Our Winemaker at Home: JP Caldcleugh

Our Winemaker at home

For the uninitiated, JP Caldcleugh is the Director of Winemaking here at Union. What that means, basically, is that although it is a huge team effort preparing, perfecting and producing our wines, if you have recently enjoyed a can or bottle of Union, you at least in some way have JP to thank for it.

JP is the best sort of amalgam, making him a perfect fit for the Union family: a totally laid back dude (he was born and raised in New Orleans so that kind of comes with the territory) while imbued with just enough wine-geekiness to make sure he takes his job and responsibilities extremely seriously so as to create the product that we have all come to love over the past few years.

Having honed his skills working with winemakers in California, Australia and New Zealand, we were lucky enough to join JP at the top of his game. Aside from the impressive bio, we wanted to share the real JP—the man behind the man, if you will, and of course that story wouldn’t be complete without including the woman behind the man as well: his wife and traveling companion, Mandy. The two originally met at LSU (Mandy being a native of the Lafayette area) and have been together ever since. Mandy is not personally involved in the winemaking process, but she does spend several days a week out at the Amity Vineyards, cultivating an amazingly verdant and diverse garden of flowers, fruits, vegetables, and herbs, which she shares with all the Union employees.

Amity Vineyards

Amity Vineyards

For our interview, we asked JP to make a traditional dish, so he chose a chicken and andouille gumbo. We will get to that all in good time, but first, we wanted to learn a little more about JP’s interests when he isn’t busy at the winery. JP, like most people, is working a little less these days (though not very much less) so he has had a little more time to devote to his personal interests.

Our Winemaker at Home

So JP, what are you listening to these days?

JP: We’ve always got something going on the turntable when we are at home. These days we have been listening to The Comet is Coming, Quantic, J.J. Cale, and of course Miles Davis. Always Miles Davis.

How about Podcasts. Any standouts?

JP: Well, this one is an old tried and true podcast, but for us, you can never go wrong with Josh and Chuck from Stuff You Should Know. One of the most recent episodes, all about hummingbirds, was pretty great. (You can check that out right here.)

Our Winemaker at Home

I couldn’t help notice the guitar in the corner, a classical strung with steel strings…very bold. Learning any new songs presently?

JP: Actually, I have been working on Queen Bee by Taj Mahal.

Our winemaker at home

How ’bout literature? Reading any good books?

JP: I am currently reading Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker and also very slowly making my way through The Tailor of Panama by John Le Carré.

Sounds like you have many irons in many fires. Gotta say that’s not surprising at all. But now I think it’s time we got to that Gumbo. Wanna give us a general ingredient list and then a simple How To?

Our winemaker at home

JP: Absolutely. There are lots of substitutions that can take place in a dish like this but here is how I prefer it:

JP’s Chicken & Andouille Gumbo

2 lbs bone-in chicken thighs
1 lb smoked andouille or other cajun sausage
3 stalks celery, diced
1 white onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
7 C chicken broth
1 1/2 C white rice
1 C butter or other high heat fat (such as avocado oil)
1 C all-purpose flour
Salt and pepper
Cayenne
Garlic Powder
3 stalks green onion, diced, for garnish

*Cook rice and set aside
*Heavily sprinkle chicken with salt, pepper, cayenne, and garlic powder. Sear on both sides and continue to turn in the pan on medium heat until chicken is cooked through. Set aside until ready to shred.

Our winemaker at home

*Remove the chicken and heat the remaining butter in the same cast iron until just bubbling. Add the flour, lower the heat, and stir continuously, whisking until the roux becomes a deep chocolatey brown.

Our winemaker at home

Our winemaker at home

*Add the diced vegetables and cook until just softened, about 5 minutes.

Our winemaker at home

*Meanwhile, bring your stock to a boil. Slowly add the roux/vegetable mix and simmer for 45 minutes.

Our winemaker at home

*De-bone and shred the chicken. Add chicken meat and sausage to the gumbo. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
*Put a heaping pile of rice in a shallow bowl, ladle gumbo over the rice and garnish with the green onions.
*Enjoy with a Riesling or White Burgundy.

Our winemaker at home

Speaking of wine pairings, I feel we would be remiss if we didn’t talk about what you like to drink on your evenings off.

JP: I obviously drink and enjoy all sorts of different wines, but the bottle we are having tonight is one of my favorite styles. I absolutely love the chardonnay grapes grown in Burgundy. For my money, it’s the best Chardonnay in the world. How do I put this…there is just a tension of flavor that you don’t get anywhere else. Today we are drinking this specific Puligny-Montrachet. It’s definitely one of my favorites.

Our winemaker at home

Well, speaking for JP, Mandy, and the whole Union Family, we hope you are staying safe out there, practicing your social distancing, and washing those hands!

Our winemaker at home

’Til next time, stay safe, Bon Appétit and keep those #pinkiesdown.

Photography & Text by David L. Reamer. (@dlreamer)
Recipe by JP Caldcleugh (@jcaldc1)

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>