Mediterranean Vegetables and Lamb Pasta … with a California Cabernet

Pairing:  Mediterranean Vegetables, Lamb, and Romano Cheese on Penne paired with 2011 Dutcher Crossing Taylor Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Food:  They say (though I’m not exactly sure who) that “necessity is the mother of invention”. And we need to deal with those leftover Mediterranean veggies (cubed and sautéed eggplant, zucchini, tomato, onion and a bit of garlic) and ground lamb … in the back of the fridge  … leftover from different meals enjoyed earlier in the week … before they go bad.  Hmmmm … what to do … ah … throw them all into some pasta. Grate a generous amount of Romano cheese, add some rosemary or thyme, and drizzle with a little olive oil. That was easy!

Pasta with Med Veg

Wine:  True confession … for years, I didn’t like Cabernet Sauvignon. How, you say, could I possibly not like the most widely consumed red wine in the world? Maybe it was my own little rebellion … who knows. Well, a few years back, we were driving through the Dry Creek Valley area of Sonoma wine country north of San Francisco Bay stopping at small, lesser known wineries sampling their wines. Dutcher Crossing winery turned out to be our very favorite. One sip of their Cabernet Sauvignon and I was hooked. It was terrific, and I have been enjoying Dutcher and many other Cabs ever since. What was I thinking? … (sigh) … one of life’s little lessons … don’t give up on a wine … it could surprise you!  Note:  Dutcher Crossing is a small winery and the best way to obtain their wines is directly from them through their website (see below).

Dutcher Taylor Cabernet

Tasting Notes:  On the nose one gets the delicate aroma of black currants similar to the smells you get when reaching into the currant bush while picking the fruit. Not surprisingly, on the palate you encounter a lush combination of fresh black currants combined with black currant jam … what a rush! Very soft tannins and the wine needed little or no decanting. The Cabernet Sauvignon proved to pair particularly nicely with the lamb, eggplant and Romano cheese ingredients of this dish. A worthy way to elevate the sometimes lowly status of leftovers!

Other Food That Pairs Well with Cabernet Sauvignon:  Pizza (made with blue cheese, leeks and chanterelles), Roast or Grilled Lamb, Eggplant Parmesan, Grilled Beef or Lamb Burgers, Steak

Other Wines That Pair Well with This Pasta Dish:  Bandol (Provence), Cote de Rhone (France), GSM (Australia), Cabernet Sauvignon/ Merlot Blend (Australia)

Enjoy the Views of Sonoma Wine Country:  sonoma county

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Two for One … Shrimp Salad and Peach/ Lime Pork each paired with Roero Arneis

Pairing:  (1) Vietnamese-Style Shrimp Salad, and (2) Pork Tenderloin in a Peach/ Lime Sauce, Each Paired with 2013 Cascina Spagnolo Roero Arneis (Italian White)

Food:  There are usually just the two of us home for dinner, and a bottle of wine typically lasts us two nights. So we plan for two meals that each will pair nicely with the same wine. This posting provides an example of this pairing with two very different meals that benefit from the same wine accompaniment.

The first meal is a recipe from Eating Well magazine for Chilled Maine Shrimp with Cabbage and Peanuts, Vietnamese-Style (see link). A most flavorful shrimp salad made with small shrimp, Chinese cabbage, cilantro, rice vinegar, peanut oil, fish sauce, Asian chili sauce, sugar, fresh ginger, shredded carrot, and unsalted peanuts.  A stellar shrimp salad with a conglomerate of bold flavors.

The second meal is simplicity itself. Rub a pork tenderloin with salt and black pepper. Cook on a hot grill pan. Make a basting sauce with peach nectar (or pureed peaches or peach jam/ marmalade) with some lime zest and soy sauce mixed in. Warm up the sauce on the stove, knapp some of the sauce onto the cooking pork. Serve the remaining sauce over the pork slices at the table.

  1. Wine:  The Piedmont wine region of northern Italy is most noted for the Nebbiolo grape, the single grape used in the making of the exquisite Barolo and Barbaresco red wines of the region. However, Arneis is a grape/ white wine that is gaining in popularity after teetering on the brink of extinction in the 1970’s, thanks mostly to the efforts of winemaker Alfredo Currado of the Vietti wine family (“Never doubt that one man can change the world …” – Margaret Mead). Roero has become the center for making the Arneis white wines, gaining such distinction that it is sometimes referred to as the white Barolo.

Roero Arneis Italian White

Tasting Notes:  A pretty pale gold color. The nose is a medley of fruit aromas … peach, melon, and citrus … each sniff bringing another fruit to the forefront.  The palate echoes the same fruits, the melon being ripe cantaloupe. There is a background hint of sweetness to the taste, along with the delight of white flowers. The finish brings back the citrus notes. A lovely pairing with the complex flavors of the Vietnamese-style salad. And the peach and lime flavors of the pork bring out the peach and citrus tones in the wine. Yet another wonderful Italian white wine, both by itself and paired up with good food.

Other Wines That Pair Well with Vietnamese-Style Shrimp Salad:  Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand), Vouvray (Loire Valley), Pinot Gris (Oregon), Unoaked Chardonnay (California), Soave (Italy)

Other Wines That Pair Well with Peach/ Lime Pork:  Chardonnay (California), Gewürztraminer (Alsace), Riesling (Germany), Viognier (Australia)

Other Foods That Pair Well with Roero Arneis:  Crab Salad, Pasta with Seafood, Poached White Fish, Clams

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Grilled Jerk Chicken and Summer Pasta … with Champagne (!?)

Pairing:  Grilled Jerk Chicken and Summertime Pasta Paired with NV Jean-Jaques Lamoureux “Réserve” Brut Champagne

Food:  “Jerk” is a cooking style originating in Jamaica, distinguished by the use of a spicy rub, either a dry rub or a wet marinade. For our Jerk, we combined 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 T brown sugar, 1 tsp each of dried thyme, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, dried garlic, mixed Italian seasonings, black pepper, and salt. Mix together all the ingredients and let the chicken pieces marinate in the mixture for 5 hours, turning occasionally. Grill the chicken over a wood charcoal fire (always best, if available), basting with the marinade. We’ve accompanied the chicken with Jacques Pépin’s Summertime Pasta from his cookbook Fast Food My Way. It’s an easy warm pasta salad made with diced tomatoes, zucchini, and mushrooms Click on the link for the recipe.

Grilled Jerk Chicken and Champage

Wine:  Yet one more example that Champagne pairs well with many, many disparate cuisines from around the world, and … one doesn’t have to be celebrating some special occasion to enjoy a glass of bubbly. Perhaps just enjoying the company of good friends. Lamoureux is a well respected small estate located near the pretty commune of Les Riceys in the far eastern part of the Champagne wine region, not far from the northern border of the Burgundy region. Lamoureux is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes, mostly from the 2011 vintage blended with grapes from the 2009 and 2010 vintages.  Champagne is best described as a cool-climate region. Indeed it is among the most northerly wine regions in the world. And Pinot Noir thrives in this climate and soil.

Champagne Lamoureux

Tasting Notes:  Fine, persistent strings of bubbles in this lovely, straw-colored wine. The nose is dominated by a wonderful sweet, fresh apricot aroma. The flavors of ripe peaches and cantaloupe linger in sip after sip of this nose-tingling sparkler. The biscuit-y, creamy taste of the wine reminds one of eating fresh peach scones. Absolutely delicious. And the long, lingering finish leaves one with, once again, the taste of apricots. These fruit flavors, along with the tactile sensations created by the bubbles, play off beautifully with the spiciness of the jerk chicken. You’ve got to try this combination!

Another Surprise:  To further emphasize the point that Champagne goes with many unexpected foods … we drank the leftover Champagne on Memorial Day with our traditional meal of hot dogs roasted over an open fire, baked beans, and cole slaw. A perfect pairing!

Other Wines that Pair Well with Jerked Chicken:  Cava (Spain), Prosecco (Italy), Gewürztraminer (Alsace), Chardonnay (California), Dry Rosé

Other Food that Pairs Well with Champagne:  Smoked Salmon, Raw Oysters, Sushi, Lobster, Egg Dishes

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Grilled Tuna with Peach Salsa … and a Yarra Valley Pinot Noir

Pairing:  Grilled Fresh Tuna with Peach Salsa Paired with 2012 Innocent Bystander Pinot Noir

Food:  Simple, simple, simple … fire up the grill or grill pan, marinate the tuna steaks in a little olive oil, salt and pepper, unscrew a jar of your favorite salsa (we like Newman’s Own), add a few slices of peaches to the salsa, grill the tuna, spoon on the salsa … done! Life is so nice when meals this delicious can be made so easily.

Grilled Tuna and Peach Salsa

Wine:  The Yarra Valley wine region is located east of the city of Melbourne in the southeastern corner of Australia in the state of Victoria. Pinot Noir grapes thrive in this cooler climate region of “Down Under”, and the region produces fine examples of New World (more fruit, less restrained) Pinot Noir. And, what an interesting name for a winery … Innocent Bystander. One can only speculate the reasoning behind the name.

A Note about pairing red wine with seafood:  With few exceptions, the lighter, more delicate nature of fish and shellfish is best paired with a white wine. The tannins in red wine will usually overwhelm seafood. However, there are fish that have a more assertive, richer flavor (e.g., tuna, salmon, swordfish, bluefish) that actually go very well with red wines, at least those with little or lighter tannins. Pinot Noir is among the best pairing for such seafood, but there are other possibilities (see below).

Innocent Bystander

Tasting Notes:  A pale red color with some blue tints (very pretty). Bright cherry fruit is the focal point of the nose. Cherry with a little earth and leather are the classic Pinot Noir flavors here. The depth of flavor of the grilled tuna and the spiciness of the salsa play off nicely against the fruit and leather tastes of the wine. And the clean sweetness of the peaches adds a brilliant complementary note. The finish is endless and very pleasant.

Other Red Wines That Pair Well with Grilled Tuna:  Grenache (Spain), GSM (Australia), Côtes du Rhône (France), Merlot (Italy), Cannonau (Sardinia)

Other Seafood That Pairs Well with Pinot Noir:  Salmon, Bluefish or Swordfish (Grilled or Broiled), Halibut with a Rich Mushroom Sauce, Salmon Pâté served with Assorted Soft Cheeses (e.g., Brie, Camembert) and a Baguette

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Two-Cheese Pasta … with Chianti Classico

Pairing:  Two-Cheese Pasta Paired With 2010 Il Grigio da San Felice Chianti Classico Gran Selezione

Food:  This dish’s full name is Penne with Tomatoes, Olives and Two Cheeses and first appeared in Bon Appetit magazine back in the late 70’s. It has been a favorite of ours for many, many years. The spiciness of the red hot pepper flakes, the saltiness of the brine-cured olives, and the creamy, out-of-the-ordinary flavor of the Havarti cheese all add up to a tasty and unique pasta-eating experience. And those flavors combine exceptionally well with the more traditional pasta ingredients of basil, garlic and parmesan cheese.

Three Cheese Pasta with Chianti Classico

Wine:  Chianti Classico is the longest established viticultural region in Chianti and part of the larger wine region called Tuscany.  The vineyards of Chianti Classico cover almost all of the land between the cities of Florence and Siena. And Sangiovese is the star of these vineyards. It is an iconic landscape recognizable to most anyone even with little more than a passing knowledge of Italy.  This area is the quintessential Italy. This San Felice blend is 80% Sangiovese and 20% other native grapes.

Il Grigio Chianti

Tasting Notes:  A dark, ruby red color. On the nose one gets a fragrant assortment of spices … mace, nutmeg and vanilla. A rich, diverse palette of flavors including sweet earth, chocolate and several layers of fruits … plum, black raspberry, and fig all wrapped in exquisite vanilla. And a warm, lingering finish of chocolate fig … is there such a flavor? Luscious … this is one of the finest Chianti Classicos we have ever tasted! The wine complements the two cheeses, and the olives bring out the sweet earth notes of the wine.

Other Foods That Pair Well with Chianti Classico:  Bolognese (Pasta with Meat Sauce), Pizza, Grilled Lamb or Steak, Lasagna

Other Wines That Pair Well with Two-Cheese Pasta:  Barbera, Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Rioja

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Grilled Chicken … with a Chardonnay From a Napa Valley Legend

Pairing:  Wood Charcoal Grilled Chicken paired with a 2011 Grgich Hills Estate Napa Valley Chardonnay

Food:  Everyone has a favorite grilled chicken recipe they can’t wait to use as winter lets go and the weather starts getting warmer (and the black flies starting swarming!). For years, our go-to recipe for the marinade-basting sauce was composed of olive oil, ketchup, maple syrup, worcestershire sauce, and chili powder. Good stuff … great with a Zinfandel. A few years ago, however, our younger son turned us on to an entirely different take on grilled chicken with a recipe he invented from bits and pieces found on the internet and through his own experimentation. A chip off the old block!

He combines 2 minced cloves of garlic, 1 T chopped fresh ginger, 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, 2 T canola oil, 1 T honey, and 6 T fresh lime juice (3 limes). Mix thoroughly and marinate the pieces of chicken (about 3 and 1/2 pounds) for about 5 hrs in the mixture, turning occasionally. Grill over a wood charcoal fire for best results. Fantastic! Works really well with pork, too. Serve it with your favorite potato salad and coleslaw.

Grilled Chicken

Wine:  The Grgich name is legendary in the annals of California winemaking. Mijenko “Mike” Grgich crafted the Chardonnay that won “The Judgment of Paris“, the famous France vs California wine competition held in 1976. The results of this blind tasting done by an all-French panel of wine experts elevated the then little appreciated California wine industry to the world-class status it holds today. Grgich Hills continues this tradition of crafting fine wines with this exceptional 2011 Chardonnay from the Napa Valley.

Grgich Hills Chardonnay

Tasting Notes:  A pretty golden-colored wine with a slightly greenish tint. The sweet smell of ripe cantaloupe melon infused with honeysuckle nectar. One could be content just smelling this lovely wine, but do taste it. The combined flavors of ripe melon and peaches, with a “squirt” of lime juice. I kid you not! The lime notes of both the chicken and the wine all spin together into a marvelous dining experience. Outstanding!

Other Wines That Pair Well with This Grilled Chicken: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Sparkling Wine, Dry Riesling

Other Food That Pairs Well with Grgich Chardonnay:  Crab Dishes, Mushroom Risotto, Grilled Swordfish or Halibut or Salmon

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Scalloped Oysters … with a South African Rose

Pairing:  Sunny Acres Scalloped Oysters Paired with 2014 Big Flower Rosé

Food: A couple of interesting things about this meal. First, this recipe for Scalloped Oysters dates back to the early 1900’s. It is from Haydn Pearson’s 1953 Country Flavor Cookbook. In the book, Pearson fondly remembers his boyhood and this delicious oyster dish his mother made with butter, cream, and cracker crumbs. The link to the recipe is here.

Secondly, the raw oysters used for this dish (Merry Oysters from Duxbury, MA and Wiley Point Oysters from Damariscotta, ME) were bought fresh at Sanders Fish Market in January, and put into our freezer, unopened, still raw in their shells. Three months later, we removed them from the freezer, partially thawed them, shucked them and used the fresh oyster meat and liquid to make the recipe. Talk about an easy preservation method! We’ve also eaten them raw this way … taste just like fresh raw oysters!

Scallopped Oysters

Wine:  Big Flower is a tiny winery (only 13 acres) located in the breathtakingly gorgeous Stellenbosch region of South Africa. They make a lovely rosé from a very unusual combination of grapes … 2/3 Petit Verdot and 1/3 Chenin Blanc. Petit Verdot is an ancient variety believed to have been planted by the early Romans in the area of Bordeaux. For many years, it was a principal component of red Bordeaux wine … until the vineyards were almost wiped out by the phylloxera blight in the late 1800’s. Today, it is but a minor element in Bordeaux wine, almost exclusively in the Medoc region of Bordeaux. Of late, winemakers in different parts of the world (e.g., California) are experimenting with Petit Verdot as a single varietal wine instead of just a blending wine. Chenin Blanc is a widely grown grape in South Africa, indeed it is one of the signature wines of that country. The innovative combination of these two grapes in the Big Flower rosé is dynamite!

Big Flower Rose

Tasting Notes:  A beautiful salmon-colored rosé wine. A hint of strawberry on the nose, and a delicate flavor of strawberry and blueberry combined with some bright, pleasant acidity make for a delightful dry wine. Really goes well with the buttery taste of the scalloped oysters.

Other Wines That Pair Well with Scalloped Oysters:  Chardonnay (California), Champagne, Châteauneuf-du-Pape (white), Chablis (France)

Other Foods That Pair Well with Rosé:  Crab Salad, Grilled Shrimp, Tuna Salad, Green Salad, Pâté

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