Pairing Tempranillo with Vegetarian Food

What do you do when you want to uncork a red wine with dinner, but red meat isn’t on the menu? The trick is to find a dish with the right bridge ingredients – those that connect the wine with the food. To do this, I recently turned to a recipe from the cookbook, Plenty, by Ottolenghi.

The response to my Instagram post of the pairing surprised me. People near and far chimed in about their appreciation for the cookbook, revealing how extensive a chef’s reach can be. Additionally, wine lovers revealed a thirst for Tempranillo. It served as a wonderful reminder that wine and food bring us closer together.

Instagram Post Food and Wine

A Dish for Tempranillo

I began with the wine, because a friend was joining us for dinner. We had all visited The Walls tasting room together when we traveled to the Celebrate Walla Walla event. The wines we tasted, crafted by talented winemaker Ali Mayfield, were stunning. It was time to uncork one of the wines purchased that day to relive that OMG memory.

Tempranillo has a depth and intensity that pairs well with meat. However, I did not plan to serve meat on this occasion. The vegetarian dish I usually turn to for Tempranillo is Tabbouleh Salad. This time, I wanted something a little more robust. Paging through Plenty, Ottolenghi’s recipe for Farro and Roasted Red Pepper Salad caught my eye. It combines the earthiness of farro, the savoriness of black olives, and the smokiness of paprika to pair like a dream with Tempranillo.

If you like Tempranillo, I urge you to give this pairing a try!

Resources

Learn more about Tempranillo and food pairing.

If you are in Seattle and want to explore wines from The Walls, Walla Walla Wines visit Seattle once a year.

A Tale of Two Carménères

Is there a big difference between Carménère grown in Chile versus Carménère grown in Washington State? I put them to a taste test and was surprised by what I discovered.

Although Washington State is home to roughly 70 varieties, there are not a lot of Carménère vines planted. So when I received a sample bottle of a new release of the variety from Davenport Cellars I couldn’t wait to experience it! I also wanted a point of reference. So I picked up a bottle of Carménère from Chile to see how the two compare.

Washington State vs. Chile

With the first whiff of the ruby red Davenport Cellars wine, one word came to mind. Granted, it’s not something I say in everyday conversation. It is, however, a word emphasized by a sommelier when I participated in an advanced wine sensory class last winter. That word is rotundone. Simply put, it’s a peppery characteristic. In this case, it was present as a pronounced aroma of white pepper. Each delectable sip of this wine confirmed the presence of that spicy compound.

Here’s where things get interesting. When tasting the Chilean Carménère, the first thing I noticed were strong notes of bell pepper. This trait is known as pyrazine, a fancy word for an aroma compound identified by its noticeable vegetal attributes. In fact, Carménère is known for its high level of pyrazines. Sipping this wine was like tasting a bite of veggie pizza with green bell pepper, black olives, tomato sauce, and sprinkled with oregano.

What caught me by surprise was that one wine roused my senses with its vibrant spicy character while the other taunted with an intense green and herbaceous nature. If all Washington State Carménère is this distinctive and lively, I must have more!

It’s not often that I share my tasting notes and opinions of wines. What I taste and experience is just that – my experience. Nevertheless, I hope by sharing this particular tasting it will inspire others to explore Carménère for themselves.

In the interest of full disclosure, I work with Davenport Cellars in Woodinville Wine Country. I have long been a fan of this husband and wife owned winery.

The Wines

Davenport Cellars 2015 Carménère
Available direct from the winery for $30.
This Woodinville based boutique winery produced just 77 cases of this wine crafted with fruit from acclaimed Seven Hills Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley.

Concha y Toro Casillero Del Diablo Carménère 2017
Available online via U.S. retailers for around $8.

If this does encourage you to try Carménère, please share your findings on social either via Twitter or Instagram and #LetsTalkAboutWine!

Want to learn more? A great resource on wine is the latest Wine Folly book.

Pairing Cabernet Franc with Food

Cabernet Franc is one of my red wines of choice when pairing wine with food. Although the red grape is similar to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc is not quite as full-bodied. This makes it a better match for the type of meals I prepare at home. Those meals are often composed of roasted vegetables seasoned with herbs, and void of red meat. With an herbaceous character, and often notes of bell pepper (for you wine geeks, that’s called pyrazine), Cabernet Franc is a wonderful pairing partner.

Food Pairing Cabernet Franc
Herb flecked Farrotto pairs well with Cabernet Franc

Tips for Pairing Cabernet Franc with Food

Match the wine with food using similar or contrasting flavors:
♦ Raspberry ♦ Black Currant ♦ Green Bell Pepper

Use one of these base ingredients:
♦ Beef ♦ Lamb ♦ Game ♦ Duck ♦ Pork ♦ Eggplant

And/or use these bridge ingredients:
♦ Basil ♦ Bay Leaf ♦ Garlic ♦ Rosemary ♦ Oregano
♦ Red Sauce ♦ Roasted Veggies ♦ Mushrooms ♦ Hearty Grains

Use these cooking techniques:
♦ Grilling ♦ Roasting ♦ Stewing

Try dishes such as veggie pizza, herbed farrotto, pasta with hearty red sauce, pepper steak, roasted vegetables, mushroom ravioli, roast pork with fruit sauce.

Paring Cabernet Franc with food isn’t the only way to celebrate this magnificent variety. If you’re a fan of the grape, be sure to mark your calendar! Cabernet Franc Day is on December 4th each year. Many thanks to Dracaena Wines for dedicating a day to this grape.

Celebrate Zinfandel Day

The holiday on my mind right now isn’t Thanksgiving. Believe it or not, it’s Zinfandel Day! Organized by the Zinfandel Advocates Producers (ZAP), the holiday is officially the third Wednesday of November. According to their web site, “Zinfandel Day is a worldwide celebration of the Zinfandel grape variety, intended to give Zinfandel lovers around the globe a platform to express their passion for (the) grape and the wines made from it.”

California Red Wine

There is a lot to celebrate about this grape. Sponsored visits to Lodi, California gave me an opportunity to develop a great appreciation for Old Vine Zinfandel. In part, it’s about gnarly old vines, historical vineyards, and multi-generational family businesses. Not to mention, a bottle of Zinfandel is easier on the wallet than Cabernet Sauvignon. Then there’s the ultimate excuse to uncork a bottle of Zin – it’s easy drinking!

Pairing Zinfandel with Food

Why not celebrate Zinfandel Day with a little wine and food pairing?

Turkey Chili and Zinfandel

Zinfandel is a fruit forward wine that is fantastic with comfort food such as chili, pizza, pasta, and that great classic – meat loaf! Or make a batch of my Berry Barbecue Sauce to complement your favorite protein and glass pour.

food and red wine
What’s not to love about Meatloaf and Zinfandel?

Get Social on #ZinDay

Zinfandel Day is a global experience. So, be sure to follow and contribute to the Zinfandel conversation on social media with the hashtag #ZinDay or #ZinfandelDay. Be sure to tag me, too. I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

Resources

ZAP
St. Amant Winery
Oak Farm Vineyards
Klinker Brick Winery
DeLoach Vineyards

Tips for Celebrating International Tempranillo Day

Wine holidays are a thing, and the second Thursday of November is International Tempranillo Day. If you’re not experienced with Tempranillo, don’t worry. Read on to learn more about the celebration, the wine, and mouthwatering food pairing suggestions.

Tempranillo Day Explained

The first annual International Tempranillo Day was organized in 2011 by the Tempranillo Advocates Producers and Amigos Society (TAPAS) to celebrate the Tempranillo grape. It’s an opportunity for wine lovers to open a bottle of Tempranillo and share the experience online via social media with the hashtag #TempranilloDay or #Tempranillo.

About Tempranillo

Tempranillo, Spain’s top variety, is a full bodied red wine that often has a tobacco like flavor. What I love about Tempranillo is that a great bottle can be procured without breaking the bank. Or, for a bigger spend, a truly stellar wine can be had.

The Tempranillo based wines of Rioja have different tiers providing clues as to how long the wine has been aged. “Crianza” level wine has been aged for at least two years, at least one of which was in oak. A “reserva” has been aged at least three years, with at least one of those in barrel. “Gran reserva” means the wine was aged at least five years, with a minimum of two years in oak.

Recommended Tempranillos

Vivanco Crianza Tempranillo
The smoky nose of this Tempranillo hints at its 16 months of age in French and American oak barrels. This is a wine that offers a taste of red berries, as well as depth and a long finish.

LAN Rioja Reserva
This wine made my list of Top 10 Wines of the 2018 Wine Bloggers Conference.

Force Majeure Estate Tempranillo
There is not a lot of Tempranillo grown in Washington State. Not to mention, the care that goes into the vines and wine by artisan winery, Force Majeure, is staggering. Consequently, this limited production wine carries a higher price tag and may be harder to find. It’s worth it, though. What strikes me most about this wine is that the fruit shines through unmasked by oak. It’s absolutely lovely.

Pairing Tempranillo with Food

Salad for Tempranillo
Super Grains Tabbouleh Salad

Believe it or not, tabbouleh salad makes a fantastic pairing for Tempranillo.

Entertaining doesn’t get much easier than a cheese and charcuterie platter. The mantra, “what grows together goes together” rings true. So, to complement Tempranillo from Spain look for Manchego, a Spanish cheese made with sheep’s milk. Majon, a cow’s milk cheese originating in Majorca is another winning pairing. Include some chorizo, and perhaps some Marcona almonds and you’re all set!

Food for Tempranillo
Paella

In keeping with the Spanish theme, try a Paella Recipe from The Spanish Table.

A great option for vegetarians is the Zucchini Chickpea Tagine recipe from Herbivoracious.

A dish like Arroz con Pollo makes it easy to feed a group. Here’s a recipe from the humorous David Lebovitz, whose site is a treasure trove of recipes and stories.

For a hearty meal Joanne Weir offers a recipe for Spanish Lamb Stew.

Now, choose how you’d like to celebrate. Then, go purchase some Tempranillo or pull a bottle (or more) from the cellar. To maximize the fun, invite friends over for some delectable food and wine. Be sure to photograph it all, and share your experience on social media using the hashtag #TempranilloDay. Tag me, too, so I can see what you come up with!