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Chill with Cool Dinner Ideas

Saturday, August 16th, 2014

With this streak of hot days, firing up the stove for a home cooked meal is the last thing on your mind. A hot kitchen would not be a very pleasant place to hang out. Wouldn’t you rather be on the patio, sipping a chilled bottle of rosé with a few bites of something light and refreshing?

Summer dinners are usually lighter fare as are the wines that would accompany them. Here are some small bites recipes that require no heat when dinner time rolls around and can be prepared in a short time.

Prosciutto wrapped Nectarine Wedges garnished with Basil is an easy, light, refreshing bite. This cool recipe can be assembled without any heat. Toss 3 peaches cut into 8 wedges each, with ¼ teaspoon of sugar, ½ teaspoon sherry vinegar, 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin and let stand 10 minutes. Cut the Prosciutto in half lengthwise, and then wrap each piece around a wedge of peach. Garnish with a basil leaf and secure with a pick.

Summer Rolls with Cilantro Lime Dipping Sauce are a great addition to our summer repertoire. Similar to a spring rolls only this one is totally fresh ingredients. Almost cooking and an all hands assembly makes for a quick and fun dinner.

Just soak a bundle of dried bean thread noodles in a bowl of boiling hot water for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, blanch 1 carrot cut into matchsticks in the microwave until al dente. Halve, de-seed and cut one cucumber into matchsticks, cut a fresh serano chile into matchsticks, and finely shred about a cup of lettuce.

Quick pickle the carrot, cucumber and a serrano chile in ¼ cup rice vinegar, ¼ teaspoon sugar, a tablespoon of lime juice and a couple of shakes of sea salt. Let stand 5 minutes. Drain the vegetables and reserve the liquid. Toss the noodles with the reserved liquid.

Fill a shallow pie plate with warm water and soak a rice paper round until it begins to soften, about 30 seconds. Place it on a damp cutting board and put a small mound of lettuce, pickled vegetables, noodles, cilantro, mint and/or basil leaves on the round. Fold in the sides and roll up jelly roll style.

For the Cilantro Lime dipping sauce, shake the following in and sealed jar: 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger, 1 tablespoon chili paste, 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, 1/2 cup citrus soy sauce, the juice and pulp from a freshly squeezed lime, 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup sugar, and salt and freshly ground black pepper  to taste.

Radishes with Savory Butter is a lesson in simplicity. It’s a cool, satisfying dish with creamy, salty butter and  crunchy, peppery radishes. Soften a stick of good quality unsalted butter and blend in the a food processor with a tablespoon of anchovy paste, one minced garlic clove and fresh lemon juice to taste until smooth. Season with salt and serve with radishes that have been halved. This can be done one day ahead and chilled.

Tuna Salad stuffed Tomatoes. One advantage of this hot weather is the garden tomatoes that are coming on. For this Italian flavored meal, you need a can of cannellini beans, a can of tuna fish, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Drain and rinse the beans and tuna fish. In a bowl, break up the tuna fish and then toss with the beans. Make a dressing of balsamic and olive oil with a few red pepper flakes and a few grinds of black pepper. Toss with the beans and tuna. Cut your garden fresh tomatoes in half. And depending on size, scoop them out and to fill. Garnish with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley

So what wine to pair with these cool dishes? There’s a wine for every season; and for the summer season, it’s to be chilled, refreshing bottles of Rosé. It has the cody of a red, sometimes, and you can chill the heck out of it because there are no tannins.

Rosé is a wine that can be light pink to almost light red in color. The reason for these many shades of pink is how the wine is fermented. In the skins of the red grapes are all the pigments for color and much of the tannins. The longer the skins are allowed to stay in the fermenting juice, the darker the color of the wine.

As a result, the wine is not as tannic as red wine and therefore can be chilled without the resulting bite of tannins. It’s very similar to making a cup of tea. If you leave the bag in the cup for about 30 seconds the color and flavors will be lighter. Conversely, if you dunk your tea bag many times, you’ll get more color and tannins.

A dry rosé is my go-to summer sipper. Whether you’re on the patio or picnicking under the shade of a big leaf maple, these summer sippers will beat the heat and won’t break the bank.

Folie a Deux Menage a Trois Rosé

Here’s a refreshing medium bodied wine with tides of flavors with raspberries, strawberries, lychee nuts, and a smooth finish. Always a madcap blend, this one is Merlot, Syrah, Gewürztraminer and Muscat. The two reds are given a 24-hour cold soak on the skins to give the wine its blush and luscious body. The Gewürztraminer was cold fermented to preserve the exotic spicy nose. The wine is mouthwatering, crisp, and light pink in color.

Domaine du Pere Caboche 2012 Vaucluse Rose VDP ‘Le Petit Caboche

This delicious rose is blended from typical Cotes du Rhone grapes, Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah. It’s another medium-bodied refreshing wine with strawberry, raspberry and hint of citrus flavors. The crisp acidity and a touch of spice in the finish make this a fav with food. This French estate, which is a few centuries old, owns and farms some superb properties producing Cotes du Rhone as well as a great Chateauneuf du Pape.

Syncline 2013 Columbia Rosé is the embodiment of a Provence rosé. This Washington rosé is amazing, offering beautiful aromatics with flavors of melon, and citrus, combined with supple red fruits of the typical raspberries and strawberries and a touch of pepper. Gorgeous on hot summer days and a complement to lighter fare.

Be cool with a chilled glass of rosé and the bounty of summer. Cheers!


Spicy Eating with a Quenching Drink

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Did you know, eating spicy foods may help cool you down? If you think about the world’s hot spots and their cuisines, like Mexico, India, Malaysian, Thailand, Szechwan, and New Orleans, spicy peppers permeate most dishes in those climates.

Why does this happen? Perhaps because super spicy food induces sweating, which may help you feel colder. The other big reason is food borne bacteria are inhibited or killed by spices like garlic, onion, and oregano, which are the best known bacteria killers. Chilies and hot peppers also inhibit bacteria and when combined with the above and ginger, anise seed, lemons and limes, you can be cool and eating hot, healthy foods.

Ann Vogel’s recipe for Chicken Big Mamou, has a lot of those spicy spices, black pepper, white pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic, and Tabasco. These flavors dominate the dish, that and the pound of butter and tomato sauce. So something cold, sweet and sparkling to balance those dominate flavors and textures. The best wine choice for this very spicy dish is a chilled bottle of Riesling for three good reasons; the dish is Cajun hot, it’s hot and it’s hot.

But since last week’s blog entry had us chatting about the wonders of Riesling and Dungeness crab, I’ll depart from the usual wine match up and move into a chilled bottle of cider.

There is a cider revolution going on. The hard cider industry in the United States is growing rapidly. Sales grew 101 percent in 2013, to more than $128 million, according to the Northwest Agriculture Business Center.

In Washington alone, there are at least 25 cideries on the market. They’re making cider out of apples, pears, and even combinations of other fruits and herbs. Ciders are sweet, dry, still and sparkling.

So, what makes a cider a cider? In North America, there are two types, cider and hard cider. Typically, cider is the sweet unfermented stuff. Hard implies alcohol within. Hard cider is brewed like beer, fermented and bottled without aging. But in Washington State, the Liquor Control Board considers hard cider a fruit wine.

Cider can go from apple to juice to ready to drink in 21 days. Like beer, ciders may get their bubbles from a dose of CO2 or the traditional second fermentation. Apple varieties grown specifically for cider are classified as heirloom, bittersweet and bittersharp.

Usually ciders are a blend of apples, and with Washington being a major producer of apples, sourcing the juice to make cider is as plentiful as wine grapes. Cider apples are prized for their high acids and sugars and intensely flavors, much like grapes.

If you have a hankering to try ciders,finn river a great place to start would be Northwest Cider Association’s second annual Summer Cider Day in Port Townsend on Saturday, August 9 from noon to 5pm. It’s one of the largest cider tasting events in Washington.

Advance ticket prices are $25 and $20 for NWCA members. Tickets are $30 at the door. Price includes admission, 10 tasting tickets, and a souvenir glass. Additional taste tickets are available for purchase.

For more info, http://www.nwcider.com/cider-events/2014/8/9/summer-cider-day

An partial list of Washington’s Cideries:

Alpenfire Cider, Port Townsend, AlpenfireCider.com

Core Hero Hard Cider. Edmonds, coreherohardcider.com

D’s Wicked Cider, Kennewick, DsWickedCider.com

Dragon’s Head Cider, Vashon, DragonsHeadCider.com

Eaglemount Wine & Cider, Port Townsend, EaglemountWinery.com

Finnriver Farm & Cidery, Chimacum, Finnriver.com

Grizzly Ciderworks, Woodinville, GrizzlyCider.com

Irvine’s Vintage Cider Vashon Island, VashonWinery.com

Liberty Ciderworks, Spokane, LibertyCider.com

Nashi Orchards, Vashon Island, nashiorchards.com

Neigel Vintners, East Wenatchee, neigelvintners.com

Schilling Cider Company, Seattle, SchillingCider.com

Seattle Cider Co. Seattle, seattlecidercompany.com

Sixknot Cider, Carlton, SixknotCider.com

Spire Mountain, Olympia, Fishbrewing.com

Snowdrift Cider Co., East Wenatchee, SnowdriftCider.com

Square Mile Cider, SquareMileCider.com

Tieton Cider Works, Tieton, TietonCiderWorks.com

Twilight Cider Works, Mead, twilightciderworks.com

Westcott Bay Cider, San Juan Island, WestcottBayCider.com

Whiskey Barrel Cider, Pullman, WhiskeyBarrelCider.com

Whitewood Cider Co., Olympia, WhitewoodCider.com


It’s a tossup with Salmon Kebobs

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

Fire up barbie, it’s grilling season! Cooking outdoors makes dining special and with Ann Vogel’s Salmon Kabobs, it’s elegant and pretty darned easy.

spiced-salmon-kebabs

Grilling adds another dimension to foods and even more so when you add soaked cherry, alder or apple wood chips for a softer, smoky flavor and aroma. Even better throw on some frozen corncobs for a really sweet smoky aroma.

There are two wines that are the top match here. It’s too hard to make the choice so we’ll suggest one of each – Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. You just can’t get a better match with salmon.

A great Chardonnay, full of vibrant fruit, comes from a cool climate. Mountainous areas or nearby valleys that hold fog all morning similar to Burgundy, Carneros, Santa Barbara or Mendocino are ideal. With any of these regions on the label, you’re in like Flynn.

Traditional techniques like whole cluster pressing, barrel fermentation, and sur lie give the wines elegance and richness with balance from the acidity and tannins making it an excellent companion to salmon.

The Chardonnay should have a little oak, some apple, citrus and buttery flavors, medium to heavy bodied. It needs good acidity to stand up to the fatty (the good kind) salmon.

From Washington, Abeja, Dusted Valley, Rulo or Waterbrook would work very well with the salmon. California Chardonnay producers on my A list would be Beringer, J Lohr Riverstone, Ferrari Carrano, Wente Vineyards and Chateau St Jean.

The most recommended perfect pairing of all time is salmon with Pinot Noir. Especially a wine on the younger side from Oregon or California. Typically, Pinot Noirs take about 5 -7 years to blossom. A 2008 from Oregon, 2009 or 2010 from California would be my first choice.

Pinot Noir much like Chardonnay prefers a cool growing climate. In France, where the grape originates, its foggy regions are Burgundy and Champagne. Unlike Chardonnay, Pinot Noir is red and difficult to grow.

So, why bother you ask? If you ask a dozen professionals what their all time favorite bottle of red wine was, I’ll bet you 50 cents it was a red Burgundy. My all time favorite was Domaine Ponsot 1985.

Pinot Noir is a light to medium bodied red wine made from grapes that don’t have as many anthocyanins as other red grapes. This means it’s typically lighter in color than other red wines. But don’t let color fool you.

You still get buckets of character with strawberry, cherry, raspberry and blackberry fruit and earth-driven layers with herbs, mushroom, tobacco, and leather. Spice notes also make their way into the glass in the form of cinnamon, clove and smoky nuances.

If you ever get the chance, never shy away from William Selyem Sonoma Coast Hirsch Vineyard Pinot Noir. It will be memorable. Other fabulous Pinots are Rochioli in the Russian River Valley, Byron in the small cool Santa Maria appellation and anything from Bien Nacido Vineyards.

California producers who know their way around Pinot Noir would be Martin Ray Santa Barbara, Rodney Strong Russian River, Acacia, Olema Sonoma, and Morgan in the Santa Lucia Highlands, to name a few.

Oregon producers high on the list would be anything from Tony Soter, Argyle, Firesteed, Ponzi, and Wine by Joe.

Have a great Fourth!


Riesling with your Shrimp Catch

Saturday, May 17th, 2014

shrimpGrilled Hood Canal shrimp and a chilled bottle of Riesling is just the ticket for these warm sunny days. And right on cue, a couple of emails received earlier this week highlighted the length that some aficionados go to for love of Riesling.

The first was a traveling tasting experience from Key West to New York City. Riesling enthusiast and NYC restaurateur Paul Grieco and German wine author and expert Stuart Pigott will spread the word and German Riesling with their wine bar on wheels, leading tastings for trade and media and hosting dinners along the way.

The other was a blog about the Summer of Riesling. The Summer of Riesling is a worldwide movement which encourages the consumption, discussion and enjoyment of Riesling.

Riesling is a noble grape that originated in Germany’s Rhine region. Riesling does well in cool climates. Germany has one of the world’s most northern vineyards and they’re pretty frosty to boot. Since the 15th century, they have staked their vineyards on Riesling because it can survive and thrive in cooler climates.

Extremely versatile, Riesling can be made dry, semi-sweet, sweet, dessert or sparkling. It’s rarely blended and when it does see oak, as is the case in the Alsace, the barrels are lined with centuries of tartrates that insulate the barrel.

Riesling is usually consumed young, when it’s a fruity and aromatic with aromas of green apples, peach, rose blossoms or minerals and crispness from the bracing acidity. In cool climates, the wines tend toward apple and peach notes with crisp acidity that’s balanced by the residual sugar. It develops citrus and peach notes in warmer climates. In Australia, you’ll find a lime note.

This naturally high acidity and prominent residual sugars make it a likely candidate for aging. With aging, Riesling takes on honeyed character, petrol aromas and an amber hue.

Two German wines to try are the Losen-Bockstanz 2012 Mosel Wittlicher Lay Riesling Kabinett, and the Rudi Wiest 2012 Mosel Riesling QBA. Both sell for just $11 and have the crisp acidity and mineral component that is the hallmark of German Rieslings.

Because of that broad range of acidity, flavors and sweetness or lack there of, there is, of course, a broad range of dishes that work so well with this wine. One dish that comes to mind this time of year is shrimp, Hood Canal Shrimp, sweet, succulent and slightly charred from the grill.

Here’s a favorite recipe an old chef friend made with Hood Canal shrimp. Make a marinade of grated lime peel with 1/4 cup lime juice, a teaspoon of sugar and a tablespoon of chopped ginger. Pour over shrimp in the shells and let it stand for an hour or two. Drain into a sauce pan and simmer for about 5 minutes

Preheat grill for direct grilling on medium-high. Skewer shrimp with two skewers an inch apart so the shrimp won’t twist when you flip them. Grill 3 to 4 minutes turning over once until shells are bright and shrimp turn opaque. Line a plate with lettuce and mint leaves. Top with grilled shrimp, chopped avocado and pink grapefruit segments. Sprinkle with cooled marinade.

Even though shrimping 2014 ends this week, there is still a n opportunity to get some at the Brinnon ShrimpFest 2014 which runs Saturday, May 24th, 10 to 6 pm and Sunday, May 25th, 10 to 4pm. Gate Fee: $4/day or $6 for two-day pass.  For more information: shrimpfest@hotmail.com or check out their facebook page.


Easter Ham with Pinot Noir

Saturday, April 19th, 2014

There was always a big ham on the Easter dinner table.  And for the longest time, I thought all hams came smoked, on the bone with cloves stuck into the scored top and sprinkled with brown sugar.

Until many years later, after reading a recipe somewhere, I ordered a fresh ham from the butcher without knowing what I was getting myself into. When I unwrapped it, I had serious misgivings. It had the bone, it was the right shape but it just didn’t look like ham to me.

I faithfully followed the recipe and served it with a creamed horseradish sauce and a big jug of Navalle Burgundy. Forks were flying and before long there was just a soup bone left.

Fresh ham, it turns out, is a pork roast with a big bone in it. Never brined, cured, or smoked. It’s fresh.

Today, this baked fresh ham will be served3girls with a dried cherry and leek sauce and a Pinot Noir. And I have just the wine for the match! Having recently tried a couple of wines from a winery I was not familiar with – Oak Ridge Winery  -  I can highly recommend this Lodi winery.

Lodi lies between the Sierra Nevada foothills and the San Francisco Bay where the days are quite warm and the nights are cool. The Lodi AVA was established in 1986 but grape growing in this prolific farming region has been going on since the 1850s. Many German farming families formed cooperatives and sold their grapes to outfits like Sebastiani and Bronco.

The winery, opened in 1934, was originally a cooperative for the local growers. In 2001, winegrower Rudy Maggio and his partners, Don and Rocky Reynolds, bought the winery. They produce small lots of hand-crafted wines, and like many Lodi wineries, they’re known for Zinfandel, Old Vine Zinfandel.

While over 50 grape varietals thrive in Lodi, Zinfandel shines. Old gnarly vines, some over 100 years old, sculpted by time, yield small amounts of fruit to create a fabulous wine.

While Zinfandel would be great with this dinner, the wine that I had in mind was their Pinot Noir. Pretty unusual climate for Pinot Noir but there it is. The 3 Girls Vineyard California Pinot Noir is not produced from 80% Lodi grapes to get Lodi on the label.  And it actually has 13% Zinfandel in it!

I’m happy I didn’t know that while I was enjoying this delicious bottle of wine. The latent wine snob in me might have emerged.

Oak Ridge is one of the fastest growing wineries in the U.S. and easily the one with most extraordinary tasting room. It’s made from a 75 year old redwood holding tank. The tank had a capacity of 49,429 gallons of wine or 20,610 cases of wine.

Their very affordable wines can be found at these local markets:

CostPlus World Market – Silverdale

Fred Meyer – Port Orchard

Central Market – Poulsbo

Savage Vine – Kingston


Taste Washington Bites with Wine Review

Saturday, April 5th, 2014

tastewaThe 17th annual Taste Washington featured dozens of restaurants. Each of those restaurants came up with a Pacific Northwest inspired bite that had their own signature. It was an inspiring array of dishes that you could put together for your next wine tasting.  From savory desserts (olive oil ice cream) to oysters on the half shell, scallops and salmon, with pork bellies, steak, lamb and cauliflower, beets, sweet potatoes, arugula, Taste Washington left no culinary stone unturned.

This tastings tapas-styled food bite was absolutely necessary when you are walking around with a wine glass, small food tray with the wine glass holder, program, pen, and, in some cases, a spit cup. That’s a lot of stuff to juggle with just two hands.

Following is the short list of the bites that inspired me and a Washington wine that I did or would pair with the little dish.

Andaluca‘s Cauliflower soup with lardons and pickled beets is an inspired dish. For the match, go with a Sauvignon Blanc from Yakima’s Chinook Winery or Novelty Hill’s Stillwater Creek. http://www.andaluca.com/

Anthony’s Pier 66 served up pan seared scallops with bacon jam and bib lettuce on a toasted bruschetta. This is the one for Chinook’s 2012 Chardonnay or Challenger Ridge Winery’s 2011 Columbia Valley dry Riesling. http://www.anthonys.com/

AQUA by El Gaucho was shucking Taylor Shellfish oysters faster than a speeding bullet but still could not keep up with demand. I love oysters with Champagne but my second choice would be a Sauvignon Blanc. Try the White Bordeaux blend from L’Ecole No. 41 Walla Walla 2012 or Cave B 2012 Ancient Lakes White Bordeaux blend. http://www.elgaucho.com/Aqua-by-El-Gaucho.html

Barking Frog’s Sweet potato and lamb chorizo croquette red pepper rouille begs for  a Syrah or a Sirah! One of my favs, Gordon Winery Pixie Syrah or the Laurelhurst Cellars 2009 Horse Heaven Hills El Humidor Petite Sirah. http://www.willowslodge.com/barking_frog/

Boom Noodle restaurant is named after a popular Japanese term, meaning the thing one is currently obsessed with. These guys are obsessed with Japanese cuisine and their Seared Albacore rice noodle salad is delightful. Try this with Facelli’s Columbia Valley 2012 unoaked Chardonnay or the appropriately named COR Cellars 2013 AlbaCOR Columbia George 2013 White. http://www.boomnoodle.com/v2/

Cheeseland Inc. Now we’re talking! Wine and Cheese have a natural affinity to each other. I really loved the Honeybee goat cheese, and Ewephoria sheep milk cheese. Long Shadows Vintners Columbia Valley 2010 Chester Kidder Red Blend or Mark Ryan’s 2011 Red Mountain Dead Horse Cab, despite the name is delicious. http://cheeselandinc.com/

Evolve Chocolate Truffles  This was a lovely treat in two ways, it was a passed hors d’ouvres and it was delicious.  “The Colombian” is a rich chocolate coffee flavored truffle that paired nicely with the Three Rivers 2009 Walla Walla Cab. http://www.evolvetruffles.com/

Far-Eats  Love the Name! This is an Indian restaurant with a wine list with over 50 Washington wines on the list. The bite served was Chana Chaat – Chana is Indian for garbanzo beans. These beans were dressed with green chili, onion and tomatoes and sprinkled with cumin seeds, red chili powder, lime juice and coriander leaves. Easy, nutritious and delicious! The Kana Winery 2011 Horse Heaven Hills Old Vines Lemberger has the depth and fruit and Kyra Wines 2011 Wahluke Slope Dolcetto would be another great match for this dish. http://www.geogychacko.com/far-eats.html

Kalaloch Lodge  Smoked salmon artichoke dip and rosemary crisp, loved the way this was served, the dip was on one part of the cracker, and the empty side hung over the side of an elevated tray. Easy to grab and delicious to snack on. W.T. Vintners 2013 Columbia Gorge Grüner Veltliner, an Austrian grape with the right amount of acidity is just the ticket. Or try Whidbey Island Vineyard and Winery 2013 Yakima Valley Sangiovese Rosato.  http://www.thekalalochlodge.com/

La Panzanella  Founded in 1990, La Panzanella, known for its hearty peasant bread and homey cafe, quickly grew into one of the most popular bakeries in Seattle’s Capital Hill area. They offered their original and rosemary croccantini crackers with a truffle-infused cheese. Ginkgo Forest Winery 2010 Wahluke Slope Barbera, or staying with the Italian grapes, Leone Italian Cellars 2009 Walla Walla Dolcetto or 2009 Wahluke Slope Nebbiolo.  http://lapanzanella.com/

Margaux  This French themed restaurant is in the Warwick Seattle Hotel. Chef Chris Zarkades, attended South Seattle Community College’s nationally renowned and accredited culinary program to learn the craft. His red wine poached figs with Roquefort cheese crostinis demand a Bordeaux styled wine like for a big bodied red with some maturity, Brian Carter Cellars 2008 Le Coursier Columbia Valley Red Bordeaux Blend.  http://www.margauxseattle.com/

Paella Seattle Dished up the classic paella recipes of Valencia, Spain, which means chicken, pork and Bomba rice with green and red peppers, onions, garlic, green beans, sweet peas and artichoke hearts. Gotta go with the Tempranillo grape here. Michael Florentino Cellars, Naches Heights Vineyard, Camaraderie Cellars, Cave B Estate Winery, Fall Line Winery, Kana Winery or Stottle Winery all do a rendition of Rioja, the Spanish classic red with paella.

Palisade Waterfront Restaurant  Assorted cured and smoked tartares – cured salmon with Meyer lemon crème fraiche, caper, dill, and a ‘everything bagel crumble, apple wood smoked scallops with pineapple, Fresno chili and micro cilantro, Hamachi apple with ginger, jalapeño, Ahi tuna sesame with tamarind, soy and green onion, and mesquite grilled avocado smoked chili salt, minis sweet pepper, and cilantro. My favorite wine of the day: Kyra Wines 2013 Columbia Valley Chenin Blanc with any one of these wonderful tastes.   http://www.palisaderestaurant.com/

SkyCity at the Needle   Stinging nettle soup with crispy razor clams was delightful with JM Winery’s 2013 Red Mountain Sauvignon Blanc and another match would be Davenport’s 2012 Columbia Valley White Bordeaux blend. http://www.spaceneedle.com/home/

Tablas Woodstone Taverna is part of a family of Mediterranean restaurants, Is located in Mill Creek. Their gazpacho is best paired with the Cote de Ciel 2012 Red Mountain Viognier. http://www.tablaswt.com/

Trace Seattle Restaurant and Bar offers a dining experience led by Executive Chef Steven Ariel, who sports a menu filled with contemporary, inventive dishes with a 10-seat sushi bar.  Highlighting their inventiveness was the smoked baby octopus veggie was a bit on the spicy side and there for a perfect pair with Hogue’s Columbia Valley 2011 Gewürztraminer. http://www.traceseattle.com/

The Washington State Wine Commission launched Taste Washington in 1998 and is now produced by Visit Seattle. For more information, visit www.tastewashington.org.


Orange Muscat with Pancakes

Sunday, March 16th, 2014
Pairing breakfast with wine is not the way to start the day unless of course, it’s a Sunday, a brunch and a celebration. And then, we generally gravitate to the celebration wine that always works with breakfast type foods – sparkling wines.
But rather than another sparkling wine with this Aloha breakfast that Ann Vogel is suggesting, let’s look at it as a bit like a dessert rather than breakfast. And the rule of thumb for pairing desserts with wine is the wine is must be a bit sweeter than the dessert.
If you think about it, pineapples and coconut syrup, pancakes with nuts, have all the ingredients of a pie. Or a pineapple upside down cake. Or some of the ingredients of grilled pineapple with a side of coconut ice cream. So, which wine with pineapples and coconuts?
There are few wines as sweet and floral as a Muscat.  Muscat is in the Vitis Vinifera family along with Cabernet, Syrah and Chardonnay.
There are many varieties of Muscat that range in color white to black. Muscat is very much like Gewurztraminer in the aroma department; it’s very fragrant with a distinct floral aroma.
A few of the most popular muscats are Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains which is used to produce Asti Spumante from Italy’s Piedmont region. In France, a fortified wine called vin doux naturel is made from this variety of muscat.
One of my all time favorites is a Muscat Liqueur from Australia, very hard to come by but worth seeking out. It’s very PX like with aroma of coffee, fruit cake, raisins and toffee.
Spanish Moscatel is also fortified, made from the Muscat of Alexandria grape. Moscatel de Setúbal is a fortified wine from Portugal, usually served in bars or as an aperitif.
I first tasted Muscat Ottonel many years ago at a little winery in Oregon called Eyrie; it was dry and very aromatic. And there is Muscat Canelli, with quite a few vineyards in Washington, BV’s Muscat de Beauleiu is made from Muscat Frontignan , Moscato Bianco, Muscat de Frontignan, Muscat d’Alsace, Muskateller, Moscatel Rosé, and Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise. Those are the white skinned grapes, but most are caramel colored in the finished product.
For darker skinned grapes, there is Muscat Rose à Petit Grains, Moscato Giallo, Moscato Rosa. These produce light fragrant rose scented wines.
 in California and Cyprus, dessert wine is made from the Black Muscat.
And then there is the Orange Muscat. These dessert wines have something of an orange aroma and a delightful sweetness to them that just pairs naturally to the pineapple and coconut.
Quady Winery out of California has been “keeping it sweet” since 1975. They make a number of dessert wines including port and a variety of muscats.
Their Essensia is an orange scented wine fortified to 15% alcohol and aged for 3 months in French oak puncheons. Its vibrancy makes it an excellent accompaniment to desserts such as the pineapple pancakes.
But even better is their Electra. As stated on the website, this little sweetie is “light as springtime, delicately sweet, refreshingly crisp, a bouquet of flowers with the taste of peach and melon.”
The wine is filtered at bottling when it is at 4% alcohol which makes it the perfect wine for an Aloha breakfast.
Quady is distributed by Unique Wines. Essencia 2012 is $20 for a full bottle and $15 for the half. Electra 2012 is $10 for the half bottle. Enjoy!

The Hotter, the Sweeter

Saturday, March 1st, 2014

If you’re wondering what pairs well with curry, you’re not alone. There are more opinions on the subject than there are curries and the range is “just go with a beer” to any off dry wine you like.

The crux of the quandary is the amount of heat from the chilies and the alcohol. I read somewhere that chili heat and warmth of alcohol hit the same receptors on your palate, so when you have a lot of heat and high alcohol, the burning sensation is intensified.

Pairing wine with curry is tricky and it gets trickier the hotter the curry is. Some like their curry hot, some do not. It’s a lot like wine in that respect; it’s only a good if you like it.

Are you fond of the rush from Ghost Peppers, which clock in at 460,000 Scoville Heat Units? If so, fire away with a fruity 16% California Zinfandel or a beer. (For reference, the jalapeño rates from 2,500 –10,000 SHU depending on where and how it’s grown.)

But if you’re more likely to be in the 10,000 SHU, the pairing should be a low alcohol wine ranging around 10 to 12.5% alcohol with a lot of up front fruit.

In my experience, what pairs well with curry is a refreshing contrast to the heat of the food. Take a bite of curried chicken and put out the flames with something cold and sweet. The sugar or fruity sweetness and cold supplies that contrast. It can be actual unfermented sugars or residual sugars or it may be just a ripe fruity red with low alcohol.

Chenin Blanc is one of the world’s most underrated and versatile varietals. Chenin Blanc is the grape that made France’s Loire Valley Vouvray famous. And they can be sweet, dry, dessert, sparkling in so many delicious ways.

 

But Chenin Blanc suffers from an image problem, so I’m here to convince you to try one with the chicken or pork curry recipes submitted by Ann Vogel. The high acidity, low alcohol and fruity character would compliment either of these curry recipes.

Chenin Blanc is a vigorous vine and has a tendency to bud early and ripen late. These attributes have made it the workhorse in California’s Central Valley where it is blended with Columbard and Thompson Seedless and sold in jugs – with handles on them.

But grown under the conditions of  the cool Loire Valley, with its chalky soils, it can produce a wider range of styles, from bone dry to real sweet and even sparkling. Chenin Blanc can vary from thin with high acidity (where it is over cropped) to minerally and crisp, with intense fruit and the ability to age gracefully.

The aromas and flavors of Chenin can be citrus, floral and sometimes tropical. Older vineyards have wonderful floral aromatics, body and minerality that make the grape so delicious.

Here are a few Chenin Blancs, highly recommended and most are from vineyards over 30 years old.

Pontin del Roza 2012 Yakima Valley Chenin Blanc is, I must say, one of my all time favorites. I sold gallons of this in my day. The Pontin family has been farming along the Roza Canal in the Yakima Valley for over 40 years. In the 1980s, they began planting vineyards. This little sweetie, at 2.8% residual sugar, is all pears, melon and lemon zest aromas with wonderful peachy, flavors and a crisp clean finish.

L’Ecole No. 41 2012 Columbia Valley Chenin Blanc is sold out but the 2013 will be released this spring. Be ready! This is sourced from one of the older vineyards in Washington. This wine has that enticing pear, peach and nectarine aromas with floral hints and fresh tropical flavors balanced by a crisp, citrusy finish. $14

Kiona Columbia Valley 2013 Chenin Blanc is another Old Vine Wine that is made in a crisp, clean style with peach and apricot flavors and mouthwatering acidity that balances the sweetness. The finish has a lovely mineral quality. $15

Hestia Cellars 2011 Columbia Valley Chenin Blanc is a delightful wine that offers an enticing nose of pear, peach, and honeysuckle with a hint of minerals. The fruit is intense with that wonderful ripe fruit, wet stone and slightly honeyed yet dry finish. Around $16

Cedergreen 2011 Columbia Valley Chenin Blanc this dry wine, 13.8%, is sourced from 32 year old vines off Snipes Road. It may be tough to find since there were only 70 cases made. But they’ll release the next vintage this spring. I love this wine for its minerality, pear and melon flavors and creaminess. $17

McKinley Springs 2009 Horse Heaven Hills Chenin Blanc is also made in a dry style that reminds me of the spring trip in the Loire Valley. Heaven! Also from a vineyard planted in 1981, the aromas of pear, peach, honeysuckle and orange blossoms are wonderful. The ripe fruit flavors are apple and citrus with a lovely touch of minerality, spice and dry finish. A bargain at $14.

Alas, Chenin Blanc will never be popular like Chardonnay but for wine lovers and the adventuresome, it’s worth seeking out. It could surely use your support.


An Evening in Italy

Saturday, February 15th, 2014

Last fall Brynn put us up on the auction block for a fundraiser for her sorority. It was to  raise money for a scholarship and we have this unique and sought after talent: cooking, wine pairing and cleaning up.

We quickly decided on an Italian theme since it is so popular and there are so many Italian wines to choose from. Our goal was to wow them with dinner, and introduce them to some unique Italian wines.

The evening began with a classic antipasti called Bagna Cauda which literally translates to  “hot bath.” The bath is made of garlic and anchovies steeped in olive oil. This is served with little chunks of asparagus, carrots, cauliflower, peppers, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, and Pugliese bread.

The diner dips the vegetables into the hot oil while using the bread to catch any drips, and then mangia, mangia! Two wines were served with this dish: a white, Italo Cescon Pinot Grigio from Veneto ($13) and a rosso, Pico Maccario Barbera d’Asti ($14).

The Pinot Grigio from the Venice area was crisp, floral with good weight. The Barbera was perfect, lots of fruit with a hint of herbs and very good acidity. The acidity is typical of this grape variety and a perfect foil to the olive oil.

The pasta course was cheese ravioli in brown butter with sautéed mushrooms and toasted garlic. The wine, Villa Caffagio Chianti Classico 2009 was so smooth, with depth and great flavors of cherries and herbs. It was well balanced and had a wonderful silky finish. It can be had for around $19.

Brodetto, or the soup course, was a spicy potato kale served with a Tuscan red. We chose the Tuscan red to be served after the Chianti Classico because we wanted to show the Sangiovese grape from the same area in a different way.

We poured a Villa Antinori Toscana Red 2009. To have Chianti on the label a wine must meet the strict regulations governing the region. Any number of technicalities prevent the use of Chianti on the label including the wine does not have the required 80 percent Sangiovese; the fruit is
sourced from vineyards outside Chianti; or there are additions of fruit to the blend that are not allowed.

For the main entrée, Chicken Saltimbocca in Marsala flanked by roasted acorn squash, sage-scented cannellini and Chard, we served two wines: Montresor Valpolicella 2009 and Catina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2010. Valpolicella is a blend of grapes, Corvina, Rodinella and Molinara from the wine regions surrounding Venice. The Montepulciano is the grape from the Abruzzi area which is located at the calf on the Italian boot. Both are rich and fruity in their own way and sell for around $12 each.

Dolce was a Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake which was wonderfully matched to the Risata Moscato d’Asti 2012 ($13). Moscato d’Asti is the Muscat grape, one of only two white grapes grown in the Piedmonte region of NW Italy. In this case, the wine is slightly fizzy or frizzante as the Italians call it. It was a match made in heaven.


The Vegetable Wine

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

I’ve tasted wine made from vegetables. Rhubarb is probably my favorite vegetable wine. Once a home winemaker gave me a bottle of his onion wine, but when he handed it to me he said, “Don’t drink it, use it for marinade.” I took his wine and his good advice.
However, if ever there was a wine to pair with vegetables, Sauvignon Blanc would be the winner. Whether it’s peas, olives, a salad with celery, cucumbers and bell peppers, or even the wine tricky asparagus and artichokes, this is the one!  It’s a touchdown with Ann Vogel’s cauliflower and broccoli recipes.
Sauvignon Blanc’s aromas range from grass, hay, bell pepper, to the citrus grapefruit, lemon zest, green apples, gooseberries and in some soils, lots of minerals. The flavor profile is similar with refreshing, lively acidity that makes this grape so vegetable, fish and cheese friendly.
But Sauvignon Blanc didn’t have an easy childhood in the U.S. The name was a drawback. Then, early in the 1970s, Robert Mondavi, California’s biggest wine promoter, renamed it Fume Blanc. That did the trick, easier to ask for than Sauvignon Blanc, it soon enjoyed enormous success. The 2011 vintage is, according to the website, “a beautiful, Sancerre-like balance of citrusy fruit and herbal flavors – citrus, honeydew, lemon verbena – with cleansing minerality and racy acidity.”
Washington’s Chinook Winery’s Sauvignon Blanc has always been a favorite because of its racy acidity, citrus and herb flavors that pair so well with fish, cheese and vegetables. From their website, this 2012 “medium bodied wine shows a very impressive balance between the generous pear and citrus fruits and the crisp acidity.” Around $18.
A relatively vigorous vine, Sauvignon Blanc adapts easily to different kinds of terrior. As an early ripener, growing in colder climates doesn’t pose too much of a problem. It even does well in warmer regions as its naturally high acidity allows it to retain its zinginess even in warmer areas. However, as any grape variety will tell you if it could talk, bring on the bright sunshine and a dry harvest!
This green skinned grape is widely planted around the world. In France, you’ll find it under the name of regions such as Sancerre, Pouilly Fume, and Quincy from the Loire Valley.  In Bordeaux, Graves, Entre-Deux-Mers and Sauterne are the regions that excel with this grape, however, in these regions, Sauvignon Blanc is almost always blended with Sémillon and occasionally Muscadelle. This is particularly true when making a Sauterne.
Australia’s Margaret River wine region also makes a habit of blending their Sauvignon Blanc with Semillon but this is more in the fashion of the dry white Bordeaux wines.
A decade or so ago, New Zealand burst onto the wine world with this grape as their standard bearer. Today, the wine region of Marlborough at the northern tip New Zealand produces more Sauvignon Blanc than all of France put together.
Other areas where you would find this grape, although not to the extent of France and New Zealand, are Chile, South Africa, and the cool yet sunny alpine slopes of Alto Adige in Italy.
The biggest production of Sauvignon Blanc is the United States. Both California and Washington are big contributors with a smattering from Oregon and Idaho.
And here’s a fun fact for all the I-prefer-red-wine drinkers out there. In 1997, DNA fingerprinting pegged the green skinned Sauvignon Blanc grape as a parent of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape. It’s believed this ‘marriage’ with Cabernet Franc happened in Bordeaux around the 18th Century.
The two Sauvignons have a lot in common: name, point of origin, characteristic bell pepper and herbaceous aromas and flavors, vigorous vines that produce large crops and overly dense canopies.
Both parent and offspring are now two of the most widely planted grape varieties in the wine world.


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