Cheers To You

An exploration of all things wine with local wine expert Mary Earl.
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Posts Tagged ‘Waterbrook’

Stuffed baked squash recipe and wine recommendation

Friday, November 9th, 2012

Brynn writes:

One of my favorite dishes growing up was baked squash, its insides spilling out the top and brown sugar bubbling around the rim.

To be honest I don’t remember what my dad filled the squash with except for bacon and brown sugar. I know there were other ingredients but when you’re a kid nothing else matters when bacon or brown sugar are involved.

Fast forward 20-some years and now I wear the chef hat. Every year around this time I’m intrigued by the abundance of squash spilling from the produce section at the grocery store. Retreating to my childhood memories of this delicious fall treat, I always think I should dig up my dad’s recipes and create new mealtime traditions for my family.

I finally followed through on the idea this year. I didn’t dig up my dad’s recipes, but instead created my own. My first experiment was with Acorn squash. I filled the shells with a mixture of the softened baked squash, bacon, sauteed onions, mushrooms, garlic, shredded Parmesan cheese and Panko bread crumbs seasoned with Parmesan and Italian herbs.

I recently repeated this recipe, this time opting for Butternut squash.

Both were huge hits with my husband, who at first made a face when I told him I wanted to make squash for dinner. (Our little guy, who is just starting out on solids, happens to love pureed white Acorn squash, so while he’s not eating the tasty filling, he is sharing the squash).

There’s just something about pulling a baked squash from the oven that screams Fall, so with that in mind I wanted to share my recipe to help shepherd in the new season. Below the recipe are our wine recommendations to pair with this dish.

*I should note, when I cook I don’t follow measurements, I eyeball what I’m doing. The below measurements are my estimates, feel free to tweak them to fit your tastebuds.*

Stuffed Baked Squash
(makes 2 healthy servings)

  • 1 Acorn squash (or 1 Butternut squash)
  • A dozen small portobella mushrooms (or crimini mushrooms), sliced
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 8 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped
  • 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs (I buy the Italian Herb/Parmesan blend)
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Slice squash in half the long way. (If using Butternut squash, slice long way, then slice in half — creates four servings). Scrape out seeds and strings. Place squash on baking sheet cut side up. Brush with olive oil. Cover with foil and bake for 20 to 25 minutes (you may need more time on the Butternut squash).
  • While squash bakes, cook bacon using package directions, set aside on paper towel. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and saute until lightly brown. Add mushrooms, stirring regularly. Saute mushrooms until soft, adding garlic at the very end. Saute until garlic is fragrant. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Chop bacon and add to mushroom/onion mixture; add Panko crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Set aside.
  • Once squash is done (it should be tender to touch and easy to scoop with a spoon), set aside to cool slightly. Scoop out squash, leaving 3/8 inch thickness around shells. Add squash to stuffing mixture, try not to break up pulp. Scoop stuffing back into shells. Dot with butter.
  • Bake at 375 uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes, or until top is brown and crusty.

Wine Recommendations:

We have three wine suggestions to go with this dish. I can’t remember what we drank when we had the acorn squash, but we drank a 2007 Bordeaux with the Butternut squash. Unfortunately the Bordeaux didn’t stand up well to the dish. I was looking for something with a little more weight and I think the age on this wine kept it subdued, leaving me wanting more.

Next time around I’ll try a Chardonnay, which with a flavor profile of tropical fruit and buttery texture will pair nicely with the herbaceous mushrooms, bacon, onion and Parm.

Washington makes some wonderful Chards. Here are three favorites in three different price ranges:

Abeja: Simply the best. Winemaker John Abbott has a lot of experience with this grape. First at Napa Valley’s Pine Ridge winery and then Acacia and then Walla Walla’s Canoe Ridge. This wine is made to pair with food with its balance, rich buttery texture, crisp apple and lush tropical fruit flavors and genuine burgundy barrlels to age it in. (Around $30)

Rulo: The Schlickers are another transplant from California to Walla Walla. Their chardonnays are barrel fermented with minimum of oak but lots of butter, ripe pears and a nice bit of spice. Unfortunately the winery is sold out of its 2010 Chardonnay, but keep an eye out for it in the store. Otherwise wait for the release of their 2011 Chardonnay next fall.

Waterbrook: Founded in 1984, Waterbrook was the fourth winery in Walla Walla. It has always been a value brand, but don’t let that trick you into thinking the wines are just so-so. Waterbrook has always made scrumptious chardonnays, and they’re easy to find at the grocery store. The 2010 chardonnay won a Gold at the 2012 Seattle Wine Awards. It retails around $10.


A look at Walla Walla wines

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Mary writes:

March, as we’ve been saying, is Washington Wine Month. And as such, we’re going to tour Washington’s American Viticultural Areas and highlight some of their wines.

For starters we’ll look at Walla Walla, which has more than 100 wineries. Many of those wineries came to Seattle last week to help us “Westerners” get to know them.

But first a little background.

Grapes and wine were an important part of the Walla Walla economy in the wine industry’s early years. It was “an established fact that grapes, of all kinds, do well here…” according to an editorial in a local newspaper from the time.

Walla Walla was first planted to vines by French Canadians around 1859. And by 1861, two large nurseries with European vinifera grape wines and more were selling their wares around the area. Homemade wine got those pioneers through some rough spots. By the early 1900s, Italians had established their gardens, orchards and vineyards — and they made more wine, lots more wine.

Walla Walla became known to the outside world in 1977 when Leonetti Cellar opened its doors. At the time Leonetti was part of the Columbia Valley AVA, but that all changed in 1984 when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives recognized Walla Walla as a unique wine growing region. As a result it became the third AVA in the state.

There were only four wineries and 60 acres of vineyards in Walla Walla when the designation was made. Today the wineries are still around and as such are considered veterans in the Washington wine world. They include L’Ecole, Leonetti, Waterbrook and Woodward Canyon Winery.

Today there are more than 100 wineries and 1,800 acres of vineyards nestled between the acres of wheat, alfalfa and onions.

As the editorial stated, the climate and soil in Walla Walla are suited to vineyards. The northerly latitude guarantees a long summer growing season with the sun rising around 5 a.m. and setting around 9 p.m. That’s 16 hours of sunshine a day. And then there are those cool nights, cool enough to retain the natural acidity of the grapes.

The Walla Walla AVA is planted predominately in red wine vines. At a recent tasting of Walla Walla wines in Seattle, of the 55 wineries that brought 230 wines to taste, only 30 were whites. Clearly Walla Walla is a red wine lover’s paradise.

While they may have been in the minority at the recent tasting, there were a few whites that rose to the top that were worth noting. Locati Cellars’ 2010 dry Orange Muscat was one of those.

The wine had the telltale Muscat aromatic nose and fruity flavors, but it was very different from a semi-sparkling style; this one was dry with an alcohol content of 14.9 percent.

Another notable winery was Sapolil Cellars, which is a relative newcomer to the wine world with a blend of viognier, pinot grigio, chardonnay and Chenin Blanc.

The most affordable, approachable and delicious white wine was the Waterbrook chardonnay. And why not? They’ve been around since 1984, they have the experience and their vineyards are mature.

As for the reds, Dusted Valley Vintners’ 2009 Columbia Valley Petite Sirah was a gorgeous wine with a meaty aroma, dark fruit flavors and a smooth velvety mouthfeel. The winemaker also told me that they use Wisconsin oak. Interesting.

Another unusual red was the Gifford Hirlinger 2008 Walla Walla Valley Estate Petite Verdot. This is unusual because this grape is traditionally used as a blending grape and not a standalone. But I was impressed with the rich fruit aromas and flavors.

Kontos Cellars’ 2008 Walla Walla Cabernet rated a V.G., as did the Otis Kenyon 2008 Cab and the Waters Winery 2008 Columbia Valley Cab, which is stunning and approachable right now.

If you haven’t already tried some of the wines coming out of Walla Walla (chances are you have), or if you’re looking for something new, give anyone of these a try, they’re worth it.

Cheers!


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