Category Archives: Wine/Food Pairings

Thanksgiving Wine Pairing Made Easy

The wine-food conundrum for Thanksgiving stems from the plethora of fruits, vegetables, spices and flavors on the plate all at once, rather than a seven-course dinner, right? If you think of Thanksgiving as a wine opportunity rather than a challenge, you have just solved the perennial puzzle.

My wine advice for your Thanksgiving table — whether it is store-bought, traditional, fancy or familial, vegetarian or vegan — is to serve a wide variety of wines. The decision should not be which wine to pour but which wines to pour. With this shotgun wine approach, you’re likely to please a majority of the palates at the table and make some fantastic pairings, too.

This can be an adventure for all. Have your friends and relatives bring their favorite wine or, better yet, an untried but often-heard-of bottle of wine. This approach also ensures quashing any political conversations with an “Oh my gosh! That wine is so great with your Waldorf salad, Aunt Kitty.”

What you learn from this experience is great practice for mastering the magic of food and wine pairing. Remember, it takes, practice, practice, practice.

Be it red, white or rosé, roast turkey, mashed potatoes and giblet gravy pair with most any wine, really. But it’s the relatives and friends and the side dishes that create this myriad of palates and flavors.

The multitude of Thanksgiving flavors is a whole lot of hearty, savory dishes. If the wine is hearty also, then it will work well because the dish and the wine are of similar weight. That’s the key.

So here’s my plan: First and foremost, greet your guests with a sparkling wine. Pour a vintage cuvée that could set you back $30+. You’re worth it.

For diversity, Washington’s Treveri Cellars makes premium sparkling wines from a wide array of grapes, such as the traditional Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to Riesling, Viognier, Gewurztraminer and even Syrah. Aged on average 24 months, these sparkling wines would make this occasion very special.

For a crowd, pour a Prosecco or a Spanish cava, your best bets for a tasty value. And if Gramma likes something sweeter, go for an extra dry sparkling or pour a dollop of OJ or raspberry syrup in her glass along with the bubbly. She’ll love it.

When everyone is seated and it’s time to present Tom Turkey, put a few chilled whites and some fruit-forward, medium-bodied reds on the table and let the pairing begin. You can smile, knowing you have just maneuvered around the age old question of what wine to have with Thanksgiving dinner.

Do you go with the traditional sage, sausage and onion stuffing, whipped potatoes, giblet gravy, candied yams, mashed rutabaga, turnips, glazed onions and cranberry sauce? Or do you put a cultural twist on the table with a chipotle rubbed smoked bird, red chili gravy and cornbread chorizo stuffing?

An off-dry Riesling, aromatic Gewürtztraminer, Oregon Niagara, new world Pinot Noir, full-bodied Spanish Tempranillo, Washington Merlot and a rich, red blend would cover most traditional dishes very nicely. With the spicier twist, bring on the Beaujolais Nouveau with its carbonic macerated fruitiness, a German Auslese, a jammy Zinfandel, Australian Shiraz and a rich, fruity Valpolicella Ripassa.

Or perhaps your family tradition is oyster stuffing, roasted Brussel sprouts and carrots with horseradish sauce, sweet potato soufflé, roasted squash, Waldorf salad, jellied cranberries and that green bean casserole from the soup can recipe.

Well, let me introduce you to Alsatian wines that are the most food-friendly wines on the planet. Choose from Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris or Riesling. Or chill up all four of these medium-bodied, French mountain grown whites and taste them side by side. A bevy of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs would also work very nicely with vegetables of every color and the wide assortment of herbs.

When it comes to food and wine, Italians seemed to have figured it all out a long time ago. Many Italian wines have an incredible ability to combine a medium-bodied wine with a ton of acid, and that translates to refreshing with rich foods.

From the Campania region, try the Falanghina grape, an Umbrian Orvieto and a full-bodied Gavi from Piedmont. For reds, nothing can beat the flavors or price of a Nero d’Avola, a juicy Barbera, or a Tuscan Sangiovese with its flavors of cherries and herbs.

Let’s broach the dilemma of dessert. What the heck does pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and mincemeat pie pair well with for goodness sake?

The dessert wine rule is always serve a wine that is sweeter than the dessert. When was the last time you tried an Oloroso sherry, Malmsey Madeira, Muscat Beaumes de Venise or a Tawny port? Well, it’s time. And be sure to bring out those small dessert glasses for these unctuous treats.

My annual advice remains the same: Open one of everything. Or at least, a wide assortment of wines that will go well with the variety of dishes on your holiday table. Find wines you like at prices you can afford and be sure to raise a glass with your family and friends with each and every glass.

Cheers and a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Here’s to You from Yakima Valley

One of the many highlights of a recent trip around Yakima Valley was a wonderful gourmet dinner experience that you should treat your dining partner and yourself to.

The Carousel Restaurant & Bistro is fine dining with French flair. Many of the recipes are from the French chef who originally opened the restaurant. The service was exquisite, the food was fabulous and with Casablanca playing on the wall during dinner, what could be better?  casablanca

The soundless black and white movie created an exotic atmosphere in the middle of this historic farming community.  During dinner, an amazing harp player entertained with familiar tunes.

But the fresh, local food and the wine pairing is the subject of this week’s story.  If it seems like I’m gushing, it’s probably because there’s lots to gush about!

For a dinner such as this, it’s important, almost mandatory, to have a dinner party partner, affectionately known as the DPP.  This ensures that you get to taste twice as much.  I would also like to mention that when in a French restaurant, I like to choose the more adventuresome Chef’s Choice dishes, especially if the DPP chooses the usual dishes.  boar w glasses

The first of five courses was an appetizer of Provence Boar Paté (mine) and crab cakes (the DPP).  I chose the paté made from slow simmered chicken and boar foie gras served with bacon jam. It was perfectly paired with a Domaine Collette Beaujolais Village 2014.

This ruby colored wine has a fruit bowl of flavors that include raspberry, red currant, and strawberry. The tannins were supple and beautifully balanced probably because of the whole bunch fermentation. This wine was a stunning match with the pate. Bravo to Greg, our maître d for the first of many thoughtful and spot on matches.

The DPP went for an appetizer of crab cakes on a  bed of arugula tossed with a lemon vinaigrette and brown butter capers. This too was expertly paired with a Dopff & Irion 2013 Riesling from an often overlooked area of France – Alsace. Here is an old world wine with place names not as prominent on the label as the grape names.

Constructed in 1549, the Chateau was originally owned by the Princes of Wurtemberg, who ruled over the city and its region for almost five centuries. Even a Chateau founded in the 16th century can survive 5 centuries because it embraces new technologies.

This particular bottling was done with screw caps! Gasp! Which surprised me in a pleasant sort of way. We all need to embrace screw caps especially with white wines which are typically enjoyed within a year of being bottled.

Considering a cork tree has to be at least 25 years old before its bark can be harvested, we need to rethink our carbon footprint. Even though its cork can then be stripped every 8 to 14 years after that first harvest, we should adapt as this old chateau has done.

My salad was great but the DPP salad was the show stopper. flambeeingCooked tableside, the salade d’epinards (spinach) flambé was a flaming success. The red wine vinaigrette was reduced and then the cooked bacon was added and flambéed with brandy to produce a two foot high torch.

Salads were served with the Cote de Bonneville DuBrul Vineyard Rosé. This 45 acre site produces small berries, small clusters, and low yields.  DuBrul Vineyard has been recognized as one of the top Washington State vineyards.

french onion soupThe soup course included the ubiquitousasparagus soup but very French, French onion soup and soupe de jour was made with fresh Yakima Valley asparagus. The former was accompanied by one of my all time favorite wines, Owen Roe Abbotts Table which is a blend of Zin, Sangiovese, Blaufrankish and Petite Verdot. The later with a Tour d’Auron 2013, a Bordeaux Supérieur blend of Cabernet, Cab Franc, Merlot and Petite Verdot. Another great match by Greg.

And for the pièce de résistance, the chosen entrées were duck and rabbit. The duck was seared and braised in a house red wine sauce with flambéed green peppercorns served over mushroom risotto.

It was complimented by the 2012 King Estate Oregon Pinot Noir, a very aromatic wine with wonderful cherry flavors with with hints of earthy mushrooms.

I chose another chef’s choice created with seasonal ingredients. When in a French restaurant, there are certain dishes guaranteed to be on the menu that you wouldn’t find on a Kitsap County menu, snails, frog’s legs and rabbit.

My dish turned out to be a delicious casserole of rabbit DSCN4305with house-made noodles, arugula and Asiago.  This dish was accompanied by a Kestral 2012 Cabernet. According to winemaker Flint Nelson, “This expansive wine boasts full body, ripe dense fruit flavors, with supple tannins and a lingering finish.” I would heartily agree.

mousseFor dessert, the choices were obvious. Chocolate mousse cake, pastry chef’s choice and a glass of Treveri Rosé. Chef’s choice was a raspberry tart with basil, lemon peel and an apricot glaze. raspberry tartBoth were pleasing to the eye as well as the palate. But I had to use stealth to get a bite of the cake. The sharing was over as the DPP only likes raspberries in his beer.

Treveri Cellars is a Yakima Valley winery that produces some really great handcrafted sparkling wines. This family operation is led by a husband and wife team, Jürgen Grieb, head winemaker with almost 30 years in the Washington wine industry and Julie Grieb, business manager.treveri rose

Treveri opened its doors just days before the Thanksgiving rush in 2010 with a mission to put Washington sparkling wine on the map.  In almost six years, Treveri has been served three times at White House State Department receptions, the James Beard Foundation in New York,  received a Double Gold at the Seattle Wine Awards, 90+ point scores from national 100 point scorers and voted one of the nation’s Top Ten Hottest Brands of 2014 by Wine Business Monthly. Mission accomplished!

Producing a wide array of sparkling wines, including non-traditional varieties such as Syrah, Riesling and Gewurztraminer, Treveri uses state of the art techniques to produce these beautiful bubblies.

This Rosé, aged an average of 24 months, was a gorgeous rose color with big strawberry flavors and a lingering finish. The wine was a perfect match with both desserts and a beautiful and so very continental way to end the evening.

This is a dining experience you deserve! Carousel Restaurant & Bistro, 25 North Front Street, Yakima. (509) 248-6720

The Color of an Old Sauternes

You may have heard that Clear Creek, which runs from Bangor Base to the estuary at Dyes Inlet, is getting a new bridge this year. That may have been a shocking discovery about three weeks ago when you would have had to find a new way around the Bucklin Hill while PSE put in some poles during the fish window.  do

In preparation for the big change to the biota of the estuary, the Clear Creek Trail has been monitoring water quality. We’ve been at this since last June, and being a recovering Old Town Silverdale Wine Shop Owner, the color of the dissolved oxygen test reminds me of an old Sauternes.

Sauternes is a special region in southern Bordeaux very near the ocean. In other regions, where dessert wines are made, they are more at the whim of Mother Nature from vines that usually produce drier versions of wine. This region is dedicated solely to the production of unfortified, sweet white wine.

Sauternes winemaking regulations are different also. The appellation is reserved for wines from five communes where regulations stipulate minimum levels of alcohol (13%) and the wine to taste sweet.

This very unique microclimate is close to two rivers and the intertidal waters that create a lot of fog in the fall when the grapes are ripening. This moist atmosphere encourages Botrytis Cinerea or Noble Rot.

Three grapes are allowed, Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle. Sémillon is the principal grape mainly because it is more susceptible to Noble Rot than the other two. It is typically about 80% of the blend. Sauvignon’s main role is the acidity to the blend to keep it balanced and Muscadelle is for aromatics.

Noble Rot is a fungus prized in the Sauternes region. Basically, it sucks moisture out of individual grapes thus increasing the tartaric acid and sugars, concentrating the flavors. The result is a wine of distinction, lush flavors of honey, tropical fruit, heady aromas and rich, powerful, creamy mouthfeel. Mainly because of the Noble Rot which has an unique aroma similar to a spice cabinet.

Sauternes are some of longest-lived wines; I’ve admired some and have tasted even fewer. I remember getting to look at a bottle of 1929, all coppery in color that a former chef of the Silverdale Beach Hotel had in his cellar.

Sauternes typically start out a gorgeous light gold color that becomes increasingly darker as it ages. Once a tint of orange appears, it has developed complex and mature flavors and aromas.

Yes, Sauternes is a labor intensive, costly wine to make. For example, Chateau d’Yquem makes at least 17 passes through the vineyards, picking only the best grapes. Botrytis does not just swoop down one day and perform its magic. It tends to be very spotty.

A typical harvest might be picking a patch of botrytis affected grapes for a couple of days and then it rains for a few days; this brings a halt to the picking. When the better weather resumes, grapes affected by the undesirable grey rot are removed, then another bout of Noble Rot appears and picking begins again. Hand picking can go on for six weeks. A long period of time for the team of pickers to be kept waiting.

When this style of wine got its start is not certain however, Thomas Jefferson purchased many a bottle of Sauternes’ most famous property, d’Yquem. He even convinced George Washington to purchase 30 bottles of the wine!

As with dry wines, vintage makes a big difference when buying Sauternes. And the 2011s now on the shelf are from a great vintage. Top Sauternes bottlings include the Chateau d’Yquemdyquem at around $400 or so, Chateau Guiraud for about $85 and Chateau Suduiraut for a mere $70.

There are two other communes to look for that are not quite as expensive as Sauternes. That would be Barsac and Loupiac. The quality is as good because they live by the same rules of the region but they are lesser known. Cadillac is another commune but is small and rarely seen. They only produce wine there, not cars.

Barsac Chateaux to seek out would be Chateau Doisy Daene, Doisy Vedrine, Nairac, and de Rayne Vigneau. These range in price from $35 to $50.

Sauternes can be had in half bottle sizes (375 ml) and given the richness, much preferred. The wines are served slightly chilled. Sauternes can be paired with a variety of foods but by far, the classic match is seared Foie Gras with fresh berries.

And just like the Champagne, American Champagne and Methode Campainoise agreement, Sauternes made anywhere else in the world is spelled Sauterne – without the S. That’s how you’ll know.

Just a reminder that Taste Washington happens at the end of this month. It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the Washington Wine scene. There are some great seminars to attend also, Washington vs. The World, The Chardonnay Revival and a couple of appellation spotlights. The one that caught my attention was Wine Tasting with the Masters – Master Sommelier and Master of Wine. That should be very interesting. Here’s the link for more info: http://tastewashington.org/seminars-2015/

What’s your Game Plan for Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving celebrations differ from one home to the next. turkeyStill there are certain flavors, traditions and approaches connected with our most food focused holiday that strikes a chord in all of us.

Whether you go with the traditional turkey with sage and onion stuffing, giblet gravy, candied yams, and cranberry sauce; put a cultural twist on it, with a chipotle rubbed bird, red chili gravy and cornbread chorizo stuffing; or go the vegan route with a mound of riced potatoes shaped like a bird and glazed with browned butter with all those wonderful vegetable side dishes, Thanksgiving is a dinner you can sink your teeth into. But what to drink with it has been debated for many decades.

Every Turkey Day, the family sommelier faces the perplexing question: do I go with something sweet that can stand up to candied yams and tart cranberry sauce and keep Mom happy? Or go with Beaujolais Nouveau because it’s available now, red and fruity? Decisions, decisions.

Thanksgiving wines shouldn’t be intimidating. This is not the time to pull out that bottle you’ve been cellaring for a while. Serve something familiar, homey and delicious enough for those neophytes to be satisfied and thoughtful enough for wine lovers to appreciate.

Pairing wine with roasted, brined or deep fried turkey is a piece of cake but short of a dessert wine, nothing is sweet enough to do battle with yams blanketed with toasted marshmallows.

Dry, high alcohol wines will perish with all that sugar and salt. And white wines need a decent amount of acidity to cleanse your palate. Uncomplicated, fruity wines with a little residual sugar are the best recourse for matching with these courses.

Some of the better partners for Thanksgiving dinner, in my opinion, are Alsatian whites, German Rieslings, Grenache blends from France or Spain and Tempranillo from Spain or the West Coast. Pinot Noir, contrary to some opinions, has never worked for me with all those strong flavors dished up at Thanksgiving- unless, of course, it’s in the bubbly.

Balance is the key for the perfect pairing. For a white, think Riesling or one of those soft, slightly sweet Pinot Gris. For reds, fruity and friendly, low alcohol Zinfandels, Tempranillo or even Carmenere would work well.

sparkling glassEvery holiday dinner should begin with something celebratory and good. At my table, nothing says celebrate better than a bottle of bubbly. The pop of the cork signals the start of the celebration. And it’s off to the races from there.

Given the tradition of the day, here are some American bubblies with good acidity and a core of fruit to consider:  Chateau Ste. Michelle’s extra dry which is actually slightly sweeter in style than a brut despite its description; Oregon’s Argyle brut or Washington’s Treveri Cellars would grace any table. Treveri produces several Columbia Valley sparkling wines you should try. Three that would be perfect for this occasion would be their sparkling Riesling, Gewurztraminer or Syrah. You will be impressed! These sparklers range in price from $10.49 to $23.

white wine glassWhite wines to serve, could be California’s Oak Grove Pinot Grigio which is soft, fruity with crisp citrus flavors. Or Wine by Joe Pinot Gris from Oregon that has wonderful flavors of citrus, pear, and green apple with refreshing acidity. Both are under $10, so stock up for the holidays.

But Riesling is really the best white to serve.  And Washington makes second best – after Germany, of course.

Pacific Rim Riesling from Columbia Valley is a delicious off dry, richly fruity wine packed with peach, apricot flavors with a hint of wet stone. Milbrandt Riesling scored high with its fresh, lively stone fruit flavors and juicy acidity. These guys have been growing from in the Columbia Valley for generations. Latah Creek Columbia Valley Riesling is filled with flavors of green apple, ripe pear and spice with a crisp finish.

Jones of Washington Columbia Valley Riesling is an orange blossom special touched with pineapple and fresh picked apples. He also makes an estate Pinot Gris from the Ancient Lakes AVA that would perk a lot of  interest at the table.

Two Mountain Winery Rattlesnake Hills Riesling is another crisp refreshing wine with a nice balance of pear, citrus, and minerals on the palate.

red wine glassRed wines are trickier than white but if you make sure the alcohol is around 13% or less and there is a modicum of fruit, your chosen one will be a hit.  With that in mind here are a few grape suggestions: Lemberger, Tempranillo and Baco Noir.

Lemberger, a dark-skinned grape from Austria, is typically fruity with ripe plum and black cherry and a hint of pepper. It does well in colder climates where it goes by a more mellifluous name of Blaufränkisch.

Look for Kiona Vineyards and Winery on Red Mountain, the largest grower of Lemberger in the United States. Others include Alexandria Nicole Cellars, FairWinds Winery, Kana Winery Olympic Cellars, and Whidbey Island Winery. Priced between $10 and $22.

I had hoped to recommend another grape of Spanish origin from Washington and California that would be fabulous with dinner, but they all went past the affordable for a big dinner party price. So I’m taking you to Spain for delicious, affordable and the perfect reds for Thanksgiving.

The best made and priced would be the Campo de Borja Borsao Red  from La Mancha, Spain. With its intense, smoky, black cherry and spicy flavors, this wine is a blend of mostly Grenache and a dollop of Tempranillo this wine is a deep ruby/purple color.

From Valencia, the El Prado Red is another blend this time Tempranillo and Cabernet. It’s a medium bodied with raspberry and current flavors. And from Rioja, with 100% Tempranillo is the Cune Rioja Crianza. The toasty, cherry flavors are smooth and satisfying.

Also from Spain but made in Prosser is the Red Diamond Temperamental. Red Diamond sources grapes from the best locations around the world. This Spanish blend offers flavors of berries and plum has a silky smooth finish.

Garnacha de Fuego Old Vines from Calatayud is another intensely flavored wine that emphasizes fruit. Mostly black cherry but there are plum and raspberry with smooth tannins and a long finish.

The best thing about these wines is the price – all under $10 and most around $7. So, stock up on these affordable wines, because there are more holiday dinners in your immediate future.

Have a warm and happy Thanksgiving.

Garlic, Vinegar and a Whole Lotta Black Pepper

Pairing Filipino cuisine with a beverage that is heavily influenced by the Spanish who brought tomatoes, sausages, peanuts and wine; and the Chinese with their fish paste, soy sauce, rice, noodles and spring rolls is a bit of a challenge.

Many dishes are made with tart tropical fruits, pickled in vinegar, steeped in garlic and soy sauce. And let’s not forget the salted dried fish. Ingredients that are not exactly easy to pair with say a Northwest Syrah or Chardonnay, right?

The quintessential Filipino signature dish is Adobo. It has plenty of garlic, black pepper, vinegar and soy sauce. The former two are fairly easy to pair with most wines. The latter two are trickier, especially the soy sauce.

With this classic dish, the basic rule to remember is no tannins and lots of fruit for contrast to the tart, salty flavors of the Adobo. Here is what comes to mind.

Filipino tradition dictates a San Miguel or a sweet, cold fruit drink sometimes made with vinegar. These are quite popular in this tropical climate. The popular Lambanog is an alcoholic beverage described as coconut wine distilled from the sap of the unopened coconut flower.

Drinks from tropical fruits, mangoes, bananas, limes, coconuts and oranges would also be refreshing. Spanish Sangria is a popular drink. It’s a red wine made with a dollop of simple syrup and lots of fresh tropical fruit floating on top for a thirst quenching drink to pair with the vinegary, salty, spicy Adobo.

Here in the northwest, there are many beautiful fruit forward wines. Let’s explore some of the more exotic wines available here.

First though, my go to book on pairing, What to Drink with What You Eat by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, suggests that the best wine with a soy-sauced dish is Gewürztraminer followed by fruity wines and then sparkling wines.

The Kitsap Wine Festival introduced me to a few new wineries that make beautiful Gewürztraminers. First was Naches Heights Vineyards. This Gewürztraminer with its lovely fragrance of lychee fruit and apricot, tangerine and green apple flavors has an off dry style that makes this a superb match with both the Adobo and Lumpia.

Masquerade Wines 2011 Columbia Valley Gewürztraminer has that typical floral, spicy Gewürztraminer fragrance and tropical fruit flavors in a slightly sweeter rendition of the grape, a nice contrast to the pepper and soy sauce.

For red wine, I highly recommend the Baco Noir grape. This is a hybrid that is prevalent in both Michigan and British Columbia. Being half American and half vinifera grape, it can survive those blustery cold climates. Stina’s Cellars in Lakewood Washington has a 2010 Baco Noir that is all blueberry, plum and pepper with a smooth and supple mouth-feel. Highly recommended.

Two Mountain Winery doesn’t make a Baco Noir but does make a wine with similar smooth and supple characteristics. Lemberger is a relatively obscure European vinifera grape known as Blaufränkisch, the blue French grape. Their Lemberger from Rattlesnake Hills with flavors of boysenberry, fig and white pepper would be another perfect wine with the Adobo if only it were available! Be on the lookout for their soon to be released 2012.

Kiona was the first winery in the United States to produce Lemberger way back in 1980. Their Lemberger is a consistent award-winner. It’s bright black fruit and pepper flavors and smooth medium-bodied texture would pair very well with the Adobo.

But enough about wine, let’s talk about beer. As you well know, there are many, many beer styles and with this vinegary, black pepper, soy sauced dish, the same guiding principle: No over the top bitterness.

With beer, bitterness comes from compounds in the hops. International Bittering Units scale (IBUs) measures how much bitterness is absorbed during brewing. And, of course, the hundreds of different hops have differing levels of bitterness.

For local beers, try SilverCity’s Clear Creek Pale Ale. It’s a blend of three lightly toasted malts that add a mild caramel character to the flavors. This beer has mild Centennial and Amarillo hops and then a bit of time in the conditioning tank so it is mild and refreshing.

Poulsbo’s Sound Brewery’s Koperen Ketel Belgian Style Pale Ale has 18 IBUs, relatively low on the IBU scale. For instance their Reluctant IPA is an American Style IPA at 52 IBUs. This copper colored ale has an herbal, fruity aroma and a clean dry finish.

And then there is the idiosyncratic Slippery Pig Brewery also in Poulsbo. Their Curly Tail Stinging Nettle Pale is flavored with Cascade hops and Stinging Nettles so the resulting IBUs are quite low. I think it would be a great match for the Adobo.

 

 

Fragrant Stews, Fragrant Wines

Pumpkin is one of the quintessential flavors of fall. It has made its way into many sweet and savory dishes. When in season, the versatile pumpkin turns up in pies, tarts, cakes, muffins, cheese cake and ice cream. Or you could make an unusual supper of soup, stews, ravioli, or lasagna. It’s great pureed or mashed with other root vegetables and can stand up to really fragrant strong herbs like sage.

You can boil it, roast it, bake it, and braise it. You can even ferment it.  Pumpkin beer isn’t a modern day invention. It was used in making beer during the early colonial period because it was more available than malt or barley. The native pumpkin has plenty of fermentable sugars.

There is a pumpkin wine. Three Lakes Winery in Wisconsin makes it. I haven’t tried it but do highly recommend the following pumpkin stew recipes with vinifera grapes that I’m more familiar with.

This wonderful vegetarian stew pairs well with Viognier. At the Harborside Wine Festival this summer, the Chandler Reach 2012 Viognier was one of my favorite finds. Thanks to its aromatic intensity and hint of sweetness, it pairs nicely with this curried pumpkin stew.

Viognier comes from the tiny appellation of Condrieu in the northern Rhone. This temperamental grape is highly sensitive to mildew and low yielding. Well timed harvesting is also a challenge, you don’t want to pick it too early or too late or you will miss out on the beautiful aromas and full flavors.

Curried Pumpkin Stew

3 tablespoons vegetable oil  curried soup
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tomatoes, chopped
2/3 cup water
1 pound pumpkin, peeled and chopped
1 carrot, sliced
1 potato, chopped
1 green banana, chopped

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add the curry powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and black pepper and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and stir until thick.

Add the water, scraping the bottom of the pan to incorporate all the flavors. Add the pumpkin, carrot, potato, and green banana. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring a couple of times, until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

Another warm fragrant stew made with a lot of spice is inspired with south of the border flavors. For this hearty stew I would suggest a red grape called Tempranillo. It’s a vinifera grape that originated in the Rioja region of sunny Spain. The Ramon Bilbao Rioja Crianza is a full bodied blackberry and cherry flavored Tempranillo from the Rioja region of Spain. All those luscious fruit flavors and smoky nuance really works well with this dish.

Also from Spain is the Red Diamond Temperamental. Red Diamond is a Washington winery located in Patterson that sources grapes from around the world. They’re good at showcasing the distinct personalities of varietals from their place of origin. This wine has aromas of blackberries and hints of cherry; it’s approachable, easy to drink, and a wonderful companion to this spicy south of the border pumpkin stew.

3 – 6 chipotle chilies, canned or dried  pumpkin stew
3 garlic cloves
5 medium tomatillos, halved
5 roasted plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound lean, boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium white onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups sliced Swiss chard
1 tsp salt
4 cups peeled, seeded, fresh pumpkin, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

If using dried chilies, preheat a large frying pan over medium heat. Add chilies and toast, turning frequently until very aromatic, about 30 seconds. Transfer chilies to a small bowl and cover with hot water and rehydrate for about 30 minutes. Toss the garlic and tomatillos in the pan and turn occasionally, until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a food processor or blender. Add drained chilies to the tomatillos and puree.

For the tomatoes, broil on a baking sheet until blackened on one side, about 6 minutes. Turn tomatoes over and do the other side, for another 6 minutes. When cool, peel and roughly chop and put in a bowl with the juices.

Heat the oil in the frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the pork and onions. Cook, stirring and scraping up browned bits about 10 minutes. Add reserved salsa, tomatoes, and 3 to 4 tablespoons water; stir to combine. Add Swiss chard and season with salt.   Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a large baking dish and spread the pumpkin chunks evenly in the dish. Pour the pork and roasted vegetables over it. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes until the pumpkin is soft.

Remove the foil and raise the temperature to 400 degrees. Continue baking until sauce has reduced slightly and top becomes crusty, about 15 minutes.

Chill with Cool Dinner Ideas

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

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

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

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.