Tag Archives: Pacific Rim

What’s your Game Plan for Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving celebrations differ from one home to the next. turkeyStill there are certain flavors, traditions and approaches connected with our most food focused holiday that strikes a chord in all of us.

Whether you go with the traditional turkey with sage and onion stuffing, giblet gravy, candied yams, and cranberry sauce; put a cultural twist on it, with a chipotle rubbed bird, red chili gravy and cornbread chorizo stuffing; or go the vegan route with a mound of riced potatoes shaped like a bird and glazed with browned butter with all those wonderful vegetable side dishes, Thanksgiving is a dinner you can sink your teeth into. But what to drink with it has been debated for many decades.

Every Turkey Day, the family sommelier faces the perplexing question: do I go with something sweet that can stand up to candied yams and tart cranberry sauce and keep Mom happy? Or go with Beaujolais Nouveau because it’s available now, red and fruity? Decisions, decisions.

Thanksgiving wines shouldn’t be intimidating. This is not the time to pull out that bottle you’ve been cellaring for a while. Serve something familiar, homey and delicious enough for those neophytes to be satisfied and thoughtful enough for wine lovers to appreciate.

Pairing wine with roasted, brined or deep fried turkey is a piece of cake but short of a dessert wine, nothing is sweet enough to do battle with yams blanketed with toasted marshmallows.

Dry, high alcohol wines will perish with all that sugar and salt. And white wines need a decent amount of acidity to cleanse your palate. Uncomplicated, fruity wines with a little residual sugar are the best recourse for matching with these courses.

Some of the better partners for Thanksgiving dinner, in my opinion, are Alsatian whites, German Rieslings, Grenache blends from France or Spain and Tempranillo from Spain or the West Coast. Pinot Noir, contrary to some opinions, has never worked for me with all those strong flavors dished up at Thanksgiving- unless, of course, it’s in the bubbly.

Balance is the key for the perfect pairing. For a white, think Riesling or one of those soft, slightly sweet Pinot Gris. For reds, fruity and friendly, low alcohol Zinfandels, Tempranillo or even Carmenere would work well.

sparkling glassEvery holiday dinner should begin with something celebratory and good. At my table, nothing says celebrate better than a bottle of bubbly. The pop of the cork signals the start of the celebration. And it’s off to the races from there.

Given the tradition of the day, here are some American bubblies with good acidity and a core of fruit to consider:  Chateau Ste. Michelle’s extra dry which is actually slightly sweeter in style than a brut despite its description; Oregon’s Argyle brut or Washington’s Treveri Cellars would grace any table. Treveri produces several Columbia Valley sparkling wines you should try. Three that would be perfect for this occasion would be their sparkling Riesling, Gewurztraminer or Syrah. You will be impressed! These sparklers range in price from $10.49 to $23.

white wine glassWhite wines to serve, could be California’s Oak Grove Pinot Grigio which is soft, fruity with crisp citrus flavors. Or Wine by Joe Pinot Gris from Oregon that has wonderful flavors of citrus, pear, and green apple with refreshing acidity. Both are under $10, so stock up for the holidays.

But Riesling is really the best white to serve.  And Washington makes second best – after Germany, of course.

Pacific Rim Riesling from Columbia Valley is a delicious off dry, richly fruity wine packed with peach, apricot flavors with a hint of wet stone. Milbrandt Riesling scored high with its fresh, lively stone fruit flavors and juicy acidity. These guys have been growing from in the Columbia Valley for generations. Latah Creek Columbia Valley Riesling is filled with flavors of green apple, ripe pear and spice with a crisp finish.

Jones of Washington Columbia Valley Riesling is an orange blossom special touched with pineapple and fresh picked apples. He also makes an estate Pinot Gris from the Ancient Lakes AVA that would perk a lot of  interest at the table.

Two Mountain Winery Rattlesnake Hills Riesling is another crisp refreshing wine with a nice balance of pear, citrus, and minerals on the palate.

red wine glassRed wines are trickier than white but if you make sure the alcohol is around 13% or less and there is a modicum of fruit, your chosen one will be a hit.  With that in mind here are a few grape suggestions: Lemberger, Tempranillo and Baco Noir.

Lemberger, a dark-skinned grape from Austria, is typically fruity with ripe plum and black cherry and a hint of pepper. It does well in colder climates where it goes by a more mellifluous name of Blaufränkisch.

Look for Kiona Vineyards and Winery on Red Mountain, the largest grower of Lemberger in the United States. Others include Alexandria Nicole Cellars, FairWinds Winery, Kana Winery Olympic Cellars, and Whidbey Island Winery. Priced between $10 and $22.

I had hoped to recommend another grape of Spanish origin from Washington and California that would be fabulous with dinner, but they all went past the affordable for a big dinner party price. So I’m taking you to Spain for delicious, affordable and the perfect reds for Thanksgiving.

The best made and priced would be the Campo de Borja Borsao Red  from La Mancha, Spain. With its intense, smoky, black cherry and spicy flavors, this wine is a blend of mostly Grenache and a dollop of Tempranillo this wine is a deep ruby/purple color.

From Valencia, the El Prado Red is another blend this time Tempranillo and Cabernet. It’s a medium bodied with raspberry and current flavors. And from Rioja, with 100% Tempranillo is the Cune Rioja Crianza. The toasty, cherry flavors are smooth and satisfying.

Also from Spain but made in Prosser is the Red Diamond Temperamental. Red Diamond sources grapes from the best locations around the world. This Spanish blend offers flavors of berries and plum has a silky smooth finish.

Garnacha de Fuego Old Vines from Calatayud is another intensely flavored wine that emphasizes fruit. Mostly black cherry but there are plum and raspberry with smooth tannins and a long finish.

The best thing about these wines is the price – all under $10 and most around $7. So, stock up on these affordable wines, because there are more holiday dinners in your immediate future.

Have a warm and happy Thanksgiving.

Fast wine pairings for quick meals

If your home life is anything like ours, you can relate to the recurring scene that plays out each night in our kitchens as we try to come up with dinner ideas that don’t require hours spent slaving over the stove.

The stack of “15 minute meals” cookbooks continues to grow as we try to keep our taste buds happy with meals that can be prepared quickly.

When it comes time to serve the gourmet meals, we don’t want to slow things down by weighing our wine pairing options.

To meet your quick preparation schedule we’re suggesting various wine selections for Ann Vogel’s “one dish wonders”.

Her Red Pepper Spiced Chicken Rigatoni recipe was tricky to find a perfect wine match in part because of the red pepper flakes, which add a kick to the dish, and also because it combines marinara and alfredo sauces.

But after reviewing our trusty “What to Drink With What You Eat” book by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, we think we’ve got a couple options that could work.

If you opt to lay on thick the red pepper flakes, we recommend selecting a dry Riesling or gewürztraminer, both white wines. The slight sweetness of these wines will balance the heat of the red pepper flakes, while complimenting the rich creaminess of the alfredo sauce.

There are a number of affordable options available at the grocery store for each of these varietals, thanks largely to Riesling being a widely planted grape in Washington.

Look to Pacific Rim, a Washington winery focused on making various styles of Riesling, or Chateau Ste. Michelle for affordable gewürztraminer options. And remember to buy dry, not sweet.

If you’re not into heat and you’d rather drink a red wine with the marinara dominated sauce, consider a barbera. This Italian wine has low tannins, making it a great pair for tomato-based sauces, and high acidity, which again will compliment the richness of the alfredo sauce.

For Vogel’s Quick Couscous Paella, because the ingredients are shellfish and chicken based, we recommend a white Rioja.

This Spanish wine is a perfect summer sipper, and seeing it’s from Spain — where Paella is served regularly — it’s only natural that it would be the perfect accompaniment. Look for Marques de Caceres Rioja Blanco at the grocery store. It’s usually priced between $8 and $10, making it a great deal.

What wine goes with Thai Curry Chicken Wrap?

When we think of wraps, we think of a light refreshing lunch for a sunny summer day — much like Ann Vogel describes in her recent luncheon on Bainbridge Island.

Initially when we saw wraps as this week’s recipe, we weren’t sure which wine we wanted to recommend.

Luckily for us, Vogel made it easy with her choice of Thai Curry Chicken Salad for the filler of the wrap. In fact, we have two wines we think would pair well with this dish: Gewürztraminer or Riesling.

Both wines fit the light lunch theme and are a refreshing treat on a hot summer day.

Our go-to wine pairing Bible: “What to Drink With What You Eat”, by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, says Riesling — especially a Spätlese — is best for chicken or fish with curry sauce. Almost equally it says an Alsatian Gewürztraminer would go well.

Both wines boast a balance of acidity and sugar. Made in the traditional German style, the wines will be sweet and the higher residual sugar levels will be a welcome compliment to the grapes’ main characteristic: acidity.

It’s this balance between the acidity and the hints of sweetness that make these two styles of wine the go-to for most spicy Thai, Indian and Asian dishes.

So what is Spätlese? It’s a German wine term that translates to late (spat) picked (lese). It’s the lightest of the wines that fall under the late harvest category.

Spätlese grapes are picked at least seven days after the normal harvest, making them riper and giving them a higher must weight (the measure of sugar in grape juice).

A Spätlese Riesling has a high level of acidity that balances any overt sweetness; it is “fleshy” and intensely flavored, often with notes of apple, pear and honeysuckle and has an elegant nose with noticeable aromas.

Like the Riesling, the Gewürztraminer, or Gewürz for short, is a German grape known for its aromatics. This grape also grows well in France’s Alsace region. Whereas the Germans make a dry styled wine, the French let the grapes speak, producing a range of styles from dry to dessert wine.

For Vogel’s Thai Curry Chicken Salad Wraps we decided to recommend the same winery for both pairings. And it is by pure coincidence that we’re recommending a winery that has ties to Randall Graham, winemaker of Bonny Doon Vineyards — the winery we recommended for last week’s watermelon and Rose pairing.

Part of the Bonny Doon crowd headed north from California to Washington five years ago with the intent to create the best Riesling in America. The result of those efforts was the establishment of Pacific Rim.

It’s because of the winery’s dedication to Washington Riesling that we recommend its dry Riesling.

We also recommend the winery’s Columbia Valley Gewürz because of its balance of acidity and 2.2 percent residual sugar.

On the next sunny weekend, we suggest holding a summer lunch for friends. Plan to make the wraps and buy a bottle of the Pacific Rim Riesling and Gewürz, then let your guests decide which they like better with the meal.

They’ll have fun choosing, and you’ll look like a coordinated host/hostess with your matching bottles and Asian-themed lunch.