Chill with Cool Dinner Ideas

With this streak of hot days, firing up the stove for a home cooked meal is the last thing on your mind. A hot kitchen would not be a very pleasant place to hang out. Wouldn’t you rather be on the patio, sipping a chilled bottle of rosé with a few bites of something light and refreshing?

Summer dinners are usually lighter fare as are the wines that would accompany them. Here are some small bites recipes that require no heat when dinner time rolls around and can be prepared in a short time.

Prosciutto wrapped Nectarine Wedges garnished with Basil is an easy, light, refreshing bite. This cool recipe can be assembled without any heat. Toss 3 peaches cut into 8 wedges each, with ¼ teaspoon of sugar, ½ teaspoon sherry vinegar, 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin and let stand 10 minutes. Cut the Prosciutto in half lengthwise, and then wrap each piece around a wedge of peach. Garnish with a basil leaf and secure with a pick.

Summer Rolls with Cilantro Lime Dipping Sauce are a great addition to our summer repertoire. Similar to a spring rolls only this one is totally fresh ingredients. Almost cooking and an all hands assembly makes for a quick and fun dinner.

Just soak a bundle of dried bean thread noodles in a bowl of boiling hot water for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, blanch 1 carrot cut into matchsticks in the microwave until al dente. Halve, de-seed and cut one cucumber into matchsticks, cut a fresh serano chile into matchsticks, and finely shred about a cup of lettuce.

Quick pickle the carrot, cucumber and a serrano chile in ¼ cup rice vinegar, ¼ teaspoon sugar, a tablespoon of lime juice and a couple of shakes of sea salt. Let stand 5 minutes. Drain the vegetables and reserve the liquid. Toss the noodles with the reserved liquid.

Fill a shallow pie plate with warm water and soak a rice paper round until it begins to soften, about 30 seconds. Place it on a damp cutting board and put a small mound of lettuce, pickled vegetables, noodles, cilantro, mint and/or basil leaves on the round. Fold in the sides and roll up jelly roll style.

For the Cilantro Lime dipping sauce, shake the following in and sealed jar: 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger, 1 tablespoon chili paste, 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, 1/2 cup citrus soy sauce, the juice and pulp from a freshly squeezed lime, 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup sugar, and salt and freshly ground black pepper  to taste.

Radishes with Savory Butter is a lesson in simplicity. It’s a cool, satisfying dish with creamy, salty butter and  crunchy, peppery radishes. Soften a stick of good quality unsalted butter and blend in the a food processor with a tablespoon of anchovy paste, one minced garlic clove and fresh lemon juice to taste until smooth. Season with salt and serve with radishes that have been halved. This can be done one day ahead and chilled.

Tuna Salad stuffed Tomatoes. One advantage of this hot weather is the garden tomatoes that are coming on. For this Italian flavored meal, you need a can of cannellini beans, a can of tuna fish, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Drain and rinse the beans and tuna fish. In a bowl, break up the tuna fish and then toss with the beans. Make a dressing of balsamic and olive oil with a few red pepper flakes and a few grinds of black pepper. Toss with the beans and tuna. Cut your garden fresh tomatoes in half. And depending on size, scoop them out and to fill. Garnish with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley

So what wine to pair with these cool dishes? There’s a wine for every season; and for the summer season, it’s to be chilled, refreshing bottles of Rosé. It has the cody of a red, sometimes, and you can chill the heck out of it because there are no tannins.

Rosé is a wine that can be light pink to almost light red in color. The reason for these many shades of pink is how the wine is fermented. In the skins of the red grapes are all the pigments for color and much of the tannins. The longer the skins are allowed to stay in the fermenting juice, the darker the color of the wine.

As a result, the wine is not as tannic as red wine and therefore can be chilled without the resulting bite of tannins. It’s very similar to making a cup of tea. If you leave the bag in the cup for about 30 seconds the color and flavors will be lighter. Conversely, if you dunk your tea bag many times, you’ll get more color and tannins.

A dry rosé is my go-to summer sipper. Whether you’re on the patio or picnicking under the shade of a big leaf maple, these summer sippers will beat the heat and won’t break the bank.

Folie a Deux Menage a Trois Rosé

Here’s a refreshing medium bodied wine with tides of flavors with raspberries, strawberries, lychee nuts, and a smooth finish. Always a madcap blend, this one is Merlot, Syrah, Gewürztraminer and Muscat. The two reds are given a 24-hour cold soak on the skins to give the wine its blush and luscious body. The Gewürztraminer was cold fermented to preserve the exotic spicy nose. The wine is mouthwatering, crisp, and light pink in color.

Domaine du Pere Caboche 2012 Vaucluse Rose VDP ‘Le Petit Caboche

This delicious rose is blended from typical Cotes du Rhone grapes, Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah. It’s another medium-bodied refreshing wine with strawberry, raspberry and hint of citrus flavors. The crisp acidity and a touch of spice in the finish make this a fav with food. This French estate, which is a few centuries old, owns and farms some superb properties producing Cotes du Rhone as well as a great Chateauneuf du Pape.

Syncline 2013 Columbia Rosé is the embodiment of a Provence rosé. This Washington rosé is amazing, offering beautiful aromatics with flavors of melon, and citrus, combined with supple red fruits of the typical raspberries and strawberries and a touch of pepper. Gorgeous on hot summer days and a complement to lighter fare.

Be cool with a chilled glass of rosé and the bounty of summer. Cheers!

Kitsap Wine Festival is Tomorrow

Tickets are still available for the sixth annual Kitsap Wine Festival at Harborside Fountain Park.  This is a great afternoon event with plenty of sunshine, breezes off the water and catching up with friends. Proceeds go to the Harrison Hospital Foundation. You can purchase online at brownpapertickets.com

This year’s wineries are Chandler Reach, Convergent Zone, Davenport, Elegante, Kana, Laurelhurst, Long Road, Madsen, Maryhill, Mosquito Fleet  NVH, Page Cellars, Stina’s Cellar, Stottle, Terra Blanca, and Waterbrook.

The place to go for the seafood bites is the popular Summer Sipper Bar where guests can sample Rieslings, rosés and sparkling wines side-by-side from many of the participating wineries.

My favorite past time at events like this is to find the perfect wine for the delicious savories served up by Anthony’s, Bay Street Bistro, Boatshed, Bremerton Bar and Grill, CJ’s Evergreen Catering, Gold Mountain, Kitsap Conference Center, Minder Meats and Toro Lounge.

So slather on the sunscreen and pop on down to the Harborside Fountain Park tomorrow at 2:00p.m. Hope to see you there!

 

 

 

Plans for the 2014 Blackberry Harvest

With all the hot weather through July and now into August, the harvest season is in fast forward mode. So, I’ve been plotting what to do with all that blackberry bounty.It looks like a record crop of that sweet luscious fruit and for the truly ambitious that means lots of  wine, cordials, syrup, sauces and cake. blackberries

Blackberries, as everyone in Western Washington knows, are sweet, dark-colored berries that can effortlessly become invasive. They are extremely variable, because they freely cross with other blackberries and raspberries.

There are many types of blackberries including the erect ones from the eastern United States, the Eastern trailing, Southeastern trailing, and the Pacific Coast trailing types. All of these different parents have crossed and recrossed to produce the many cultivars we have today. And sometimes that’s a good thing, for example, now there are thornless blackberries.

Blackberries are known for their flesh slashing thorns and the way they trip you up while walking along the trail. Many love the fruit, but the thorns bring fear and suffering and the seeds get stuck between your teeth causing you to sprint for the floss.

But we can forgive them their trespasses because of the luscious goodness they can turn into. First and foremost, blackberry wine. Having judged a number of county fairs over the years, I’ve tasted some very, very good blackberry wines.

And I have made my share of blackberry wines. It’s easy, inexpensive and you get to do it your way. You know, the right way.

The most important part of fermentation process is to keep anything in contact with your wine, super clean and sterile. Gloves and a pot of boiling water to sterilize equipment are essential.

Equipment needed includes a covered fermenting vessel, a small mesh bag to contain the fruit sediment, siphoning hose, airlock, and two carboys. Two, actually, because you’ll need to siphon the wine off the lees after the first 10 – 12 days of fermentation. And this will need to be done at least three of four times to clarify the wine and to prevent it from developing off flavors.

You can purchase your yeast, yeast nutrient and Camden tablets from Bill Sproules of Olympic Brewing Supplies in East Bremerton. His store has all the equipment you need to make wonderful blackberry wines. They even have it in a can if you want to skip the picking part.

Bill is also an excellent resource for winemakers, new and experienced. He has recipes or you can follow one of the many to be on line.

After the picking is over and your wine has been fermented, racked, fermented a second time, bottles and aged for about three to six months, try this recipe for Blackberry Wine Cake.

You’ll need a package white cake mix, 3 oz. blackberry flavored gelatin, 4 eggs, 1/2 cup vegetable oil and a cup or your blackberry wine.   Mix all ingredients together. Bake in a greased tube pan at 325 degrees for 45 minutes. Prepare a glaze of 1 cup powdered sugar and 1/2 cup of blackberry wine. Pour over cake.

Other easy ways to enjoy the bounty of blackberries is to make a cordial. This is super easy. You’ll need equal parts, of vodka, Cognac or brandy, sugar and berries. Put all ingredients into a big jar and cover. Agitate it every now and then until the color is good and the berries have completely macerated about two weeks. Strain and pour into bottles. Seal tightly and store in a cool place for at least 2 weeks. Adding spices to the mix makes it way more interesting. Try a few whole cloves, black peppercorns, cardamom pods, or cinnamon sticks for more complex nuances in your cordial.

Besides the quick and easy cordial, another way to enjoy the bright burst of color and taste is blackberry syrup. It can brighten up many dishes. You can splash it into a glass of champagne, drizzle it over waffles, or flavor a sauce for a roasted pork loin.  You can muddle it with mint or a myriad of other herbs then top it off with a splash of soda for the ultimate al fresco cocktail. Or transfer it to a bottle, decorate with pretty paper and twine, and voila!  A hostess gift!

Blackberries also freeze very well. Rinse under cold water. Lay evenly on a baking tray and put in the freezer. When frozen, put them in a plastic bag for later use.

There are a few Pacific Northwest wineries that make a delicious blackberry wine. My favorite is Pasek Cellars. Pasek Cellars in Mount Vernon has been making fruit wine for about 20 years. And you may have tasted this too if you have had a bottle of the Bremerton Blackberry Festival wine made by Pasek Cellars.

Their fruit wines have garnered quite a few gold medals and include a Blackberry that is vibrant with sun-drenched berry flavors (both dessert and not dessert), Cranberry (perfect with turkey), Loganberry and Raspberry. They also make a unique dessert wine – Arabica, a coffee dessert wine. I’ve had their wines and hand on heart, swear they’re terrific.

I may have tried the Wild Vines Blackberry Merlot sometime in the not so distant past. This fruity blend is made in Modesto, California by the largest wine producer in the world.  I only mention this because it inspired me to blend last year’s blackberry wine with a Cabernet concentrate I purchase from Bill Sproules at Olympic Brewing Supplies. It’ll be a few months before I can report on this blend.

Other Northwest wineries that make blackberry wine are Honeywood, Hoodsport, Nehalem Bay, Northwest Mountain Winery, Sky River Blackberry Mead, Wasson Brothers Winery and Westport Winery. Happy picking!

Whaling Days does Wild Meadows

While kicking around Whaling Days last weekend, listening to the music, catching up with some long lost friends, I was treated to a new Washington Winery. Well, new to me anyway.

Wild Meadows Winery is part of the Precept Wine portfolio. Precept Wine is the largest privately owned wine company in the Northwest. Founded in 2003, Precept now owns 4,270 acres of vineyards, seven wineries and 37 labels in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.  red beauty

Last year, they produced 950,000 cases of wine including Waterbrook, Pendulum, St. Chapelle, Washington Hills, Sawtooth, Red Knot and Alder Ridge.

Precept allows its wine makers free rein when it comes to making wine. The Wild Meadow Winery winemaker, Hal Landvoigt, is also Precept Wine’s director of winemaking. This means he enjoys the freedom of choosing the best lots for Wild Meadow as well as House Wines, Washington Hills, Primarius, Battle Creek and Windy Bay. These wines are also attractively priced, usually under $12.

Landvoigt was the mastermind behind the chocolate flavored red wine, Chocolate Shop, another Precept Wine brand.

Wild Meadows makes a Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Merlot, Syrah and Malbec. The juice is usually sourced from Columbia Valley since this is where the bulk of their vineyards are located.

The white wine served was the 2012 Columbia Valley Chardonnay which sells for around $11. Aromas of apple, pear, and citrus follow thru on the palate. Served chilled, the flavors of apple and pear with a bright citrus note still come through.

The red was called Red Beauty. It’s a blend of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 15% Syrah, and 3% Cabernet Franc. The deep garnet color was a promise of good flavors and aromas in the glass with berries, plums, cherries and big body with smooth tannins and a silky finish. Try them! You’ll like them!

Wine Touring on Bainbridge Island

The seven wineries of the Bainbridge Alliance were open for a special Art among the Barrels last weekend.

So the Blind Wine Gang took advantage of the opportunity to taste Island wines at a few of the wineries. It had been a while and the weather was very nice – cool and almost raining. Perfect wine tasting weather, not too hot, not too cold.

Our first winery was Victor Alexander on Island Center Way. DSC00809Owner winemaker Charlie Merrill literally has a garagiste winery. Charlie poured the Blind Wine Gang his 2011 Sémillon and 3 rosés from three different barrels. The barrel tasting was immensely popular. To taste the same grape, from the same vineyard, but resting in different barrels was real education. The final blend, just before bottling, will be of all three barrels. It’s really very interesting to taste the different nuances the barrels played in this wine.

Next, we visited Amelia Wynn Winery and we’re grateful for the escort to the winery. It is not easy if you don’t know Bainbridge like a native. We were greeted by owner winemaker, Paul Bianchi who had taken a break from his other duties to grill up pizza. The garden party featured a full line up of whites, a rosés and three reds to pair with the  pizza hot off the grill.    pizza

Not only can Paul grill up a savory pizza but he can also ferment some wicked good wines. A wonderful 2012 Chard, a 2012 Roussane and a beautiful 2013 Viognier with a fragrance that would make one swoon.

The 2011 Sangiovese oozed cherries in the nose, across the palate and in the long finish. Very smooth and perfect with the grilled pizza that I slathered with a bit of blue cheese. Yum! Next was a 2011 Walla Walla Merlot, a Double Gold & Best of Class Merlot. It was near perfect.

The final wine on the list was the 2011 Syrah, which many in our group loved. I did too but couldn’t get the Merlot off my mind….

Our next stop was Rolling Bay Winery with an abbreviated group – some had to run off to an engagement at Bloedel and some had a date with a crab pot.

Rolling Bay’s signature wine is Manitou Red. It’s a blend of 4 red grape varieties and eminently drinkable with all types of hearty fare. Their Fusion is a blend of mostly Chardonnay and 25% Pinot Grigio. A good summer quaffer. The 2011 Cab from a difficult year was ready to drink but I thought the 2013 Cab out of barrel was ready to drink also. I could have tasted a case of that one and still asked for more.

Tasting with friends is an education. Seeing the different palates, likes and dislikes and whose palate is alighned with mine. Fortunately, the one friend I taste with the most has a plate that is very similar to mine.

The next Washington wine tasting. the Kitsap Wine Festival happens on Saturday, August 9th at Harborside Fountain Park. This celebration of food and wine on Bremerton’s scenic waterfront, benefits Harrison Medical Center Foundation.

Here’s a link to the wineries that will be pouring at the Festival.

Spicy Eating with a Quenching Drink

Did you know, eating spicy foods may help cool you down? If you think about the world’s hot spots and their cuisines, like Mexico, India, Malaysian, Thailand, Szechwan, and New Orleans, spicy peppers permeate most dishes in those climates.

Why does this happen? Perhaps because super spicy food induces sweating, which may help you feel colder. The other big reason is food borne bacteria are inhibited or killed by spices like garlic, onion, and oregano, which are the best known bacteria killers. Chilies and hot peppers also inhibit bacteria and when combined with the above and ginger, anise seed, lemons and limes, you can be cool and eating hot, healthy foods.

Ann Vogel’s recipe for Chicken Big Mamou, has a lot of those spicy spices, black pepper, white pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic, and Tabasco. These flavors dominate the dish, that and the pound of butter and tomato sauce. So something cold, sweet and sparkling to balance those dominate flavors and textures. The best wine choice for this very spicy dish is a chilled bottle of Riesling for three good reasons; the dish is Cajun hot, it’s hot and it’s hot.

But since last week’s blog entry had us chatting about the wonders of Riesling and Dungeness crab, I’ll depart from the usual wine match up and move into a chilled bottle of cider.

There is a cider revolution going on. The hard cider industry in the United States is growing rapidly. Sales grew 101 percent in 2013, to more than $128 million, according to the Northwest Agriculture Business Center.

In Washington alone, there are at least 25 cideries on the market. They’re making cider out of apples, pears, and even combinations of other fruits and herbs. Ciders are sweet, dry, still and sparkling.

So, what makes a cider a cider? In North America, there are two types, cider and hard cider. Typically, cider is the sweet unfermented stuff. Hard implies alcohol within. Hard cider is brewed like beer, fermented and bottled without aging. But in Washington State, the Liquor Control Board considers hard cider a fruit wine.

Cider can go from apple to juice to ready to drink in 21 days. Like beer, ciders may get their bubbles from a dose of CO2 or the traditional second fermentation. Apple varieties grown specifically for cider are classified as heirloom, bittersweet and bittersharp.

Usually ciders are a blend of apples, and with Washington being a major producer of apples, sourcing the juice to make cider is as plentiful as wine grapes. Cider apples are prized for their high acids and sugars and intensely flavors, much like grapes.

If you have a hankering to try ciders,finn river a great place to start would be Northwest Cider Association’s second annual Summer Cider Day in Port Townsend on Saturday, August 9 from noon to 5pm. It’s one of the largest cider tasting events in Washington.

Advance ticket prices are $25 and $20 for NWCA members. Tickets are $30 at the door. Price includes admission, 10 tasting tickets, and a souvenir glass. Additional taste tickets are available for purchase.

For more info, http://www.nwcider.com/cider-events/2014/8/9/summer-cider-day

An partial list of Washington’s Cideries:

Alpenfire Cider, Port Townsend, AlpenfireCider.com

Core Hero Hard Cider. Edmonds, coreherohardcider.com

D’s Wicked Cider, Kennewick, DsWickedCider.com

Dragon’s Head Cider, Vashon, DragonsHeadCider.com

Eaglemount Wine & Cider, Port Townsend, EaglemountWinery.com

Finnriver Farm & Cidery, Chimacum, Finnriver.com

Grizzly Ciderworks, Woodinville, GrizzlyCider.com

Irvine’s Vintage Cider Vashon Island, VashonWinery.com

Liberty Ciderworks, Spokane, LibertyCider.com

Nashi Orchards, Vashon Island, nashiorchards.com

Neigel Vintners, East Wenatchee, neigelvintners.com

Schilling Cider Company, Seattle, SchillingCider.com

Seattle Cider Co. Seattle, seattlecidercompany.com

Sixknot Cider, Carlton, SixknotCider.com

Spire Mountain, Olympia, Fishbrewing.com

Snowdrift Cider Co., East Wenatchee, SnowdriftCider.com

Square Mile Cider, SquareMileCider.com

Tieton Cider Works, Tieton, TietonCiderWorks.com

Twilight Cider Works, Mead, twilightciderworks.com

Westcott Bay Cider, San Juan Island, WestcottBayCider.com

Whiskey Barrel Cider, Pullman, WhiskeyBarrelCider.com

Whitewood Cider Co., Olympia, WhitewoodCider.com

Wrapping up Dungeness Crab

Crabbing on the Canal began last week and out of several successful pulls came some delicious treats I hope you will try with the wines suggested below.

The crab fest weekend featured young and old gathered around with nutcrackers in hand cracking and picking their way to a mountain of crab. The fresh crab was then wrapped up in either rice paper, tortillas or seaweed.

The first delightful dish, Crab Cushions, was plucked from the Coyote Café cook book. Simple and straight forward with crab, Mexican crema, egg yolk and flour tortilla. These crunchy little treats are deep fried and served with a mango salsa. They disappeared fast. We paired this with a Studert Prum 2012 Mosel Saar Ruwer Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett that was absolutely fantastic.

This German winery, operating since 1541, is located in the town of Bernkastel-Wehlen in the Mosel region. On German wine labels, adding an “er” to the name shows possessive, meaning Wehlener means it comes from around the town of Wehlen with Sonnenuhr immediately following the town being the name of the vineyard. Remember the more names on the label, the more specific the area where the grapes are grown, usually the better the wine.

The two were the proverbial match made in heaven. Pure crab and pure German Riesling. The classic Riesling flavors of apricot honey and minerals pared so well with the unadorned crab.

The second delightful dish, Spring Rolls, was more spring rollsof a spontaneous what’s available to wrap up in the rice paper? Crab, lettuce, bean thread noodles, basil, and green onion tucked into a rice paper wrapper and then dipped into a sauce of sushi rice vinegar, chopped shallot and a couple of squirts of Sriracha Chili Sauce. This healthy snack was also paired with a German Riesling, a Bauer Haus Rheinhessen 2010 Kabinett. Notice the difference? Just a region, no town, no vineyard and no Riesling. It was a delightful wine nonetheless to pair with the crab and stood up to the mild vinegar and hot sauce.

The third wrap was a California roll. With real crab, not the imitation that many recipes call for. Obviously, they do not live in the greatest place for fresh crab. For this crab and avocado treat, a Vinho Verde was the perfect match. This crisp, medium dry white wine has low alcohol (8%) and a bit of spritz to it, making it very refreshing. It hails from a region in northern Portugal and literally translates to green wine.DSCN0245 Perfect for a hot  summer day.

Please heed the warning on the label: “Not to be opened with gas or air pumps.” It’s a screw cap. (grin)

And that, my wine loving friends, is a wrap!

It’s a tossup with Salmon Kebobs

Fire up barbie, it’s grilling season! Cooking outdoors makes dining special and with Ann Vogel’s Salmon Kabobs, it’s elegant and pretty darned easy.

spiced-salmon-kebabs

Grilling adds another dimension to foods and even more so when you add soaked cherry, alder or apple wood chips for a softer, smoky flavor and aroma. Even better throw on some frozen corncobs for a really sweet smoky aroma.

There are two wines that are the top match here. It’s too hard to make the choice so we’ll suggest one of each – Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. You just can’t get a better match with salmon.

A great Chardonnay, full of vibrant fruit, comes from a cool climate. Mountainous areas or nearby valleys that hold fog all morning similar to Burgundy, Carneros, Santa Barbara or Mendocino are ideal. With any of these regions on the label, you’re in like Flynn.

Traditional techniques like whole cluster pressing, barrel fermentation, and sur lie give the wines elegance and richness with balance from the acidity and tannins making it an excellent companion to salmon.

The Chardonnay should have a little oak, some apple, citrus and buttery flavors, medium to heavy bodied. It needs good acidity to stand up to the fatty (the good kind) salmon.

From Washington, Abeja, Dusted Valley, Rulo or Waterbrook would work very well with the salmon. California Chardonnay producers on my A list would be Beringer, J Lohr Riverstone, Ferrari Carrano, Wente Vineyards and Chateau St Jean.

The most recommended perfect pairing of all time is salmon with Pinot Noir. Especially a wine on the younger side from Oregon or California. Typically, Pinot Noirs take about 5 -7 years to blossom. A 2008 from Oregon, 2009 or 2010 from California would be my first choice.

Pinot Noir much like Chardonnay prefers a cool growing climate. In France, where the grape originates, its foggy regions are Burgundy and Champagne. Unlike Chardonnay, Pinot Noir is red and difficult to grow.

So, why bother you ask? If you ask a dozen professionals what their all time favorite bottle of red wine was, I’ll bet you 50 cents it was a red Burgundy. My all time favorite was Domaine Ponsot 1985.

Pinot Noir is a light to medium bodied red wine made from grapes that don’t have as many anthocyanins as other red grapes. This means it’s typically lighter in color than other red wines. But don’t let color fool you.

You still get buckets of character with strawberry, cherry, raspberry and blackberry fruit and earth-driven layers with herbs, mushroom, tobacco, and leather. Spice notes also make their way into the glass in the form of cinnamon, clove and smoky nuances.

If you ever get the chance, never shy away from William Selyem Sonoma Coast Hirsch Vineyard Pinot Noir. It will be memorable. Other fabulous Pinots are Rochioli in the Russian River Valley, Byron in the small cool Santa Maria appellation and anything from Bien Nacido Vineyards.

California producers who know their way around Pinot Noir would be Martin Ray Santa Barbara, Rodney Strong Russian River, Acacia, Olema Sonoma, and Morgan in the Santa Lucia Highlands, to name a few.

Oregon producers high on the list would be anything from Tony Soter, Argyle, Firesteed, Ponzi, and Wine by Joe.

Have a great Fourth!

Barbera with BBQ

Summer is officially here and the season of picnics, BBQ and outdoor cooking begins in earnest. What drink to pair with grilled salmon, smoked chiken or roasted tomatoes?

Barbera! This prolific vinifera grape orginates from the Italian Northwest in the Piedmonte. It produces a wine low in tannins, and high in acidity even when fully ripe; so it is prized in warm climates like Piedmonte, Eastern Washington and the San Joaquin Valley. In Italy, if it’s a DOC or DOCG then Alba, Asti and Monferrato are the names you’ll find on the label after Barbera.

To me, Barbera is the wine to have with fresh tomatoes sprinkled with Gorgonzola, balsamic, olive oil and torn basil.

It’s also a magical BBQ moment especially with most cuts of meat that have a sweet, smoky tomato based bbq sauce like ribs, chicken, and juicy burgers.

Pairing Sauvignon Blanc

My favorite go-to wine with vegetables, especially the green ones in Ann Vogel’s Leek and Spinach soup, is Sauvignon Blanc. In many ways, it’s more like a red wine than its white sisters. Which isn’t too surprising considering it’s one of the parents of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape.

Sauvignon Blanc can be highly aromatic, with herbs, minerals, and citrus. It’s pungent, grassy, citrus flavors can be minerally, grassy, hay, green pepper, lemons, lime, grapefruit and/or gooseberries and refreshingly acidic. It all depends on how and where it is grown.

Sauvignon Blanc also has a tendency to overwhelm or clash with more delicate dishes that pair well with other less assertive wines. But Sauvignon Blanc’s herbal aromas and racy acidity harmonize with vegetables very well, and the pairing is a bright and fresh on your summer table.

Sauvignon Blanc is also a great match for foods with high acidity and herbal tones. Sauvignon Blanc’s brisk acidity makes it the perfect partner for tangy goat cheese, tomatoes, spinach salads or most any green vegetable, even asparagus

And tangy citrus notes in the wine also make it a delicious pairing for dishes that need a bright note of citrus like a shrimp salad or Leek and Spinach soup. The bracing acidity of the wine also makes a perfect match to cream soups or other dishes that lean towards the thick, rich side. Each taste of wine cleans the palate for the next sip of soup.

Highly recommended Sauvignon Blancs include:

Brancott 2013 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is a classic New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with ripe bell pepper aromas and hints of gooseberries. The rich fruit and crisp mouthfeel make this a winner with Ann Vogel’s  Sautéed Leeks and Carrots. Around $11.

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2013 Horse Heaven Hills Sauvignon Blanc wine offers fresh aromas of herbs with a beautiful floral note. A touch of Semillon and partial stainless fermentation makes for a more complex, rich wine. It’s fresh and lively, with apple, citrus and a bit of herbs in the finish. Around $13.

Geyser Peak 2012 California Sauvignon Blanc has that bracing acidity with flavors of limes, lemons, and hay. The lime note in Sauvignon Blancs is distinctly New Zealand wines but perhaps the Australian wine maker knows the way to get it in American wines?

Honig 2012 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc is a crisp little number with citrus and herbal tones. This medium-bodied wine is blended in the traditional Bordeaux manner with a little Semillon and Muscat. $12

Waterbrook 2012 Columbia Valley Sauvignon Blanc, a long time favorite winery with big production and excellent quality. This wine is 100% Sauvignon Blanc fermented in stainless steel for a wine that is all citrus and little herbalness to it. Around $12.