation Stewardship Plan for the remaining forest and riparian areas, installing a 10 kW wind turbine to help supply our electricity, and taking almost three years worth of viticulture/enology courses.
Sometimes we’re so busy focusing on “Caring for the Land” and “Making Exceptional Wine” that there is little time left for “Enjoying the Journey”. Happily, over the last couple of months we’ve managed to squeeze in some fun stuff as well. Take for example our impromptu Peacock Dinner Party last Saturday night.
The day started out as always. The coffee maker automatically brewed us a fresh pot of coffee at 5:45 am (an automatic coffee maker is definitely one of life’s little luxuries). I perused Salem’s Statesman Journal to keep up with local events while Mark read the Wall Street Journal. After breakfast Mark checked his email and consulted the weather forecast to determine when the next vineyard spray should be. I attempted to awake our teenagers, as this was going to be a “work day” in preparation for the loggers who will be clearing 18 acres for our next planting.
By 8:30 am our son Kris and his high school friends Alex and Emmanuel were cleaning out an old sheep barn that will be removed for our next planting. I was weeding and mulching the flower garden near our front sign. Around 9:30 am, I was back inside looking for sunscreen because I had a lot of mowing to do. Suddenly, Mark came dashing in. “Grab the shotgun – there are PEACOCKS in the VINEYARD!” Thor, our trusty “poobradore” arose from his slumber and skidded towards the door eager to help with the hunt.
For those of you that don’t know Mark very well, I call him Mr. National Geographic. He is a true conservationist and worships all things in Nature – plant or animal, big or small. He knows how to shoot, but I wouldn’t consider him a hunter, at least not for sport. BUT, when something is in the vineyard (other than a winemaker; Mark considers them a beneficial species), that constitutes WAR.
Minutes later, Mark and Kris returned with their booty: a pea cock and a pea hen. These birds were larger than a chicken, but smaller than a turkey – definitely enough to invite some friends for dinner. One interesting fact about most people in the wine industry is that they are also “foodies” and love to try new dishes. After a few emails and phone calls it was all settled, Jeanne and David Beck (Crawford Beck Vineyard) were bringing a fresh strawberry/almond torte, and Jackie and Pat Dukes (Dukes Family Vineyards) were bringing a variety of salad greens from their garden. Everyone had plenty of work to do at home, so the party was set to begin at 7 pm.
After my administrative duties were taken care of, I headed back out to mow, Mark and the boys continued to empty out the old barn, and Thor returned to his resting spot in the kitchen. By 4 pm I was back inside, tidying the house and preparing for the party while Mark was preparing the fowl. The custom of serving peacock was popular throughout medieval Europe. It was served in its feathers to make a spectacular dish for festive meals. The bird was admired as it was brought ceremoniously to the table to be served to royalty. Our problem with this is that our peacock hadn’t yet developed the tail feathers so we opted to prepare the birds similar to pheasant. See recipe below.
Our guest arrived with salad, dessert, and of course, wine. We had an amazing line up from which to choose. Pat Dukes is a trained chef (among his many talents) with an incredible palette. The Dukes brought a 2005 Bert Simon Serrig Wurzberg Riesling – Auslese, and a 2005 Chateau La Confession Saint-Emillion Grand-Cru. David Beck is a scholar of Science AND Pinot Noir. The Becks brought a 2000 Cristom Pinot Noir and a 2004 Bergstrom Pinot Noir. We also opened a Ken Wright Shea Vineyard and served our friend Don Hagge’s VIDON Pinot Noir, as well as our neighbor’s Bryn Mawr Chardonnay – only one barrel produced.
Before dinner, we all had some wine and nibbled on cheese from the Willamette Cheese Company. Their Brindisi (aged Fontina) and Boerenkass (aged Gouda) is incredible. I showed our guests the progress on our recent projects: terracing the back yard and laying a stone wall, a new chicken “palace” with 13 young chickens, and our new vegetable garden (of course all of these are in varying stages of completion) – see photos below.
Our main course consisted of fresh peacock, sauce du Mark, 100% natural hand harvested Minnesota wild rice, and grilled asparagus.
After dinner we had a vinaigrette salad with the freshly picked greens (spinach, butter lettuce, frizzee, and romaine) from Jackie Dukes’ garden. Then we relaxed in the living room and let our dinner settle before dessert. As I mentioned Jeanne Beck made a strawberry/almond torte, but what I didn’t say earlier is that it was as pretty to look at as it was delicious to eat (I wish I had taken a picture – but think of a food magazine cover). And I learned also that Hood strawberries have the red color all the way through, and therefore have the most flavonoids (remember this is a wine group). It was truly a great evening – good friends, great wine, excellent food and conversation.
There you have it. We may not live in a palace, but we eat like royalty, and life gives you vineyard damaging peacock, make a party out of it and Enjoy the Journey!
3 cloves of garlic
1 bottle Oregon Chardonnay
¾ cup crème fraiche
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 young peacock
1 young peahen
Peafowl are a large, firm-fleshed member of the pheasant family. By firm-fleshed, I mean tough. Tougher than a $3 steak tough; tougher than a drill sergeant tough; almost as tough as Sister Mary Margaret, your third grade piano teacher. That said, it tastes just like pheasant; the trick is to let it simmer long enough to make it tender.
- Clean the peafowl as you would pheasant. Rather than try to pluck them, I pulled the skin off.
- Cut the birds into fryer-sized pieces. I cut the breast and thigh meat off the carcass.
- Feed the skin and entrails to the vultures, making sure there is no lead shot in the remains (consider using steel shot only). Note: If you regularly feed the vultures in the same place, they will check it daily and anything placed there will be quickly cleaned up. . (see pictures)
- Dredge the peafowl in flour and sauté in olive oil and a bit of butter until golden.
- Place the sautéed peafowl in a Dutch oven. De-glaze the pan with wine and pour over peafowl. Add thin-sliced garlic and cover with wine.
- Cover Dutch oven and simmer for ~ 4 or 5 hours. Taste broth and add salt to taste.
- Add thyme ~ a half hour before serving.
- Stir in crème fraich just before serving.
- Serve with Minnesota wild rice and Oregon Pinot Noir. Enjoy!