Thai Shrimp Soup … with an Australian “White Bordeaux”(!?)

Pairing:  Thai Shrimp and Noodle Soup Paired with a 2014 Cape Mentelle Sauvignon Blanc/ Semillon (White Bordeaux-Style Blend)

Food:  This soup is my wife’s creation, having adapted parts of it from a few different recipes. It is made with 2 oz of rice vermicelli, 4 chopped scallions, 2 cups of chicken stock, 1 T fish sauce, 2 T fresh lime juice, 2 tsp sugar, 6 oz raw shrimp coarsely chopped, 4 oz grated carrot, 2 cups raw spinach (coarsely chopped), and 2 tsp Green Curry Paste. Serves two generously. Spicy, complex, healthy!

Thai Soup

Wine:  For this meal, we return to one of my favorite wine regions, Western Australia, for another of their terrific wines … this time we’ll try a white blend of Sauvignon Blanc (55%) and Semillon (45%). Some refer to this wine as a “White Bordeaux-style” or SSB wine because its composition mimics the legendary white wine of the Bordeaux wine region of France. The Cape Mentelle winery was one of the first to be established in the Margaret River region of Western Australia, and is widely regarded as one of the best.

Cape Mentelle

Tasting Notes:  A lovely color of pale straw with a hint of green. Clean and fresh aromas of linen drying in a spring breeze, along with green melon and white flowers. The palate continues the tastes of green melon, along with clover and honeysuckle. Absolutely delicious! The cool, clean, crisp qualities of the wine complement beautifully the warm flavor of the Green Curry Paste and the cool, fresh spiciness of the lime juice and fish sauce in the soup. Yet another great example of pairing something spicy with a clean, fresh-tasting wine. Bravo!

Other Wines That Pair Well with Thai Shrimp Soup:  Gewürztraminer (Alsace), Riesling (Germany), Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand), Chenin Blanc (South Africa)

Other Food That Pairs Well with a White Bordeaux-style Wine:  Grilled White Fish, Scallops, Lobster, Goat Cheese, Oysters, Crab Cakes

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Easter Ham … with a Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel

Pairing:  Baked Ham Paired with 2012 Dutcher Crossing Proprietor’s Reserve Zinfandel (Dry Creek Valley)

Food:  If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that our family is big on traditions when it comes to food. So, every Easter, we celebrate the day with friends and the traditional Easter meal of our family … baked ham, pineapple, popovers, potatoes gratin Dauphinois, asparagus, and lemon meringue pie. Served … always … with Zinfandel. Each person has a favorite part of this holiday meal … some say it’s the ham centerpiece with the mustard and brown sugar-crusted topping … others can’t get enough of the over-the-top gratin Dauphinois with it’s thinly-sliced potatoes baked in a cream, butter, and Gruyère cheese sauce. For me, though, it wouldn’t be Easter without  our giant, puffed up 6-inch popovers. My … oh my!

Easter Dinner with Zin

Wine:  Although Pinot Noir is the most widely recognized pairing for baked ham, we have found that the slight sweetness and spicy flavors of Zinfandel is a perfect foil to the salty ham with its mustard/ brown sugar topping. Although Zinfandel traces its origins back to Croatia and is the same grape used to make Primitivo wine in Italy, the vast majority of Zinfandel in the world today is grown in California. And in California, many are convinced that the best Zinfandel comes from the Sonoma region. Our favorite Zinfandel  is produced in the beautiful Dry Creek Valley area of Sonoma. This Zinfandel made by Dutcher Crossing is blended with a bit (13%) of Petite Sirah.

Dutcher Crossing Zin 2012

Tasting Notes: One really gets the spices of mace, allspice and vanilla notes on both the nose and the palate. The flavors of blackberry jam and leather also emerge along with some earthiness resulting from the inclusion of a little Petite Sirah in the blend. And there’s just enough fine tannins to result in good balance in the wine so as not to be too “fruity”. This is yet another example of a wine that goes well with several elements of the meal … the salty/ sweet ham, the cheesy potatoes and the buttery popovers in particular. Even, surprisingly, the pineapple soaked in kirschwasser.

Other Wines That Pair Well with Baked Ham:  Pinot Noir, Beaujolais, Riesling, Rose (Dry), Sparkling Wine

Other Food That Pairs Well with Zinfandel:  Barbecued Meats and Chicken, Cheeseburgers (with Blue Cheese), Duck, Lamb, Mushrooms, Pizza, Turkey

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Greek Moussaka … with a Lebanese Red Wine

Pairing: Greek Moussaka Paired with 2009 Chateau Musar “Hochar Père et Fils” Red Blend Bekaa Valley

Food:  Our Greek Moussaka is based on recipes found in cookbooks from the 60’s and 70’s, Foods of the World: Middle Eastern Cooking and The Four Seasons Cookbook. It is made with layers of cooked sliced eggplant, cooked ground lamb, tomato sauce, onion, garlic, oregano, and cinnamon. Assemble in a casserole dish and top with a white sauce made with milk, butter, egg, and grated mozzarella and feta cheese. Bake at 400F for 15 minutes until brown on top. The internet has lots of recipes if you don’t have access to either of these cookbooks.

Mousaka with Hockar Wine

Wine:  Lebanon is one of the oldest wine growing regions in the world. The ancestors of the Hochar family settled in the high elevation Bekaa Valley (1000 m elevation) long ago … in the 12th Century. Viniculture in this region dates back a bit further … about 5,000 years! The Hochar Père et Fils combines Cinsault (50%), Grenache (30%), Cabernet Sauvignon (10%), and Carignan (10%) to create an exceptional red blend of familiar grapes but with a decidedly different taste … probably due to the unusual inclusion of Cabernet Sauvignon into a blend most associated with the Southern Rhone region of France (i.e., Côte du Rhône). The current vineyard that the Hochar family tends is over 60 years old. It is inspiring that significant winemaking has endured in this war torn nation.

Hochar Lebanese Red Wine

Tasting Notes:  What a terrific wine! Complex aromas of earth, smoke, blackcurrant, blackberry, and blueberry. And flavors of fresh earth, leather, hedgerow jam, plum, dates, and wonderful dried figs. Wow! A terrific, big, mouth-filling red wine that complements beautifully the lamb, cheeses, eggplant, oregano, and cinnamon of the moussaka.

Other Foods That Pair Well with the Hochar Red:  Roast Lamb, Eggplant Dishes, Game, Root Vegetable Stews, Ratatouille

Other Wines That Pair Well with Moussaka:  Rioja (Spain), Chianti (Italy), Côte du Rhône (France), Greek Wines (e.g., Roditys, Nemea)

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Pizza … Paired with a Spanish Jumilla

Pairing:  Napoletana Pizza Paired with a 2011 Bodegas el Nido “Clio” Jumilla

Food:  Homemade pizza is a staple in our household … we have it almost every Saturday night. So you will see pizza on this blog a few times a year, but the pizza will have different toppings, sometimes made with different crusts, and paired with a variety of wines. The crust for this particular pizza (and the one we use most frequently) is from Peter Reinhart’s wonderful cookbook American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza. It is his recipe for Napoletana Pizza Dough made with no oil or sugar, only all-purpose flour, salt, yeast, and cool water. My wife makes one recipe’s worth of dough, enough for six personal size pizza (about 8 to 10 inches each), rolls up 6 balls of the dough, two for that night’s dinner and freezes the four remaining balls for use on the following two Saturdays.  The topping is just a simple tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, Italian herbs, pepperoni, and green peppers. I like a generous shake of red pepper flakes with mine. Close your eyes … you’re in Naples!

Pizza with Spanish Red

Wine:  So … I know what you’re thinking … pair this pizza with a nice Italian red wine. Barbara, Chianti Classico, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo … all great choices. But let’s get a little adventuresome. We’ll leave Italy and and seek out something promising in nearby Spain. The “Clio” is a big, powerful wine made from 70% Monastrell (Mourvèdre) grapes and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon grown in the Jumilla wine region, a small region on the Mediterranean coast of southeastern Spain.

Clio Jumilla Spain

Tasting Notes:  A deep, almost black, cherry red in color. A word that comes to mind in describing its look is “brooding”. The aromas don’t disappoint … bold black cherry, leather and earth.  The flavors carry that same theme of earthiness, leather and jam, with a touch of cedar and expresso. Though clearly a bold-flavored wine, it has a surprising element of lightness to it. Really works well with the tomato, pepperoni and green pepper of the pizza. Wow!

Other Food That Pairs Well with This “Clio”:  Pasta with Meat Sauce, Sausage, Cheeseburgers (especially with Blue Cheese), Osso Bucco

Other Wines That Pair Well with This Pizza:  (since we’ve already identified some great Italian wines, let’s continue our travels outside Italy) Côte du Rhône (France), Merlot (California), Malbec (Argentina), Shiraz (Australia)

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