Category Archives: Wine/Food Pairings

The Vegetable Wine

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.

I’m Dreaming of a Wine Christmas!

cork wreathYep, that’s right. No white stuff on Christmas for me. My dream is not exactly the Long Christmas Dinner envisioned by Thornton Wilder but a glorious Christmas Dinner with friends and family, several courses, a different wine with each course and lots of jolly conversation.

We’ll begin with grilled oysters on the half shell, a favorite starter. When they’re hot off the grill, cover them with a sauce made from cilantro, shallots, sushi vinegar, salad oil and pepper. We call it Alki Sauce and even those that shy away from bivalves, could be converted. It also helps to pop several bottles of bubbly, not only is it perfect match with the oysters, it helps to set that celebratory mood.

Next, a second course will move into the next level of white wine – the fish course. A couple of succulent, seared scallops on a bed of wild greens glistening with honey mustard dressing is my first choice. The queen of wines – white burgundy with its savory notes or a domestic Chardonnay from Santa Maria Valley or Santa Barbara – would pair up very nicely with the scallops and mustard dressing.

Ah and now the main course, a slab of meat with savory vegetables.  Picture a beautifully browned pork roast served with a pear thyme sauce, butternut squash bread pudding with a refreshing, crisp salad of fennel, apple and shaved Parmesan on the side.

With this main dish we’ll bring out that wine we’ve been saving for a special occasion – an old Bordeaux from 1995 or that magnum of Washington red from 1990 or both. Yeah, that would be heaven.

For dessert, we’ll have an apple cake – I’m stuck on that this year. This will be the sixth one I’ve made after discovering the recipe this fall. It will be spectacular with the 2001 German Riesling that I’ve been hoarding.

Special wines with wonderful food is my dream come true Wine Christmas. Wishing everyone a warm winter feast and special wines. Happy Holidays! Cheers to you!

Wine with Quiche

You’ve probably read somewhere about egg dishes and wine being a tough match.

But if you look at eggs as a vehicle for other wine friendly ingredients, therein lies the key to matching egg dishes with egg friendly wines.

Another good rule to remember: Keep the tannin level to a minimum and the fruit level balanced.

Cheese and wine have such a natural affinity and so does wine with meats and most vegetables. With Ann Vogel’s quiche recipes, we’ll focus on pairing with the turkey, broccoli and Swiss cheese; ham, cheddar, and onions; or brussel sprouts, crispy bacon, and smoky cheese.

The first wine that comes to mind is from an area in France that cooks up some of the best dishes in all of France. Alsace is in the north east corner of France. Because this region borders Germany and those borders have moved several times, the wines have a strong Germanic influence. For the most part, the wines are made from white grapes, much like in Germany and the grape names are listed on the label, unusual for a French wine.

The Pinot Blanc grape is a wonderful alternative to Chardonnay. The way it’s fermented here produces a similar medium to full-bodied style of wine with good acidity even though it is aged in stainless-steel tanks.

Pierre Sparr 2011 Pinot Blanc is traditionally made with no skin contact and no malolactic fermentation but it does spend 6 months on the lees. The resulting effort is medium bodied with aromas of pears and lemon peel with flavors of sweet pear, spice and minerals balanced by crisp acidity. The alcohol is low at 12% and this delightful wine ranges between $12 and $15.

Another unusual but splendid pairing would be a Beaujolais made from the Gamay grape. Yep, it’s a red wine and this is an egg dish, but trust me, it works! And the reason is the wine has wonderful fruit and very low tannins.

There are two distinct types of Beaujolais, Cru and Nouveau. Cru Beaujolais are from a specific commune in Beaujolais such as Morgon, Fleurie, or Bouilly. Cru Beaujolais can be aged, although for a shorter period. These are elegant, medium bodied reds with black fruits flavors and an affinity to smoked meats and cheeses.

The 3rd Thursday in November is when Beaujolais Nouveau is released. This style of Beaujolais is very fruity due to the way it’s produced. It’s the fastest wine on the planet, taking only two months from vineyard to your glass. You can expect a fruit bowl on the nose and palate and a smooth finish. This is a red wine with training wheels.

The two biggest producers of Beaujolais Nouveau are DuBoeuf and Drohin. Both sell for around $15. For a Cru Beaujolais producer, look for Château Thivin or Hubert LaPierre for about $15 apiece.

Thanksgiving – Feasting with Wines

Mary writes:

Thanksgiving launches the season of food centric get-togethers with family and friends. When you think of Thanksgiving, visions of roasted turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, pumpkin pie and a well set table surrounded by loved ones dance in your head. These visions of the great American feast require wines to make the dinner special.

More wine, in my experience, is sold for Thanksgiving Day dinner than for any other meal of the year. And with good reason, with so many different flavors and palates, your wine choices should be many. With the variety of strong flavors, whether cranberries, brussel sprouts, oyster dressing or green bean casserole, it’s smart to have several different all-American wines gracing the table.

Because the most important consideration is taste, there is only one hard and fast rule for selecting the right wines, buy what you like.  So here are some suggestions:

Always begin the feast with a sparkling wine as nothing says Celebrate! like the pop of a cork. As guests are arriving, with a bottle and a dish in hand, get them settled with a flute of Gruet Brut Sparkling, from New Mexico or my other go to sparkler, Woodbridge Extra Dry by Robert Mondavi, Napa, California. Gruet is a tart green apple bubbly and Woodbridge, being extra dry, is actually slightly sweeter than brut.

For the Whites:
The most popular grape in America, Chardonnay, is a no brainer so let’s consider other whites. For a feast of this magnitude, a refreshing, tangy and fruity Oregon Pinot Gris – Duck Pond is packed with flavor and easy on the wallet. Another easy white from California is Meridian Pinot Gris, easy to find, easy on the wallet and easy to sip.

Riesling and Gewurztraminer own the Thanksgiving Table. And none other than Washington State has some of the best to offer with lovely, complex fruit flavors, and a touch of minerality. Hogue Gewürztraminer has the stuffing with its lychee sweetness and crisp acidity. Pacific Rim’s Columbia Valley Riesling is also crisp and slightly sweeter, a lovely wine from a blend of vineyards around Columbia Valley made in an off-dry style at 3.1% RS.

The Reds:
You can serve red wine with turkey because you, your best friend and Uncle Jim love red wine. Younger wines with their buckets of plums, blackberries, cherries, and raspberries are better suited than aged bottles because they are distinctively fruity with crisp acidity.

And no other wine embodies this than  Zinfandel. I’m partial to Sonoma’s Cline Winery. Their Zinfandel is made the old fashioned way and has wonderful black cherries and enough body to pair well with the main course.

Grenache would be another good choice for its fruity personality. From Washington, Maryhill and Renegade. But the very best for flavor and price are red wine blends, IMHO. Love Maryhill’s, Marietta’s and Desert Wine’s Ruah.

For pumpkin pie, let’s go with this season’s most popular wine – Muscat. Versatile, sweet and sometimes slightly bubbly, this wine can make you and Momma smile. Go with the frizzante style that has a slight spritz that keeps the wine from being too cloying. With so many to choose from, I’d go with the pioneers of Early Muscat in Oregon, Sylvan Ridge. They’ve been making this wine for almost 15 years in a refreshing, semi-sparkling, sweet style reminiscent of the Moscato d’Asti from northwest Italy.

We have much to be thankful for.  Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!

Riesling for Harvey’s Recipes

Mary writes:

Riesling was one of the first vinifera varieties planted in Washington, dating back to late 1880s. Much later, in the early 1970s, there were more acres planted to Riesling than there were Merlot.

Probably because Riesling is the most versatile, complex and food-friendly of all the noble grapes. And because back then, many, many people preferred a sweeter wine. In the next two decades, winemakers started making some Rieslings drier because of the demands of the market.  We can safely say that no other varietal has been crafted to express so many different styles from bone dry to ice wines and everything in between.

Rieslings have very floral aromas, a crisp, vibrant character with peach, citrus and apple flavors that morph into apricot as they age. When noble rot or botrytis attaches itself to the skins, the resulting wine is a concentration of sugars and flavors to produce a wine of incomparable intensity.

With Ann Vogel’s Harvey’s Butter Rum Batter recipes, the versatility of Riesling was the key that unlocked the synergy door. Riesling has just the right amount of sweetness and acidity to pair with apples, pork, pineapple, ham, red pepper flakes and cheesecake.

Riesling is all over the place when it comes to residual sugar (RS). It can have a ton of RS, making it a late harvest or ice wine. Or it can have as little as a Chardonnay – around .5% – and a crisp acidity for food friendliness.

Germany has been making some stunning Rieslings for a few centuries and it’s to Riesling what Bordeaux is to Cabernet and Merlot – the bench mark. That’s why it’s so cool when German winemakers come to Washington to make wine with Washington grapes.

Washington has 6,320 acres planted to Riesling. The most expensive is the Long Shadows Poet’s Leap Ice Wine at $85 for a half (375ml.) bottle. It’s made by one of my favorite German winemakers, Armin Diehl. This being a very special and labor intensive wine, it’s to be expected.

Other Washington Rieslings are as little as $3 for a 750 ml and continue up to around $20. These more expensive wines tend to have more work put into them and are generally drier.

There are three major Riesling producers in Washington State. Hogue, Ch. Ste. Michelle and Pacific Rim. All three have received numerous medals from around the world for their Rieslings.

For the Harvey’s Pork Chops with Apple Compote, try the Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Riesling. This wine is a blend of grapes from all around the Columbia Valley made in an off-dry style at 11% alcohol and 2.2% RS. $10.

Pacific Rim’s Columbia Valley Riesling is crisp and slightly sweeter, a lovely wine with fiery red pepper flakes and juicy sweet pineapple in the Harvey’s Glazed Ham with Pineapple Chutney. Another blend of grapes from around Columbia Valley made in an off-dry style at 11.5% alcohol and 3.1% RS.

Cheesecake was made to be paired with Riesling. That being said we’ll move to a Riesling from another longtime giant in the Washington wine industry, Hogue. Their Late Harvest Columbia Valley Riesling was picked mid-October through the first part of November. It has 11% alcohol and 5.4% RS and at $10 a bottle is a total bargain.

Wine pair: Roasted pork tenderloin and full-bodied chardonnay

It’s hard to believe that it was only three years ago that Cheers to You came to life online with a simple blog post explaining what we hoped to accomplish with our pairing — a budding wine enthusiast looking to learn more and a seasoned wine aficionado looking to share her knowledge.

Since our first blog post on Aug. 3, 2010 we have expanded our weekly wine talks to include regular posts about wines we’re drinking, definitions of wine terms, and of course this beloved wine pairing column that has found a home in the Kitsap Life section twice a month.

Fortunately for you dear reader this column will continue to appear in print the first and third Sundays of the month, but after today’s column there will be one less face smiling back at you when you pick up the paper. Brynn’s last day with the Kitsap Sun, and Cheers to You, was Oct. 29. She left Kitsap for a new gig a little farther south in Tacoma.

To commemorate her departure and all the fun we’ve had since starting Cheers to You, we are recommending a wine for this week’s pairing that is a little more expensive than we normally would suggest. But don’t worry, we have your interests at heart, so we’re also going to recommend a second, more affordable wine.

Because this is Brynn’s last Cheers to You wine pairing, we felt it only appropriate that we recommend her favorite wine variety to match Ann Vogel’s recipe for roasted pork tenderloin with apples and onions: chardonnay.

Not only are we suggesting a chardonnay, we’re suggesting a creamy, oak-infused chardonnay from California’s prestigious Napa Valley.

A couple of years ago Mary gave Brynn a bottle of her coveted Shafer Chardonnay, sourced from a single vineyard at the northern tip of San Francisco Bay in the Carneros region. We pulled the cork on the bottle this summer and sat back to enjoy its exotic fruit flavors of kiwi, pineapple, lime, papaya, apricot and citrus zest.

As we sipped we discussed the complexity of this wine. It is layered with the crispness of citrus fruits, but balanced almost perfectly with caramelized notes and a crème brûlée finish that lingers. The winery uses wild yeast for its fermentation and does not put the wine through malolactic fermentation. While the wine is full bodied and creamy, these rich notes don’t slap you in the face like some over-oaked California chardonnays.

At $50 this wine is likely not going to make it to many people’s dinner table, but if you have something to celebrate and feel like splurging, keep it on your list.

Sticking with chardonnay, but offering a much more budget-conscious bottle, we also think Waterbrook has a beautiful chardonnay that would pair just as well with the roasted pork tenderloin.

This Walla Walla winery’s 2011 chardonnay has fragrant pineapple and mango aromas with buttery notes. Dried apricots and apple give this wine a full mouthfeel with lingering toast notes on the finish. At $12 (and likely less if you find it on sale at the grocery store) this wine is a great addition to your fall table.

Wine pairing: Madeira and maple-roasted butternut squash and apple salad

For this plentiful autumn salad fit to fill a cornucopia, we’re going to the Island of Madeira for the match.

Madeira is a fortified wine from the Madeira Islands of Portugal. Much like sherry, it comes in a variety of styles ranging from dry to sweet.

Madeira has an interesting history. As early as the 15th century the islands were a standard port of call for ships heading to the New World or East Indies. Wine was always a part of the cargo, and probably one of the only civilized things on those long sea voyages.

But it wasn’t until a case of the wine made in Madeira made its way back to a winemaker on the island that it was learned the high temperatures on the boats and the rough conditions caused the wine to spoil. That’s when winemakers started fortifying the wines.

To ensure the wine would last through the less than ideal conditions winemakers would heat the wine and fortify it, exposing it to oxygen — something you typically try to avoid at all costs when making wine. This process is called estufa.

This distinctive winemaking process continues, although now winemakers use modern technology instead of sailing around tropical climates. Because of the way the wine is made, it’s not a problem if you open a bottle and don’t finish it for three weeks or so.

When choosing a Madeira to pair with food — typically the dry wine is drunk as an aperitif, the sweeter wine as an after dinner night cap — we prefer something in the middle. For Ann Vogel’s maple-roasted butternut squash and apple salad and her autumn soup with kale, lentil and sausage, you’ll want to stay away from the super sweet wines, but also don’t find one that will be bone dry.

So what should you look for? Look for a Rainwater Madeira, which is a medium dry wine. The wine is pale colored and slightly sweet and nutty, with a hint of smoke on the nose and a clean crispness on the finish. Chill slightly before serving.

Blandy’s and Leacock’s make a Rainwater Madeira that sells for around $16. Remember, these wines will keep for several weeks after you open them, so if you double your soup recipe you’ll have something to sip alongside it.

Airfield Estates riesling with spiced pumpkin soup makes hearty harvest meal

As we see the sun set earlier and the leaves start to change, we find ourselves subconsciously moving away from recommending crisp white wines for fall recipe pairings because, let’s be honest, they really are the best to sip on a hot summer day.

But for Ann Vogel’s spiced pumpkin soup, we’re making the conscious decision to hang on to our summer just a little longer and recommend Airfield Estates 2011 Riesling to drink with this fall soup.

Located in Prosser, Wash. this family-run winery chose its name to recognize the World War II air base that once resided on the farm. The riesling vines that produce the grapes for this wine are some of the oldest on the farm, planted in 1979.

You might wonder why we would recommend a light-bodied wine for this thick soup. The answer is riesling is a great pairing for foods with weight and a little heat. The pear and citrus fruit flavors in this wine add a feeling of fall harvest to this dish. Heat up a loaf of crusty French bread and you have yourself a hearty lunch.

Airfield’s riesling isn’t overly dry, so you’ll pick up notes of sweetness but the natural acidity balances that out, leaving your mouth with a slight pucker on the finish.

It’s a beautiful pale yellow and the bottle has a slight hint of frizzante, leaving the fruit flavors dancing on the tip of your tongue.

This wine also pairs nicely with shellfish or lighter poultry and pork dishes, so consider adding the pumpkin soup as an accompaniment to be enjoyed before a main meal and serve the riesling for both courses.

Another bonus about Airfield Estates? The wine is easy to find. The 2011 riesling retails around $15.

A chardonnay to celebrate your chanterelle harvest

After the blue skies and hot weather here last week, it’s easy to forget about the deluge of heavy rain we had the first week of September.

But if you’re a mushroom hunter, or a chanterelle mushroom lover, you’re probably thanking Mother Nature because that rain resulted in a healthy crop of chanterelles ripe for picking.

These meaty, funnel shaped fungi range in odor and flavor. Different species boast different profiles including fruity, woody or earthy and even peppery or spicy.

The common denominator among all species though is the mushroom’s chemistry that makes it the perfect food to saute in butter or oil, as recommended in Ann Vogel’s two chanterelle recipes. Because they contain smaller amounts of water, the mushrooms pick up flavors imparted by wine if you choose to use it when cooking — also recommended in one of Vogel’s recipes.

Her sauteed recipe calls for using 1/4 cup of dry white wine. We suggest you buy a bottle of dry white wine to drink alongside both dishes.

If you regularly read this column, or the Cheers to You blog where we write about wine every week, you should know by now we’re chardonnay lovers. And seeing that chardonnay is a dry white wine, we highly recommend you cook your chanterelles with chardonnay and pour the rest of the bottle into your glass to sip while you enjoy the fruits of your labor.

California’s J. Lohr Vineyards and Winery has a reasonably priced chardonnay that would match the earthiness of Vogel’s sauteed chanterelles and the richness of her chanterelle and crab pasta.

The 2011 Estates Riverstone Chardonnay comes from the Arroyo Seco Appellation in California’s Monterey County. The wine has a full mouth feel that balances a toasted oak finish with tropical notes and stone fruit flavors. The weight of the wine will go well with the rich flavors of the chanterelles.

The wine is easily found at most grocery stores and retails at $14, but is often offered on discount closer to $10 to $12.

Watermelon notes in Washington rose compliment watermelon, cucumber salad

Having recently made the salad recommended by Ann Vogel in a slightly different variation, Mary was delighted to find a wine to pair with it. The version she made didn’t have olives or cucumbers, but it did have fresh basil torn into bits.

We were picnicking at Rainy Daze Brewing in Silverdale and, after tasting the salad, brewery owner Danette Pigott begged for the recipe while Mary begged for more of her porter.

But back to the wine. We have always had a thing for a rosé from the south of France. These wines are the best, we think, for a warm summer day’s meal with the chilled sweet and salty flavors of this salad.

Rosés from Provence are not easy to find in Kitsap County, so instead we’ll go with a couple of rosé wines more readily available because they’re from the other side of the mountains. Both of the wineries we’re recommending have been around for a long time and are very good at turning out fantastic wines at bargain prices.

Barnard Griffin’s owner/winemaker, Rob Griffin, has produced wonderful wines in Washington since his first days at Hogue Cellars. He continued to make Hogue wines while opening his own winery.

His rosé of Sangiovese, has been a long time favorite with its vibrant color, lovely tart raspberry, sweet cherry flavors, and its crisp finish. Sangiovese is a natural with the sweet fruit and salty olives and goat cheese in Ann Vogel’s watermelon, cucumber salad.

One of the Walla Walla Valley’s oldest and largest wine producers is Waterbrook Winery. Opened in 1984 by the Rindall’s, it is now owned by Precept Brands. Its rosé wine is also made with 100 percent Sangiovese. This medium-bodied wine with rosé bud and watermelon aromatics has strawberry and melon flavors with a crisp finish.

Every refreshing sip makes you want another bite and then another sip.

Both wines work solo or with food and retail for under $12.