Cheers To You

An exploration of all things wine with local wine expert Mary Earl.
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Archive for the ‘Wine/Food Pairings’ Category

This crabbing season try this crab cake and Riesling pair

Friday, July 26th, 2013

Mary writes:

There’s nothing better than pulling up a crab pot full of Dungeness crab. And in my book, the best wine to pair with fresh, succulent Dungeness crab is a Riesling.

With Asian spiciness, crab works best with wines that have clean, fresh fruit flavors and little or no wood influence. Washington Rieslings with their impressive acidity and gorgeous fruit are always a great pair, but let we want to introduce you to the wonderful world of German Riesling.

The Germans are precise when it comes to making cars, beer and wine. There are rules. Deviate from the rules and you can’t ferment commercially.

In the German wine world, there are seven classifications for wine: Tafel, Kabinett, Spatlese, Auslese, Berenauslese, Trokenberenauslese and Eiswein. Tafel wines are the least sweet and Eiswein are for dessert. Being so far north, German wines are always full of bright acidity to balance the sweetness.

There is a wonderful, bargain Auslese wine right now at Grocery Outlet that sings with this dish. It’s from the town of Piesport, the vineyard’s name is Goldtropchen. Voet Piesporter Goldtropchen Riesling Auslese 2009 is the long name on the bottle. It sells for around $6, which is a total bargain when it comes to an aged Auslese. It’s the wine we suggest you try with our crabcake recipe below.

We have connections on Hood Canal for an abundant supply of crab, oysters and clams. Seafood cookouts are a favorite of my best friend Jack O’Alltrades. He likes to spice things up a lot, but this dish creates a wonderful crisp-on-the-outside and moist-on-the-inside Asian-flavored crab cake. Adding kaffir lime leaves (he has a tree but it’s available at Asian markets) adds an exotic zing but if not, lime zest works nicely.

Crab Cakes


1 Dungeness crab, cracked and picked
3 green onions, chopped on the small side
3 kaffir lime leaves, snipped into slivers with scissors (discard stem), or zest of 1 lime
1 tsp. or to taste Gourmet Garden Chili Pepper Spice blend
1 tbsp. lime juice
1 tbsp. oyster sauce
2 tbsp. cream cheese
1 tbsp. sour orange
1 tsp. cardamom
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tbsp. chopped cilantro
1 tsp. minced ginger
1 tsp. five spice
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/4 tsp. salt
Canola oil for frying


  1. Place softened cream cheese, oyster sauce, lime juice and sour orange into a food processor and pulse until mixed. Add crabmeat, onions, lime leaf slivers (or zest), and spices and 3/4 cup panko and pulse until blended.
  2. Add more panko and stir. You want the mixture to be moist enough to form cakes, but not so moist that it falls apart. Add more panko until you can form cakes easily in your hands. Pat mixture into cakes.
  3. Pour oil into a frying pan about ½ inch deep. Heat for 1 minute. To test, drop a few panko crumbs in the oil, if they begin to sizzle right away, you’re good to fry.
  4. Fry crab cakes until golden brown about 1 to 2 minutes per side.


Kiona Vineyards Cabernet and maple glazed tenderloin

Friday, July 19th, 2013

Need a quick summer meal that won’t take much effort and utilizes fresh herbs from the garden? We’ve got the answer, and a great Washington wine to accompany it.

Brynn recently prepared this dish for her in-laws while they were in town earlier this month and scored big points with everyone at the table. It is also a great summer meal to prepare before indulging in Ann Vogel’s homemade ice cream.

The recipe, pork tenderloin with maple glaze, comes from the Junior League of Seattle’s Celebrate the Rain cookbook. It incorporates sage — which if you have any growing in your herb garden now’s the time to cut a couple sprigs and chop them up for this recipe. It also calls for shallots, Dijon mustard and of course maple syrup.

When we served this we paired a cabernet sauvignon from Kiona Vineyards and Winery, located on Red Mountain. Kiona is one of Brynn’s favorite wineries. The family-run vineyard is the pioneer of Red Mountain, the smallest American Viticultural Area in the state. Some of the state’s top wines are made from grapes that come from vineyards located within the Red Mountain designation.

Kiona has a few cabernet-based wines that range in price and would work for this dish. We paired the dish with the estate cabernet, which is the most expensive of the three at $42. It’s the winery’s flagship wine, coming from vineyards planted in 1975 — the oldest block in the AVA. The wine exudes an earthy element that paired perfectly with the sage and Dijon.

If you can swing it we’d recommend this wine, but we realize not everyone wants to shell out that much money for something that will be consumed in an evening. Your other options include Kiona’s Washington Cabernet, priced at $25, and the Cabernet-Merlot (another one of Brynn’s favorites), priced at $15 and often on sale at the grocery store for even less — think $10 to $12.

The Kiona Cabernet-Merlot is a blend of a number of grape varieties, including Sangiovese (26 percent), Carménère (21 percent) and Syrah (13 percent). Merlot actually only makes up 3 percent of the blend. The result is a wine that balances dark berry flavors and tannins softened by oak aging.

Like the estate cab the cab-merlot offers earth notes on the palate that will pair nicely with the pork tenderloin.

Pork tenderloin with maple glaze
(From Junior League of Seattle Celebrate the Rain cookbook)


2 pork tenderloins (12 to 14 ounces each), trimmed
2 tablespoons minced fresh sage, divided, or 2 teaspoons dried sage
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup chopped shallots
1 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons maple syrup
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard


  1. Rub the pork tenderloins with 1 tablespoon of the fresh sage (or all the dried sage) and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of butter and the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until sizzling. Add pork and brown all sides (about 4 minutes).
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and book (about 15 minutes) until port registers 150 degrees F, turning tenderloins occasionally. Transfer port to platter and tent with foil to keep warm.
  4. Add shallots to skillet and cook over medium heat until they soften, about 30 seconds. Add broth, maple syrup, vinegar and mustard and scrape browned bits from the bottom of skillet.
  5. Simmer until liquid is reduced by one-quarter and has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon (8 to 10 minutes), stirring often.
  6. Whisk the remaining tablespoon of butter until well blended and salt and pepper to taste. Return the pork and an accumulated juices to skillet and turn pork to coat with glaze.
  7. Remove port from skillet, slice tenderloins into 1/2-inch strips and arrange on serving platter. Drizzle with additional sauce.


Red or white, pick your favorite for this dish

Friday, July 5th, 2013

Maybe it’s the recent heat wave we just enjoyed, but when it came time for the two of us to get together to talk about what wine we’d pair with Ann Vogel’s Irish Onion Marmalade all we could think about was recommending a sauvignon blanc.

Actually we’ve come up with a couple of wine choices for this dish, depending on what recipe you choose to make — the regular or low fat — and how you plan to serve it.

If you opt for the low-fat marmalade, then we recommend pairing it with sauvignon blanc.

A green-skinned grape, sauvignon blanc is the perfect summer wine because of its crisp, dry character. It’s the perfect refreshment on a hot day — something we all are familiar with after last weekend’s scorching heat.

The grape does well in France’s Bordeaux region, and is a popular wine coming out of Australia and New Zealand. We prefer France’s sauvignon blancs, largely because of their crisp citrus characters over Australian sauvignons, which tend to be more herbaceous.

We also of course love the sauvignon blancs coming out of Washington, many of them exuding similar flavors and acidity as the wines from Bordeaux.

If we were to serve the low-fat onion marmalade here’s how we’d do it: cut up a summer zucchini and apply a dab of goat cheese, then top with the marmalade.

The whole grain mustard in the recipe is a great match for the sauvignon blanc, and here’s a tip, any time you serve goat cheese on crostinis, crackers or anything else, serve it with sauvignon blanc. The two pair wonderfully.

Another nice thing about sauvignon blancs? You don’t have to break the bank to get a good wine. Just head to your local grocery store or wine shop and see what catches your eye. Look for a wine with flavors of citrus and floral notes. Some names to look for: L’Ecole No. 41, Airfield Estates Winery, Robert Mondavi Winery, Chinook Wines, Vin du Lac, Rolling Bay Winery (Bainbridge Island).

If we served the red onion marmalade as part of a main meal, say on top of a burger, then we’d switch gears and instead pair the dish with a red wine. Have fun with this one — pick your favorite red wine and see how it stands up to the pairing.

Don’t have a favorite red? Well almost any blend coming out of Washington would work, but we’ve got a couple recommendations for you.

Look for Washington wines: Maryhill Winery has a good red blend — Winemaker’s Red — that would go well with burgers topped with the red onion marmalade. Hedges Family Estate also has a great, everyday red — CMS — that pairs wonderfully with burgers off the grill, and it’s under $10.

A red wine for grilling

Friday, June 14th, 2013

We’re finally coming into one of our favorite seasons: summer.

And why do we love summer so much? Beyond the obvious — sunshine, duh! — we like our increased cooking options (read: we love to grill).

Pairing wine with grilling recipes is fun because the selection is vast — many reds, and even some whites, are great accompaniments to food touched by a grill.

For this week’s pairing we wanted to ignore the go-to wines and instead recommend a varietal you might not be familiar with. The wine we’re thinking of is considered the backbone of many wines from one of our favorite wine regions in France, the Rhone Valley. But it likely originated in Spain.

It’s also a grape that has done well in Washington, especially in the Walla Walla area.

So what grape are we talking about? None other than Grenache.

Typically you’ll find Grenache in red blends that include syrah, mourvedre, cinsault and carignan. (Think France’s Chateauneuf-du-Pape). But we’ve seen a trend among Washington winemakers to use Grenache as a stand-alone variety.

That’s great for us wine lovers because this grape, if done right, is a perfect food wine. It’s also a great choice to match with Ann Vogel’s Persian beef shish kebabs and her Filipino barbecued port kebabs.

Grenache is a good red for summer because it is light enough for a warm evening, but holds the weight and structure needed to stand up to the range of flavors a grill can infuse on food.

Flavor characteristics of Grenache include fruits like blackberries and black currants, white pepper, allspice and cinnamon. It’s a wine that doesn’t need a lot of oak, but if oak is used it can add hints of vanilla and even smoke depending on how toasted the inside of the barrels are.

There are a number of Washington wineries that produce great Grenaches. Here’s a few to look out for the next time you’re in the store: Maison Bleue, Milbrant Vineyards, Alexandria Nicole Cellars, Barnard Griffen Winery, Novelty Hill and McCrea Cellars.

We also recommend Trio Vintners, which we tried while at Taste Washington earlier this year. Winemaker Karen LaBonte lets the wine sit for 21 months in barrels with minimal new oak, which allows the grape’s flavors to shine instead of being muddled by oak.

The wine is listed at $26. The only hitch is it’s not available in Kitsap, but if you’re in Seattle it’s available at the Sixth Avenue Wine Cellar in the Pacific Place shopping center downtown or at Esquin Wine and Spirits, 2700 Fourth Avenue South in downtown Seattle.

A recipe for salmon paired with merlot

Friday, June 7th, 2013

Mary writes:

Copper River salmon landed at Sea-Tac three weeks ago. A couple dozen pounds were rushed off to the the fourth annual Copper River Cook-Off between Seattle area’s top chefs.

Salmon, whether from Copper River or other rivers, is dense and rich with flavor, making a perfect pair for a wine that is dense and rich in flavor. Red or white wines pair well with salmon — Chardonnay and Pinot Noir top the list

But for the winning recipe listed below, we’re going with Merlot. Why you ask? Because it’s in the sauce.

We recommend either the Columbia Crest 2010 H3 Merlot, or Gordon Brothers 2009 Merlot. Both wines offer superb quality for under $20 and they were double-gold winners at the recently announced Seattle Wine Awards.

The recipe is from Pat Donahue, executive chef at Anthony’s Restaurants, who won three previous Copper River Cook-Off contests. We’ve included his recipe because it calls for Merlot.

This is the first year Donahue didn’t win, maybe because there wasn’t any wine in the recipe?

Wild Copper River King Alder Planked with Rhubarb Cherry Coulis
Serves 4-6

2 lbs Copper River king filet
Cocoa Ginger Salt – to taste on salmon
3⁄4 cup Rhubarb Cherry Relish – see recipe
1-2 cups Rhubarb Cherry Coulis – see recipe
1⁄4 lb. salted butter – browned in pan
1 cup Beurre Blanc – (optional)
1 each 1⁄2-inch thick by 12-inch long alder plank – (optional)

Soak alder plank for at least one hour before cooking. Cut salmon into serving size pieces (4-6), moisten with olive oil and season with Cocoa Ginger Salt. Grill mark salmon on BBQ then place on the alder plank in a separate pan and bake in a 400 degree oven. Cook until just done, remove salmon from oven at 130 to 140 degree internal temperature.

6 Tbsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp sugar
1⁄4 tsp ginger powder
2 Tbsp dark cocoa powder

(Yield: 2 cups)
1⁄2 lb rhubarb, rough cut
2 Tbsp dark dried cherries
1.5 cups Northwest Merlot
1⁄2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp butter
To taste salt & pepper
1⁄4 oz 85 percent dark chocolate

Wash and trim rhubarb. Roughly cut rhubarb into 1 1⁄2-inch pieces. Place in heavy bottom saucepan with cherries, wine, sugar and butter. Reduce to 2 cups add chocolate and purée with hand blender or mixer until smooth.

Wine and Canada’s poutine, a great match

Friday, May 17th, 2013

Poutine, a common dish found in Canada, has started to make itself known in the states.

What would probably be considered comfort food by our friendly neighbors to the north, is popping up as trendy food over the border in states like our own.

With its savory flavors, hand-cut French fries and endless topping possibilities, it’s a dish that can single-handedly take out will power and lure even the healthiest eater into temptation.

As Ann Vogel notes in her recipe, poutine originated in Quebec. There’s some disagreement over exactly where in Quebec the dish was first crafted, or who gave it its name, but as one story goes a well-known restaurateur exclaimed in the way most French love to do, that a customer’s request to add cheese curds to a bag filled with fresh fries would make a mess, or “poutine.”

Cheese curds are a specialty to the area, and popular among local eaters. Gravy was later added to the concoction to keep the fries warm longer.

For this original French “hybrid” dish we would like to recommend another original French wine made from a hybrid grape called Baco noir.

Starting around the 1880s it was common for vineyard growers to cross European grape varietals with American grapes. On the scene at the time was Francois Baco, who managed to make a tasty, lush red wine that was unusually resistant to cold weather.

The grape was a cross between a white grape known as folle blanche, grown chiefly for cognac, and an unknown American red grape.

Baco noir is planted where cold winters are a problem — the Midwest, East Coast and of course, Canada.

One of the best baco noirs from the Northwest region comes from Oregon’s Girardet Wine Cellar. We think it’s a perfect match for the poutine.

On a side note, if you’re thinking of trying the poutine but don’t want to spend the time making it, here’s something to consider: Seattle-based Jones Soda will be launching a poutine-flavored drink for consumers to try. The catch? You have to travel to Canada to give it a try.

Sherry and a couple recipes to try it with

Friday, April 26th, 2013

Mary writes:

One of the most festive wine tastings to attend is a tapas party. Tapas are little bites that started out as a cover to keep the flies out of a glass of sherry. Tapas bars are very popular in Spain and have quickly picked up favor in the U.S.

My friend Alan loves sherry. He recently hosted a sherry tasting for a bunch of friends with 30 bottles of eight different types of sherry. And everyone brought tapas to enjoy with the little sips.

Many think sweet when the word sherry is mentioned. But there are so many more styles! The drier Manzanilla and Fino are definitely not sweet. Amontillado and Oloroso can be dry or sweet; Cream is always sweet but even sweeter is the Pedro Ximénez, or PX, which is the color and weight of motor oil and tastes of liquid brown sugar, nuts and dried fruits.

My favorite sherry of the day paired wonderfully with Paella, Spain’s most famous saffron, rice and seafood extravaganza. Paella is usually prepared in a wide, shallow pan and cooked over an outdoor fire. The sherry was Barbadillo Obispo Gason Palo Cortado, a fabulous and a perfect match with the Paella.

Bodegas Barbadillo was founded almost 200 years ago. Palo Cortado is a rare sherry. Like most sherries, it’s made from the Palomino grape. Palo Cortado begins life as a Manzanilla, developing the flor and set aside for its quality.

Then something happens on its way to becoming an Amontillado: it loses its flor in the American oak barrels. Flor is the protective bacteria that forms a film on top of the wine and protects it from oxidizing. Once the flor disappears, the wine is fortified.

After 30 years in barrel, the wines develop a dark amber color along with the rich, nutty aromas and flavors that are the hallmarks of Palo Cortado. Coffee bean, burnt matchstick, toffee caramel and toasted walnut are other flavors you can find in this sherry. It’s very dry, with lots of richness and great balance.

Here’s a couple tapas dishes that pair perfect with sherry:

Seasoned CarrotsBest served with a Fino like the Hartley & Gibson Dry Fino

2 pounds carrots
4 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tsp. Oregano
¾ tsp Cumin seeds
1 tsp. Cilantro
¼  tsp Red pepper flakes
¼ tsp. Pepper
1 tsp. Salt
1 ½ tbsp Sherry vinegar
½ cup Olive oil
2 tsp chopped Parsley

Peel and slice carrots into 1-inch rounds. Boil 8 to 10 minutes in salted water until tender. Meanwhile, throw the rest of the herbs into a food processorfor a minte and add vinegar to make a paste. Add oil in a thin stream to emulsify. Mix with the carrots. Sprinkle with parsley. Chill for a couple of hours and serve at room temperature.

Stuffed mushroomsBest served with Lustau Los Arcos Dry Amontillado

18 large mushrooms
½ cup almonds
¼ cup bread crumbs
½ pound ground pork
1 tsp orange zest
6 tbsp dry amontillado
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper 1 or 2 tbsp olive oil

Clean mushrooms and remove stems. Toast almonds for about 12 minutes. In a processor, chop the almonds, then the stems; add the bread crumbs, pork, orange zest, and sherry. Salt and pepper to taste. Stuff the caps.
Preheat oven to 400 F.  In a large skillet, heat olive oil and add caps filling side down. Sauté over medium low until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Place on an oiled baking sheet filling side up. Bake minutes and serve.
*Recipes are from the Spanish Table by Marimar Torres.

A low alcohol, aromatic wine to pair with rhubarb muffins

Friday, April 19th, 2013

It’s sometimes hard to find a wine to match food that falls into a category where a wine accompaniment isn’t necessarily a natural connection.

That’s the case with Ann Vogel’s rhubarb muffin recipe, which she recommends for breakfast or lunch. Most of us lean toward coffee, juice, or milk as our beverages of choice for breakfast. Lunch is another story.

Luckily for you, we’re here to introduce you to different wines and do all the work when it comes to finding the perfect one to go with the latest recipe to try.

Now we know what you’re probably thinking: “Really? You have a wine that works with rhubarb and is appropriate to be had with muffins?”

Of course we do!

We’re bridging the morning/afternoon gap with our wine choice for this hearty spring treat. It’s the perfect wine to sip for a midmorning brunch on a lazy Sunday, or as an accompaniment to compliment the muffins.

We recommend an orange muscat. You might be more familiar with the term Moscato d’Asti, which is a white wine with a slight spritz made from the Moscato Bianco grape grown in the Piedmont region of Italy.

While most of us probably think of muscat as a white, sweeter wine — it was supposedly the third most consumed white wine in the United States in 2012 — it actually can be white or red depending on how it’s made. Often the grape is used to make a variety of sweet dessert wines, but it isn’t classified as a dessert wine.

While it’s a major grape variety of Italy, Muscat has made its way to American soil as well. Look for an orange muscat grown in California or Oregon to pair with these rhubarb muffins.

California’s Quady Winery makes two kinds of orange muscat. One is more of a dessert wine, the other is perfect for the rhubarb muffins. Electra is light, refreshing and easy to dink. It is reminiscent of oranges and peaches with the added benefit of low alcohol so you can have a sip with your muffin and still get on with your day.

Greek wine good for sweet Greek bread recipe

Friday, April 5th, 2013

Yes, we know Easter was last weekend. So why are we offering a recipe and wine for a holiday table?

We have a number of responses (Easter was earlier this year than years’ past, for one thing), but the answer we choose to offer is instead another question:  Do you really need a holiday as your excuse to make a delicious bread and enjoy a tasty treat in a glass?

Didn’t think so.

We like that Ann Vogel opted to write about a Greek bread for this week’s recipe, because it gives us a chance to introduce people to Greek wines.

Many of the wines from Greece are produced using grapes whose names are long and tough to pronounce — Assyrtiko, Mavrodaphne, Moscophilero, Agoirgitiko and Xynomavro are a few that come to mind.

Luckily they are much easier to quaff than they are to say.

The making of wine dates back about 7 millennia or so in Greece, to when Dionysus was known as the god of wine. Remember Ulysses? After 10 very eventful years before returning home from the Trojan War and his infamous horse play in Troy, he and his troops had amphorae of Greek wines to celebrate his return.

But enough about Greek gods and more about Greek wine — specifically which Greek wine we’d drink with Vogel’s bread.
Since the bread is dusted with sugar and on the sweeter side, we recommend Mavrodaphne, a dark-skinned grape variety grown around Patras on the Pelopennese Peninsula of Greece.

This varietal produces a port-like dessert wine made from red grapes with aromas of caramel, apricot and toffee, and flavors similar to ruby port with raisins, chocolate, toffee and nuts.

Mavrodaphne wines spend their first summer in oak barrels outside, in the sunshine.

This technique allows the wine to soften into a pleasant dessert wine. This is similar to what the folks on Madeira did to soften their wines.

The two big producers of Mavrodaphne oof Patras are Achia Clauss and Kourtakis.

Easter wine pairings

Friday, March 29th, 2013

Mary writes:

Whether it’s ham, lamb or spam, we’ve got you covered. (OK so it rhymed and was kinda catchy, but we’ll take a rain check on the spam.)

Many families start Easter Sunday with the traditional Easter egg hunt — complete with the kids  running around eating candy out of someone else’s basket. When it’s time to convert those hard boiled eggs into deviled eggs, it’s Mimosa time.

Mix Domaine St. Michelle Brut with a dollop of fresh orange juice for a wonderful adult treat.

At the Easter feast, the best ham and wine experience is usually a pairing with Riesling. Since brined, smoked ham is usually glazed with something sweet like honey or brown sugar to balance saltiness of meat, a wine with sweet fruitiness balances the salty, spicy and sweet flavors of the ham.

At the recent Taste Washington tasting event (held last weekend in Seattle), one of the best Washington Rieslings we tasted that would fit this profile was the Silver Lake Roza Reilsing, from the Roza Berge Vineyard located in the Rattlesnake Hills AVA.

Founded in 1987, Silver Lake Winery is one of Washington’s pioneer wineries. Their Riesling has earned many awards over the years. The pear and lime flavors of this medium-bodied sweetie with bright acidity and a long finish would pair very nicely.

However, if you’re pining for red, try the Maryhill Zinfandel. There are not many Zins in Washington but this winery along the Columbia River has one of the best. This wine pairs with anything off the grill. This wine has the sweet fruitiness to balance the sweet sauce and the salty ham.

If you’re preference is a nice rack of lamb, rubbed with olive oil, garlic and rosemary grilled to perfection, you need a red with a modicum of tannin,  good structure, solid fruit notes and, of course, a fine finish. The best, the only, pair would be Syrah.

After attending a couple of seminars at Taste Washington where we learned at little bit more Syrah in Washington, we can assure you that one from a warmer vineyard will have the fruit and the structure to create synergy with lamb.

Try Walla Walla winery, Syzygy. (Pronounced “szz-eh-jee”); it means the alignment of three celestial bodies which usually occur during a solar eclipse. Owner and Winemaker Zach Brettler’s current release is a 2008 Walla Walla Syrah. It’s a rich, sleek, smooth quaff with a ton of black fruit flavors and hints of green olive and smoke. Because it has some age, it’s drinking very nicely right now. It also has garnered quite a few medals.

Cheers and have a happy Easter!

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