Cheers To You

An exploration of all things wine with local wine expert Mary Earl.
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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

INGREDIENTS:
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)

DIRECTIONS
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.

COCOA GINGER SALT:
6 Tbsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp sugar
1⁄4 tsp ginger powder
2 Tbsp dark cocoa powder

RHUBARB CHERRY COULIS:
(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

DIRECTIONS
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!


St. Patrick’s Day wine pairing for potato ‘Pot o’ Gold’ soup

Friday, March 15th, 2013

Yes we know that green beer will likely be the alcoholic beverage of choice for many of you out there celebrating the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day holiday Sunday.

And while we might have recommended this in the past, we’re raising the bar this year, offering instead an Irish-born winemaker’s wine for this week’s pairing.

We’ve recommended this winemaker’s wines before, but sometimes a good wine bears repeating.

For Ann Vogel’s Pot o’ Gold soup, Ireland-born David O’Reilly’s 2012 Crawford-Beck Vineyard Pinot Gris would offer you a chance to drink a glass o’ gold instead of fizzy, green beer.

The wine is aromatic with hints of honey, lychee and banana, according to its tasting notes. Fruits like grapefruit and pineapple are balanced with acidity and a clean finish. The wine was fermented in stainless steel, keeping a crispness in the wine.

O’Reilly has been making great wine for a number of decades from his winery Owen Roe, located in Dundee, Ore. He has an uncanny ability to find a magnificent source for grapes — he rehabilitated a 75-year-old Zinfandel vineyard 15 years ago.

Many of his fabulous red wines produced under the Oregon-based Owen Roe label are made from grapes sourced from the Yakima Valley. He recently purchased an old dairy farm in the Sunnyside area of Washington. In addition to 280 acres of the Outlook Vineyard, O’Reilly has a 50-acre vineyard in the Rattlesnake Hills AVA. This is great news for the Washington wine industry.


A wine for spring vegetables, deviled eggs

Friday, March 8th, 2013

Mary writes:

The recent sunshine, blue skies and warmer weather has many out toiling in their gardens. My own garden has many volunteers peeping out. Chives, sorrel, spinach and oregano are popping up in between the tulips, bluebells and daffodils.

Pairing these fresh spring vegetables with wine is a fun and educational endeavor.  Fresh, herbal and crisp are the qualities of a wine that would pair well with the dishes listed below. These are also the qualities that make a great sauvignon blanc.

Dilled smoked salmon pate, peak-season asparagus grilled to perfection and dressed with balsamic vinegar, and Parmesan cheese, roasted thyme carrots and artichokes with hollandaise are other spring dishes that pair well with a sauvignon blanc.

Deviled eggs are a staple of many spring-themed brunches and pot lucks. Consider adding lemon juice to the mayonnaise and chopped chives or sage to add a little spring fresh flavor to this well-loved dish.

Our go to favorite wine to serve with the lemon-chive deviled eggs is Arbor Crest’s 2012 Sauvignon Blanc.

Arbor Crest has been producing exceptional sauvignon blanc since Bacchus was a kid. Grapes are sourced from the venerable Bacchus Vineyard in Columbia Valley.

The flavors are fresh and lively with appealing citrus, pineapple and spice with a smooth finish.

To preserve those fresh and lively flavors, malolactic fermentation or any contact with oak is avoided.


Argentine white for seven-layer guacamole tostadas

Friday, March 1st, 2013

There are myriad options for what we could recommend to pair with this seven-layer tostada recipe. As has become our mantra in this column, when looking for the right companion always pair a wine with the sauce, matching the weight of the wine with the weight of the sauce.

So what is the sauce in this seven-layer delight?

Well first we considered the taco seasonings, since they can pack a powerful flavor punch. But with only a small amount, it didn’t make sense to revolve around those spices.

Instead we opted to focus on the crux of Ann Vogel’s seven-layer tostada recipe: guacamole.

With 1 1/2 cups recommended, guacamole is the main ingredient. And while margaritas would be our first choice for pairing, we do have a wine that is a great fit and would work perfectly if you choose to add Vogel’s recommendation of crab, shrimp or white fish. It would also pair with chicken or turkey if you went that route over ground beef.

Torrontés, a white wine from Argentina, is our choice for this guacamole-centered seven-layer tostada dish.

Described by the Torrontes.com website as “the emblematic white wine of Argentina,” the grape is a cross between “Mission” grapes, which were introduced from Spain to the western coasts of North and South American during the 16th century by missionaries, and the Muscat of Alexandria grape — which supposedly Cleopatra used to drink.

The wine balances floral aromas, including roses, orange blossoms, lavender, lilac and bergamot flowers, with dryness and acidity. The combination — a bone dry wine with floral aromas — results in a balanced wine that is light and crisp with fruity notes.

There are some sweeter Torrontés wines out there, but stay away from those with this recipe. To make sure the wine you select is dry, look at the alcohol content and remember this rule of thumb: “higher is dryer”. The higher the content (i.e. 12.5 to 13 percent) the dryer the wine.

Bodega Norton, an Argentine wine producer, makes a palate-friendly Torrontés that is also wallet-friendly and relatively easy to find.


Sonoma red wine blend our choice for curry dish

Friday, February 15th, 2013

Beer is the first beverage we’d choose to accompany curry — something ice cold and quenching — rather than a fine wine.
But seeing that this is a wine column, we figure we better stick with what we know — or what our readers expect. When we think of wine for curry, a white wine — one that’s fruity and slightly acidic — comes to mind.

Lighter curried dishes, like chicken and potatoes or a Thai basil fish dish, call for fruity white wines. But for Ann Vogel’s lentil curry recipe, a red wine with weight and complexity is the way to go.

So, what red wine would be curry and lentil friendly? We’ll break down the dish to help us decide what wine is the best match Lentils have a nice earthy quality; tomatoes sweetness and acidity; squash adds more sweetness and body. The curry is the spice.

For a red wine to pair with this dish it needs to have at least some syrah blended in. That’s because syrah has an earthiness that pairs well with lentils. The sweet, acidic tomatoes do best with a juicy, acidic wine like a Barbera or Zinfandel. The weight of the squash matches the weight of a red wine and the spicy curry needs to be paired with a red that has a lot of fruit and low tannins.

What does this all mean?

It means we have the perfect wine in mind. Marietta Cellars Sonoma County Old Vine Red is a gorgeous blend of mostly Zinfandel and other grapes such as syrah, Carignan, Petite Sirah, and Barbera.

This wine has a sweet bouquet of spice and summer fruits, black cherries with an earthy, leathery note. Notes of plum and black currants on the palate pair with a nice balance of black pepper and a smooth, rich body.

The old vines where the grapes from this wine are sourced are planted in Geyserville, Calif. just outside Sonoma. The vineyards are planted in the traditional Italian immigrant way: a row of this, a row of that. The vines are grown together, harvested together and fermented together. Wines produced from this style of winemaking are called field blends. Back in the day, it didn’t matter to winemakers what grape name was on the label, they made the wine in the tradition of the old county by blending.

Marietta Cellars is named after founder Chris Bilbro’s great aunt, who was an Italian immigrant. He started the winery in 1978 in the Dry Creek Valley.

Bilbro produces red wines of incredible consistency, including a Cabernet, Zinfandel and Syrah.

Old Vine Red is available for around $12. But hurry, it doesn’t last very long, it’s that good.


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