Category Archives: Wine/Food Pairings

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.

Tonight’s dinner: Grilled pizza and Washington Barbera

We love summer, not just because we love the sun but also because the dry weather and lingering daylight gives us an excuse to use the grill — not that we technically need an excuse.

Ann Vogel’s pizza on the barbecue is a great idea — you get to have a family favorite (or at least a favorite for our families) but your house, already hot from the day’s sun, doesn’t turn into a sauna because of the oven. And you have minimal clean up.

Plus, there’s just something about the flavor that the grill imparts on food that gives it a little something extra.

So what wine do you want to drink with your grilled pizza? Think about the toppings you plan to use. Are you thinking pepperoni, sausage, fresh mozzarella, basil and tomatoes? And then there’s the smoky flavor from the grill to consider.

If we made this pizza, we’d choose a Barbera to wash it down. There is not a huge selection to choose from of this Italian grape in our county, but we know you can find it because we recently participated in an informal blind tasting of seven Barbera wines.
Each attendee to the tasting was responsible for bringing a Barbera.

Brynn brought a 2008 Barbera Classic from Maryhill Winery and a Barbera d’Asti. We wanted to taste the Maryhill because we wanted to see how a Barbera made in Washington stood up to the Italian competition.

After pairing it with pepper-crusted dry salami and a fresh tomatoes and basil penne pasta, we knew this is the wine we’d choose for grilled pizza.

It was interesting to hear people’s opinions about this wine while tasting it without knowing where it was from. At least one person noted Asian spices and was relatively confident the wine was from Italy, but made in a “New World” style. Meaning the wine was fruit-forward and potentially had some winemaker manipulation at play to produce its fruity character.

It became one of Brynn’s favorites of the day because of its hints of vanilla on the finish and raspberry notes through the middle. It also had a slight smokiness, which would pair well with the grill flavors.

This might be hard to find in Kitsap, but if you’re interested the Port Orchard Fred Meyer has a few bottles. Wine steward Diana Walker said the wine was ordered by accident, so act quick and pick up a bottle. It is also available from the winery. It retails at just under $18.

Or you could pick up a few bottles with a visit to the winery  in Goldendale. With a natural amphitheater on its property and spectacular views of the Columbia Gorge and Mt. Hood, a trip to the winery would make a fun weekend getaway. The winery has a summer concert series. Upcoming shows include Daryl Hall and John Oates Aug. 17 and Willie Nelson Aug. 24. Visit Maryhill’s website for more information.

This crabbing season try this crab cake and Riesling pair

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

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

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

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

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.