Sunday, February 24, 2013

Open That Bottle Night #OTBN Food and Wine Highlights

Saving a great bottle of wine for that special occasion that still hasn't rolled around? Well, Open That Bottle Night (OTBN) can be that occasion! Always the fourth Saturday of February, I've enjoyed observing this tradition for several years now. This time, the rest of my family was out of town for the weekend, so organizing an OTBN gathering seemed like a fun way to keep myself busy in their absence.

As you can see, my friends and I assembled and sampled quite a lineup of wines! But of course, any time we start talking about enjoying wine, food needs to be in the conversation. My preparation for the day started on Friday, getting the beef marinading for stew the next day.
My friend John had a conflict on the official OTBN, so he offered to stop by with some OTBN worthy wines on Friday as I was getting things ready for the next day.

The 2009 Charles Krug Reserve Cabernet and the 2006 Chateau Pontet-Fumet made for a great start to the wine-focused weekend! The incredible silky mouthfeel of the Krug sticks with me 2 days and quite a few bottles later. John also brought some serious steaks over to go with the serious wine...
Friday was a great start to the weekend of wine and food fun. Saturday I got busy early browning the beef and getting the stew going.
Then it was time for the guests to arrive...armed with great food and wine! For starters, we enjoyed this pork tinga, a very tasty Mexican pork dish served homemade chips.

And an onion and jalapeno pizza with some nice kick!

It wasn't a true OTBN wine, but when I tasted the 2010 Mas Cristine Blanc Roussillon blend earlier that day at Pairings, I correctly thought it would work with some spicy apps. That was followed by a 2011 Maison Louis Latour Poiully-Fuissé, another tasty white that worked well with the pate and cheeses. I also made some Muhammarra (spicy red pepper dip) for the early nibbles. Then it was on to some salad--needed to get some greens with all the rich foods!

My aim was to use the walnuts and parm cheese in the salad to help it stand up to the reds I correctly suspected we'd be into at that point of the evening. One of my favorites of the evening was opened around this time...
I'm partial to wines that come with a story. New friends Deshea and George talked of their visit to Sonoma, and their trials and tribulations getting some of their wine discoveries shipped home. Fortunately they managed to get this 2006 Hartford Sonoma Coast Syrah out of California, as it was a great wine. They'd held it in their cellar for a few years, and I'd say it had reached optimal drinking state. Nice berry fruit and a long finish. Yum! Such big wines whet our appetites for some beef!
If memory serves, the Syrah was followed by a big Napa wine, the 2010 Uppercut Cabernet Sauvignon. My friend Praveen had first tried this at Capital Grille, and correctly thought this would be a great contribution to the evening. It's a big, tannic cab that definitely stood up to the beef. This was the only one we decanted, as it's clearly a young wine that could be put down for several years. We still had room for one more big red after the Uppercut...

The 2009 Echo de Lynch Bages is a cab dominated Bordeaux. This was my official OTBN bottle. I'd received it for Christmas, and had heard good things about was waiting for just the right meal to have it with. I picked the beef stew for the night with this wine in mind! Wines put off can sometimes build up expectations unrealistically high, but this one did not disappoint. Definitely give this a try if you get a chance!

There was one more OTBN contribution to go with dessert.

The 2004 Iron Horse Sparkling Wine from the Russian River Valley stood up nicely to a bit of aging. Clean, crisp and just a touch of sweetness, a perfect finish to the evening!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Indian Food Paired with Bulgarian Wine

Indian food paired with Bulgarian wine, everyone's go to combination, right? Well, seeing as my post on Pairing Wine with Indian Food written way back in 2006 is still consistently one of my most viewed posts, I know there's a a lot of interest in the subject. So when I'm enjoying Indian food, I am also on the lookout for good wines to go with it. In the process, I've even found a red wine I enjoyed with Indian fare. But this time, it was back to white.

This pairing started with the wine. Earlier this year, Pairings Wine and Food has a tasting focusing on "interesting" wines that exposed us to new regions and countries, including wines from Georgia and the Ukraine. But it was the Bulgarian Targovishte Muscat Ottonel that piqued my interest the. At the tasting, I noted this wine worked well with pineapple chipotle salsa, so I thought I'd get a bottle to try with some Indian cuisine.

Last week we had a chance to test out the pairing. Our family, led by our 7 year old who loves mango juice and "Indian bread", headed for the Ambassador Indian restaurant in Woburn, which allows you to bring your own wine. We ordered a chicken curry and aloo palak (potatoes in a creamy spinach sauce). The Muscat Ottonel featured pear fruit, and a bit of minerality in the backdrop. I'd describe it as medium bodied, a nice balance for the food. Though it is labeled as a "dry" white, I tasted a bit of sweetness that was refreshing with the spices in the food.

I didn't know much about Bulgarian wine or Muscat Ottonel before trying this. Apparently this grape is one of many varieties of Muscat, often used in dessert wines in countries such as Austria. This dry verson comes from the Targovishte winery located in Bulgarian's Black Sea region. And most importantly for this blogger, it pairs well with Indian food!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Sauvignon Blanc Pairing: Pasta with Chicken, Goat Cheese and Peppers

I eagerly broke open the package from SIP Certified on Monday, and found my pairing challenge awaiting me. I'd received a bottle of 2011 Castoro Cellars Sauvignon Blanc, and my goal was to come up with a good dish to serve with it...and to be ready to tweet about it for this past Wednesday's #WineChat. Pesto is the food I enjoy most often with Sauv Blanc, but we'd just finished a batch of that favorite. So I did a little research to get ideas for good pairings, and found this helpful article. White meat or fish, and leafy green herbs were highlighted as good matches for the crisp edge of this grape. I would up combining many of the suggested ingredients for this tasty Orechiette with Chicken, Peppers & Goat Cheese. We were pleased with the results!

Now, before the recipe details, a bit of context on SIP Certified. This week's #WineChat gave us a chance to learn about the comprehensive standards for sustainability that SIP, (short for "Sustainability in Practice") promotes. We chatted about how the healthy vineyards produced through these practices leads to great fruit...and of course, that is much of what makes great wine. Dozens of California wineries are SIP Certified, and the folks tweeting their tasting notes during WineChat were clearly pleased with the wines coming out of these vineyards. So, if you're looking for a quality wine you can feel good about enjoying, give one with the SIP certification a try! Now, on to that recipe...

1 spring onion, white and light green portion w a bit of the darker green, chopped *see note
1 red bell pepper
1 or 2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp. fresh basil, julienned
2 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 heaping tsp capers
2 tbsp white wine
3 ozs goat cheese
2 chicken breast fillets,  (a bit under a pound) sliced crosswise to create strips of 1/2 inch thick
3 tbsp olive oil
12 ozs orechiette or other short pasta shape

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add the onions, saute until it begins to soften, then add the red bell pepper. Cook another 5 minutes so the pepper begins to soften.  Add the garlic, cook for another minute. Push the vegetables to the edge of the pan, then add another tbsp olive oil to the center of the pan. Add the chicken to the center, cook until the outside is mostly white. Add the wine and 1 tbsp basil, stir to combine the chicken with the veggies, and cover the pan. Cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes, stir occasionally.

Meanwhile, start a pot of water to boil for the pasta as you begin cooking the veggies. Add the pasta around the same time you add the chicken to the pan. Cook al dente according to package instructions. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water. Drain the pasta, and stir in the chicken and veggie mixture, along with the cheese, lemon juice, capers and remaining basil and 1 tbsp olive oil. Add a bit of the cooking water to help the cheese and veggies meld together, if needed.

Wine Pairing: The 2011 Castoro Cellars Sauvignon Blanc has a light straw color. I got a bit of hibiscus on the nose, and the taste is fresh and lively. I detected kiwi, lemon and a touch of pepper. This picked up the lemon, herbs and onion in the dish nicely. I'd say we got this pairing done right, if I do say so myself! According to the Castoro website, this is their first year producing Sauv Blanc, and I'd say the did quite well.   There's a bit of Gewurztraminer blended in, which gave I'd say gave it just a touch of spice. A good value at around $15.

Note: Spring onions are young sweet onions available toward the latter part of winter and into the spring. I like to use them during the season as a reminder that winter is on the wane. You can use the small bulb as well as the green that grows out of it. But if those aren't available, substitute Vidalia or other sweet onion.

Full disclosure: I received a complimentary bottle of the wine from SIP to sample. The opinions and recipes here are entirely my own!