Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Another Simple Solution--and It Involves Pinot Noir

I've found another simple solution to the "what's for dinner?" crisis many of us face at the end of a busy day.

I was intrigued by Mark Bittman's recent recipe in the New York Times for "risotto-style" chicken pasta. What I most liked about it was that it involved one pan, one cutting board, one knife, and a lot of things we always have in the house (chicken in the freezer, mushrooms in the fridge, pasta and chicken broth in the cupboard). Who has time to wash dishes this time of year? And it seemed as though it would be finished--from prep to plate--in around 30 minutes. What's not to like?

As I threw this recipe together, I scanned the wine racks looking for a good bottle of wine to go with it. Rather than recommend a hard-to-find wine, I drew out the 2007 Sebastiani Vineyards & Winery Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast. Regular readers know this is my favorite appellation for US Pinot Noir. Sometimes the wine can be a bit pricey, however. I'm delighted to report that this wine is both affordable ($18!) and easy to find in most markets for $12-$24. This excellent QPR Pinot Noir delivers characteristic Sonoma Coast aromas of cherry, chalk, and a lick of smoke. These lead into a juicy, well-integrated palate of berries, cherries, and chalky minerality and that nice smokiness turns spicy in the aftertaste. This is another excellent food wine, that's versatile and affordable enough to feature on your holiday table, as well as satisfying your everyday wine needs.

(And yes, the risotto-style pasta was excellent--and a perfect partner for this wine, with the earthy mushrooms.)

Full Disclosure: I received this wine as a sample.

Monday, December 07, 2009

In Pursuit of Simplicity: Sauvignon Blanc

The holidays can be a crazy, stressful time. Every now and again, it's good to take a deep breath and simplify where and when you can.

In our house, this means selecting meals that aren't fussy, are built around kitchen staples so they require no last-minute shopping, and that taste comforting.

What's true of the food goes for the wine, as well. And for my money Sauvignon Blanc wins in the simple, elegant, affordable, and tasty sweepstakes.

If you're feeling overwhelmed, plan on making a delicious pot of tomato soup like this excellent version from Michael Chiarello, grilling some cheese sandwiches in a fry pan (we used Fontina cheese to continue the Italian vibe), and then popping the cork on a great Sauvignon Blanc. We had our soup and sandwich feast with the excellent QPR 2008 Frei Brothers Sauvignon Blanc Reserve. ($20; available widely for $14-$20, just hit the "where to buy" button and plug in your zip code!) Made from fruit grown in the Russian River Valley, this tasty, widely-available wine displayed round melon, floral, and orchard fruit notes along with some distinctly zippy grass and herbaceous components. Stylistically, it hit the sweet spot between New Zealand and California bottlings, which only made it more versatile and food friendly.

Full Disclosure: I received this wine as a sample.