Tag Archives: Robert Mondavi

The Vegetable Wine

I’ve tasted wine made from vegetables. Rhubarb is probably my favorite vegetable wine. Once a home winemaker gave me a bottle of his onion wine, but when he handed it to me he said, “Don’t drink it, use it for marinade.” I took his wine and his good advice.
However, if ever there was a wine to pair with vegetables, Sauvignon Blanc would be the winner. Whether it’s peas, olives, a salad with celery, cucumbers and bell peppers, or even the wine tricky asparagus and artichokes, this is the one!  It’s a touchdown with Ann Vogel’s cauliflower and broccoli recipes.
Sauvignon Blanc’s aromas range from grass, hay, bell pepper, to the citrus grapefruit, lemon zest, green apples, gooseberries and in some soils, lots of minerals. The flavor profile is similar with refreshing, lively acidity that makes this grape so vegetable, fish and cheese friendly.
But Sauvignon Blanc didn’t have an easy childhood in the U.S. The name was a drawback. Then, early in the 1970s, Robert Mondavi, California’s biggest wine promoter, renamed it Fume Blanc. That did the trick, easier to ask for than Sauvignon Blanc, it soon enjoyed enormous success. The 2011 vintage is, according to the website, “a beautiful, Sancerre-like balance of citrusy fruit and herbal flavors – citrus, honeydew, lemon verbena – with cleansing minerality and racy acidity.”
Washington’s Chinook Winery’s Sauvignon Blanc has always been a favorite because of its racy acidity, citrus and herb flavors that pair so well with fish, cheese and vegetables. From their website, this 2012 “medium bodied wine shows a very impressive balance between the generous pear and citrus fruits and the crisp acidity.” Around $18.
A relatively vigorous vine, Sauvignon Blanc adapts easily to different kinds of terrior. As an early ripener, growing in colder climates doesn’t pose too much of a problem. It even does well in warmer regions as its naturally high acidity allows it to retain its zinginess even in warmer areas. However, as any grape variety will tell you if it could talk, bring on the bright sunshine and a dry harvest!
This green skinned grape is widely planted around the world. In France, you’ll find it under the name of regions such as Sancerre, Pouilly Fume, and Quincy from the Loire Valley.  In Bordeaux, Graves, Entre-Deux-Mers and Sauterne are the regions that excel with this grape, however, in these regions, Sauvignon Blanc is almost always blended with Sémillon and occasionally Muscadelle. This is particularly true when making a Sauterne.
Australia’s Margaret River wine region also makes a habit of blending their Sauvignon Blanc with Semillon but this is more in the fashion of the dry white Bordeaux wines.
A decade or so ago, New Zealand burst onto the wine world with this grape as their standard bearer. Today, the wine region of Marlborough at the northern tip New Zealand produces more Sauvignon Blanc than all of France put together.
Other areas where you would find this grape, although not to the extent of France and New Zealand, are Chile, South Africa, and the cool yet sunny alpine slopes of Alto Adige in Italy.
The biggest production of Sauvignon Blanc is the United States. Both California and Washington are big contributors with a smattering from Oregon and Idaho.
And here’s a fun fact for all the I-prefer-red-wine drinkers out there. In 1997, DNA fingerprinting pegged the green skinned Sauvignon Blanc grape as a parent of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape. It’s believed this ‘marriage’ with Cabernet Franc happened in Bordeaux around the 18th Century.
The two Sauvignons have a lot in common: name, point of origin, characteristic bell pepper and herbaceous aromas and flavors, vigorous vines that produce large crops and overly dense canopies.
Both parent and offspring are now two of the most widely planted grape varieties in the wine world.

What wine goes with butternut squash lasagna?

When we first read that this week’s recipe from Ann Vogel would be for lasagna, we immediately went through our mental catalog to seek out a less familiar Italian wine pairing for the traditional Italian dish.

Then we read the recipe.

Hmm. Instead of going the traditional route, Vogel has opted to change things up by substituting the beloved tomato sauce with cubed butternut squash and olive oil. A great fall dish, we agree, but there goes our plan to recommend a Sangiovese.

Instead we’re heading to the white wine category for this recommendation. Our goal is to balance the sweetness of the squash with the savory flavors of the Romano, Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.

We think the perfect wine to do that is a Pinot Grigio. (Hey we have to stick to the Italian theme, don’t we?)

We recommend Robert Mondavi’s Woodbridge Pinot Grigio. The winery says its 2010 vintage does great on its own, but can stand up to food nicely. The varietal originated along Italy’s northern coast, which means it pairs well with seafood and other fresh, light foods.

The Woodbridge Pinot has a citrus finish that the winemaker recommends pairing with Parmesan dishes — another reason why we think it will go with this lighter version of lasagna.

And the best thing about the wine? It’s widely available and will run you $7 or less.

If you’re looking for something a little more expensive — especially if you plan to make this lasagna the centerpiece dish of a harvest dinner for friends — we also recommend picking up a bottle, or two, of Willamette Valley winery Elk Cove Pinto Gris.

This wine is sublime with a crisp citrus palate and full mouthfeel on the finish, allowing it to easily stand up to any dish. It runs about $20 and can be found at the grocery store.