Northern Rhône Wines and My Steak Tartare Disaster #Winophiles

My “Do It Yourself” Steak Tartare Disaster
Julie and I both love steak tartare and order it often when we’re out at a restaurant. When we travel in France, it’s one of Julie’s lunch favorites. I’ve never tried making it at home, in part due to the nagging question about safety, given it is mainly raw meat with a raw egg.

In thinking about a menu for our March #Winophiles blogging event (scroll down for links to a bunch of great posts), I decided to finally take the plunge.  How hard could it be?  I’ve used the food processor to grind meat for ragù before, I was sure I could manage.

A (hopefully) Funny Tartare Story
On our last day in Italy in 2013, our guide showed us a raw milk dispensary in a grocery parking lot. You could very inexpensively purchase both a bottle and raw milk from the automated system. Robert said it was very good and worth a try. Julie asked if it was safe. I replied: “Julie, you had raw meat with a raw egg mixed in at lunch.  I think you can take the risk!”

My first attempt at steak tartare. We survived, but it wasn’t pretty!

One Pulse Too Many and a Recipe Lesson
I found a good looking recipe, purchased some prime beef tenderloin ($37/lb!) and other ingredients, prepped all the additions and sauces. Then it came time to prep the tenderloin. From my previous ragù experience, I cut the tenderloin into moderate size cubes and put them in the food processor. Checking carefully, I decided the beef was almost chopped finely enough (you already know the rest of the story). I added the liquids, onions, capers, greens and pulsed one more time. Unfortunately, you can’t un-break an egg and you can’t un-chop your steak tartare.  I stopped and opened the food processor to my too-smooth, too gray, steak tartare wannabe. Ouch.  I can’t even call it pink slime, as it picked up too much color from the Worcestershire sauce.

I can only blame the recipe for additional ingredient choices and amounts. The texture was all on me!

My Steak Tartare Pledge – Never Give Up, Never Surrender!
Like so many great old-world dishes, the key to success is well prepared high quality ingredients in perfect proportion. Steak Tartare is a great example. The recipe I tried had under- accented some of the ingredients and had overdone the Worcestershire sauce.

Here is my plan:

  1. Don’t give up!
  2. Either hand chop or use the food processor with great restraint
  3. Report back when I find a recipe I love

Luckily for us, the tartare was perfectly safe to eat and not that bad, the texture was the biggest problem.  However, the wines were excellent. I especially enjoyed the Saint-Peray with the Tartare, even though I had expected the Crozes-Hermitage to be the winner.

Yves Cuilleron Saint-Peray AOC 2016 ($36 at France 44)
Cave Yves Cuilleron estate does not have a long history by European standards, but I’ll take 3 generations as a serious commitment. They have multiple properties spanning the full length of the northern Rhone from Cote-Rotie to Saint-Peray.  Saint-Peray is one of only a few AOC’s in the northern Rhone which is only for white wines. The wines will be a Marsanne / Roussanne blend. The Yves Cuilleron grapes are grown without chemical intervention. In the cellar, wines are made without commercial yeasts using traditional principles and no chemical adjustments. Finally, the Saint Peray is aged in barrique for 9 months before release.

Eye: Clear, medium gold, few legs
Nose: Clean, floral with white flowers, ripe pears, white peach with a rich tone to the nose.
Mouth: Dry, medium+ body, medium acidity,flavors continue with ripe pears, white peach, with a bit of almond mixed in. Acidity is buffered by the body, giving a smooth refined impression. Nice medium+ length finish with the fruit and almonds lingering.

Les Vins de Vienne (Cuilleron, Villard, Gaillard) Crozes-Hermitage AOC 2011 ($20 online)
Les Vins de Vienne is a fascinating tale of cooperation and spirit of adventure.Three well respected Northern Rhone winemakers got together to resurrect an abandoned vineyard site at Seyssuel, just north of the northernmost appellation of today’s northern Rhone. Over time their project expanded to multiple spots around the northern Rhone. While each has their own winery style, Les Vins de Vienne is always a cooperative and joint adventure.

Eye: Clear, medium ruby with a warm toned edge. A few slow legs, wine doesn’t stain the glass noticeably.
Nose: Initially barny, after a bit of air, resolves but definitely an earthy aroma in front. Mushrooms, forest floor, and fresh herbs. A bit of chocolate comes next, then dark fruit: blueberries and blackberries; ripe but not cooked.
Mouth: Dry, medium+ body, medium acidity, medium+ tannins. Herbal qualities shine through, with dark blue and black ripe fruit behind. Medium finish dominated by herbs and dark fruit. A delicious and approachable wine for a person who enjoys an earthy element in their wines.

French #Winophiles Cruise the Rhone
Take a look at all the great ideas posted by my #Winophiles buddies.  If you see this post soon enough, please join our Twitter Chat at #winophiles on Saturday March 17 at 10:00am CDT.

42 Responses to “Northern Rhône Wines and My Steak Tartare Disaster #Winophiles”
  1. Beautiful post. I’ll take a vin de Vienne, over a wine from Vienna any day!

  2. Amber says:

    Ha ha! I love that you didn’t give up! David us a tartare fan too so we eat it often, though I have never made it at home.

  3. swanson29 says:

    Will send my Alsace dream recipe for beef. It requires cognac. Smalig malta, JAS29 🧀

    Joseph A.Swanson Visiting Scholar in Finance Northwestern University m] +1(262)752-7727 e]

  4. It certainly looks better than it sounds. I was thinking it turned into pink beef soup. However, the picture looks delicious. Good for you for trying. Like you, I hesitate to make raw food at home, preferring instead to trust complete strangers with my intestines. Ha!

  5. lizbarrett says:

    I love this post! It’s always heartening to hear of others’ bold attempts and both success and failures – yours is funny! And you did a damn fine job of making it look pretty beautiful, despite over-processing! Cheers!

  6. “A ” for effort! If you have a KitchenAid mixer, get the grinder attachment, works like a charm. I must admit I have not made steak tartare, but have used it for freshly ground meat for meatballs.

  7. Odd Bacchus says:

    I do love me an almond note in a white wine. That Saint-Peray sounds like a delight! And it’s cool a white worked so well with your steak — I always like pairings that debunk common wisdom like reds with beef and whites with fish.

  8. Nicole Ruiz Hudson says:

    I can’t wait to see how your future attempts turn out. I admit I’ve also been meaning to try my hand at steak tartare and have also been a bit wary. I know, however, that both of those wines would be ample consolation for the mishap!

  9. culinarycam says:

    You get top marks for level of adventure in this post. I have ventured into raw fish prep at home, but haven’t braved raw beef. Hats off to you, Jeff. If I ever do try, I’ll exercise food processor restraint…if I can.

  10. Live and learn I suppose Jeff! I’m sure you will pursue Beef Tartare until it succumbs to you will! Interesting that the white wine paired better, but not entirely surprised given the beef was raw. Cheers!

  11. Cooking Chat says:

    Sometimes the meals that don’t turn out quite right make for more interesting reading, thanks for sharing! Both wines sound great, the red sounds like a good value.

  12. Wendy says:

    I’m sorry about your tartare….I am amazed at how food friendly old world whites are to food. I preferred the Luberon pairing that I did as well.

  13. Lynn says:

    Ha! Great story Jeff. Although we’re not big fans of Steak Tartare, would like to try it with something similar to the Saint-Peray… one day.

  14. Jeff, thanks for sharing one of your food fails. (Although it looks pretty good to me!) Every month you inspire the rest of us to try and create beautiful, delicious food. It’s comforting to know that even for you, sometimes things don’t go according to plan. Cheers!

  15. Oh my! This is a dish I’ve only had a few times and definitely enjoyed but never thought to try at home. And with those expensive ingredients, good thing it was still edible! Let us know when you find a better recipe!

  16. I love your post. Nice that you profiled the Saint Peray, an appellation not very much in the wine radar

  17. Love your efforts here. Your persistence paid off. Such a fun read.

  18. Payal says:

    As someone who grew up almost vegan, it took me forever to get over my squeamishness about raw meat (although I gladly cooked it if someone else prepped it). So, my steak tartare pledge is: Let a pro prepare the raw beef! Loved reading your experience, though. And the wine reviews too. See you in a couple of weeks!

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