January 15, 2021
By Bruce Neyers
Barbara’s New Year’s Eve Celebratory Pot Roast
Whether it’s called Daube of Beef, Beef Bourguignon, Pot Au Feu, or one of many other regional names, the French are masters when it comes to cooking the American classic I’ve known as ‘Pot Roast’. I no longer get to spend a month or two in France every year, but when I was traveling there regularly, one form of pot roast or another was a frequent part of my diet. I still remember well the version prepared at La Gourmandin in Beaune — one of my favorite Burgundian watering holes — with those wonderful white potatoes and delicious pearl onions. The beef just fell apart on the fork, and like many things French seemed to have flavors rarely encountered elsewhere.
A particular delight of pot roast in France is drinking red Burgundy with it. Red Burgundy wines with their fascinating combination of fresh jam, bright minerality, and exotic earthiness always work. Barbara and I spent New Year’s Eve alone this year — for the first time since we were married in 1967. We based our celebration around dinner. Barbara tried some new ideas for pot roast, and I had an assortment of Pinot Noir bottlings — including one from Neyers — that I wanted to serve. It seemed like an ideal way to bring in 2021.
Properly done pot roast requires a commitment to prepare, and Barbara started on hers around 2:00pm. The plan was to have Champagne at 7:00pm, then eat at 8:00pm, so there was plenty of time to peel carrots and potatoes, chop celery, prep the pearl onions, and braise the beef. She then let everything start cooking together around 4:00pm. Besides eating it, the best thing about pot roast is smelling it cook. The aroma was distracting, but I focused on the wines.
I finally settled on three: a 1999 Corton Grand Cru that had been a gift from Pierre Guillemot of Savigny-les-Beaune after his grandson Vincent’s extended stay with us in 2004; one of my more recent treasures, a 2015 Nuits-St. Georges ‘Aux Murgers’ from Domaine Mêo-Camuzet; and from the winery, I brought a bottle of our 2018 Pinot Noir ‘Roberts Road’, a wine I’ve long considered one of the best examples of Pinot Noir that Tadeo has made.
Before long, the aroma of Barbara’s pot roast wafted through the entirety of our house. Finally she pronounced it ready to serve. I opened the bottles of Pinot Noir, poured a glass of each, and then sat down as Barbara brought out the stew, served in bowls. I was delighted with how well the wines held up to the roast, and even more pleased with the showing of the Neyers Pinot Noir.
When I taste our Roberts Road Pinot Noir, I remind myself that this is a wine made from grapes grown on vines that were brought to the US by Joe Swan as heirloom cuttings, directly from vineyards in Burgundy. The vines are planted now on a gentle, southeast-facing slope of gravel and basalt in the chilly Petaluma Gap AVA of southern Sonoma County. In 2018 the vines were 18 years old, and yields were barely two tons per acre. We fermented the must for six weeks on the skins, retaining 50% of the stems. The wine was then aged for 14 months in 30% new François Frères barrels before bottling without fining or filtration. It has a beautiful combination of fruit and rusticity, and will bring out the best in a well-made pot roast.
Pot Roast Recipe
Developed by Barbara Neyers for New Year’s Eve 2020
Serves 6 people
2 pounds cubed beef stew meat, preferably chuck roast. Carefully remove all external fat.
4 tbsp olive oil
4 cups beef stock
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 bay leaf
3 large potatoes cubed, preferably Yukon Golds
3 carrots cut into 1-inch length pieces
3 celery stalks cut into 1/2-inch length pieces
1 white onion minced, and two dozen pearl onions (pre-cooked)
3/4 cup flour
In a large pot or Dutch oven, cook beef in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat until brown. Add 2 cups beef stock and 1 bay leaf. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Cover and simmer 1 hour. Remove bay leaf.
In a separate pot, lightly sauté minced onion in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add flour and cook until the flour is combined with the olive oil. Add the remaining 2 cups of stock and the cooked beef. Simmer the mixture until it thickens. Add the potatoes, carrots, celery and pearl onions, and cook until the vegetables are soft enough to eat.