Up until a few weeks ago I would call myself a complete wine novice. To me, wine has always been just another drink choice. I’ve been sitting here in Sonoma Country, California – wine country – for a year and a half without really understanding what all the fuss was about.
Then a friend took me to wine-tasting that was different. At this tasting, wine was paired with food! It made all the difference in the world for me. The young woman helping us gave me a basic education in wine that got me enthusiastic about learning more.
Here’s what the young woman did to introduce me to wine: she had us take a little sip and carefully, thoughtfully, taste it. Then we took a bite of the food and took another sip of wine. I was surprised! The wine tasted different when paired with food. That did it for me. I had to learn more about how to enhance the taste of food with wine.
I have to tell you the total experience was a pleasure. The quiet farm country, the majestic tasting room. I liked the dark wood cabinets, tables and huge walnut bowls filled with oranges. It was very peaceful.
This whole experience had me heading to the library’s website. I was happy to find a new cookbook written by a local, Sonoma County winemaker, Christine Hanna. The Winemaker Cooks: Menus, Parties, and Pairings by Christine Hanna was just what I needed.
Christine has been involved in her family’s vineyards and gardens since childhood. She is now the president of the winery (Hanna Winery). She’s very knowledgeable when it comes to wine, but she also loves growing and cooking her own food. Her love of food and entertaining is very evident in this book.
Christine organized the book by the four seasons. Within the seasonal sections there are five menus and then recipes follow each menu. The only way I know to describe the type of food in this book is to call it California-wine-country-chef style. It’s all very rich in a healthy way. It’s seasonal, organic, locally grown and raised, and includes wine, both in cooking and paired with food. I’ll give you a sample menu. This is a Summer Weeknight Dinner:
Haricort Verts, Goat Cheese and Watermelon Salad
Grilled California Shrimp Kabobs with Raita
Saffron and Pine Nut Couscous
Sugared Icebox Plums with Basil
And the wine? An aromatic Riesling
The only recipes we’ve tried from the book are the ones for fava beans and for fresh peas and fresh onions. But I have two I want to try this week – Artichoke, Prosciutto, and Chive Frittata as well as the Haricort Verts Salad mentioned above. (Haricort Verts, I’ve learned, are skinny French green beans.)
I liked the talk about food in this cookbook, but I really appreciated the talk about wine. The author took a bunch of questions she’s asked every day, and scattered them throughout the book with the answers. Here are the ones, as a beginner, I found most helpful.
- How do I decipher a wine label?
- How do wines get their color?
- What does it mean when a wine is “corked”?
- How do I pair wine with food?
- How do I store my wine?
For me this was a good book to start me on my new path of understanding the pairing of wine and food. The book was filled with color photographs by Sheri Giblin. Not a picture for every recipe, but so many that I was satisfied. A perfect book to read from beginning to end and then go back and dabble at different menus, dishes and sidebars.
I’m still a wine novice and will probably be one for a while. But now I know how I want to learn more – one bottle at a time. I brought home a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. It was delicious when paired with a light salad of vegetables and rice. The sauce was not too acidic, as that can make the wine taste bitter. See? Lesson one went well.
Tell me about your wine experiences. Novice or connoisseur? Do you have a favorite wine? Do you like to pair wine with food? If so, what is your favorite pairing?
This post is linked to Weekend Cooking, a weekly feature at Beth Fish Reads. Click the button below and it will take you there.