Tag Archives: Pinot Noir

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.


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!

What to Drink – La Crema Monterey Pinot Noir

La Crema 2012 Monterey Pinot Noir

La Crema Winery is really into cool. They have some of the coolest vineyards, Russian River, Carneros, Monterey, Sonoma Coast and Anderson Valley. All perfect places to grow those Burundian grapes of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

They believe the wine is in the details. When grown in the vineyardscool climate vineyards, fruit develops wonderful aromatics and lush flavors with a crisp, firm structure.

The Monterey appellation begins just north of the Monterey Bay and extends south to Paso Robles. This 90-mile-long valley is cooled by ocean winds. The cool climate, abundant sun, strong winds and low rainfall lower the yield, and provide extended hang time which makes for a concentrated flavors and aromas. Also ideal conditions for cultivating the bright acidity that’s the hallmark of a proper Pinot Noir.

The 2012 vintage was a good one. The fruit ripened slowly, with good concentration and fruit character that can only come from extended hang time.

It’s both savory and sweet, showcasing aromas and flavors of pomegranate and blackberry. Framed by sweet herbs and bright acidity, it’s juicy with smooth tannins, a perfect food wine.

This is the wine when everyone is ordering a different entrée which may explain why it was voted Most Popular in a national restaurant poll.

La Crema Monterey Pinot Noir sells for under $20.

Red wine with game hens? You bet!

Chicken and lemongrass makes you think white wine doesn’t it?

But you’ve probably learned by now that we don’t always recommend wines that go with conventional wisdom. Yes we like to mix it up a bit, but we also strive to find what we think is the perfect wine for the recipes presented.

Which is why we’re going into the red department for Ann Vogel’s Vietnamese recipe of Grilled Cornish Hens with Garlic, Lemongrass and Five-Spice Powder.

This dish, with its grilled hens and five-spice powder immediately brought Pinot Noir to mind. We referenced our wine and food dictionary, which confirmed our suspicions.

The beauty of Pinot Noir is that you get the complexity of a red wine without the muscle of a Cabernet. Anyone who has watched the movie Sideways is probably not surprised at the impact the 2004 movie had on Pinot Noir sales.

Main character Paul Giamatti goes into great depth explaining why he prefers Pinots to other reds — which also serves as a not-so-subtle peek into the complexity of his character, Miles Raymond.

We of course did not choose Pinot for this dish to try and send a hint to readers about our sensitivity or difficult temperament.  We chose it because we thought it’d go well with the flavors of the five-spice, which covers the flavors of sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and salty.

For this dish we recommend Santa Barbara Pinot Noir in honor of Miles Raymond and all he did for the Pinot Noir grape.

Santa Barbara County incidentally includes some of the best vineyards and growing areas for the Pinot grape. The Santa Maria region and Bien Nacido Vineyards grow some of the best Pinots in California — and some of the oldest. A third area known for its Pinots is Santa Rita.

While we’d definitely recommend a winery that gets its Pinot from the Bien Nacido Vineyard plots, there might be some sticker shock involved, so we’re going to recommend a wine that fits more in the weekend wine price range.

The Santa Barbara Winery has two Pinots, a 2009 from Santa Rita Hills for $25 and a 2009 from the Central Coast for $17. While these are still a little pricier than we normally recommend, they’re well worth it.


Brynn and Mary

Ahi tuna, shiitake mushrooms and wine

White wine goes with fish, right? Well maybe.

With Carter’s recipe — thanks Carter! — for ahi tuna with ginger-shiitake cream sauce, the ginger immediately makes us think Chardonnay. It’s probably clear by now that we love Chardonnay, but that’s because it’s a great white wine that pairs well with dishes of varying styles.

Ginger makes us think of Chardonnay because the two have an affinity for each other – possibly because of the dryness of the Chardonnay and the piquant characteristic of the root.

Beyond this affinity, Chardonnay has the body to match the meatiness of the ahi.

But since we recommended a Chardonnay with Ann Vogel’s recent Iowa Stuffed Chop recipe, we’re going to stay away from Chardonnay this time and instead recommend red wine to pair with the tuna.

Because of the density of the fish, we recommend a Pinot Noir or a Pinotage.

Pinotage is a South African red grape that is the result of a cross between the Pinot Noir and Cinsault grapes.

Both wine varietals have weight and flavor that would pair well with Carter’s dish — which is made even richer by the shiitake mushroom sauce.

If you’ve never tried a Pinotage, we recommend branching out for this meal. Look to the Goats du Roam winery for its interesting blend of Pinotage — 33 percent Pinotage, 22 percent Shiraz and 13 percent Grenache. There are four other grapes with lesser percentages also blended in this wine, which results in a medium-style red that would match the recipe’s ginger and soy nicely.

If you’d rather stay with Pinot Noir, our favorite go-to Pinot is from Castle Rock.

Castle Rock Winery is located in California and sources its grapes up and down the coast from California to Washington. Their wines are always affordable and dependably good.