Eat your veggies, drink your wine
One of the great joys of spring for me, right up there with the green leaves and flowers and the fact that it's not cold, is the sudden profusion of really delicious, fresh locally grown vegetables.
Oh, sure, it'll be a while yet before garden tomatoes, eggplant and corn are in (not to mention peaches and strawberries and other such good things).
But crisp fresh spears of asparagus, tender young spinach and a wild variety of spring field lettuce is enough to light up a smile ... and to inspire a hunger for an all-veggie dinner even in the most ardent of omnivores.
As I've noted before, wine's long heritage springs from meat-eating cultures, and our favorite beverage has evolved to accompany meat, poultry and fish. Sure, wine will serve to wash down "non-traditional" foods. But is it possible to get the same kind of "oh, wow!" reaction from a food-and-veggie match that carnivores enjoy with Bordeaux and lamb, Meursault and lobster or Burgundy and beef?
Well, maybe. I would submit wild mushrooms and Pinot Noir as a match right up there with the best of meat-and-wine combinations. And assuming you don't have vegan requirements, adding cheese to any meatless dish will bring it up to meet compatible wines. But how about those fresh spring vegetables? Can any wine improve upon the beautiful unadorned simplicity of the season's first spinach or asparagus?
A flood of E-mail suggestions from readers following an exaltation of grilled asparagus in last Thursday's Wine Advisor FoodLetter prompted another all-veggie dinner over the weekend, and this time I followed my own advice and paired it with a couple of Sauvignon Blancs.
According to the conventional wisdom, the combination of crisp, citric tartness and pleasantly herbal "green" character of this popular white variety makes it a natural with simple green vegetables, and this seemed to hold true. The wines' relative subtlety didn't overwhelm the delicacy of the vegetables, and the "herbaceous" flavors followed the traditional wine-matching principle of pairing wines with foods that show similar characteristics. The result was subtle, not bold: Think of black-and-white by Ansel Adams, not Technicolor by Disney; or a Chopin piano sonata, not a Tchaikovsky overture.
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The wines I selected for today's tasting are on the list of sale items currently available in the cut-rate "Summer Sippin' Sale" going on at The California Wine Club:Drytown Cellars 2002 Amador County Sauvignon Blanc ($12 winery retail/$5 sale)
This clear, very pale straw-color wine offers appetizing aromas that could serve as a textbook example of good California Sauvignon Blanc: Fresh citrusy grapefruit blended with a delicate "grassy" note reminiscent of summer meadows that becomes more evident when you swirl the wine in the glass. Crisp and fresh flavors follow the nose, and zingy acidity makes it a palate-cleansing food wine, with tart citrus persisting in a long finish. (May 9, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: A fine seafood wine, but its crisp and tangy mix of citrus and herbal flavors makes it a natural for vegetarian pairing with fresh green vegetables.
VALUE: This wine was fairly priced in the lower teens at the time of release; its $5 sale price at California Wine Club makes it a no-brainer for summer sipping.
WHEN TO DRINK: Light-styled Sauvignon Blancs are best drunk young. I would enjoy this over the next year or two.
WEB LINK: The winery houses its Website on a personal page,
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Currently on sale in California Wine Club's "Summer Sippin" sale,
Buttonwood Farm 2001 Santa Ynez Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($14 winery retail/$6 sale)
This clear, pale-gold wine shows a sunny yellowish hue. Slightly musky and very ripe, mixed melon aromas add intriguing floral notes in a wine that seems to pick up distinct character from the 10 percent Semillon that's blended with the Sauvignon Blanc. Full-bodied and rich, lip-smacking melon fruit is built on a lemony-tart acidic structure, with earthy nuances adding complexity and a hint of peach-pit bitterness in the finish. (May 9, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: Worked fine in a vegetarian-matching experiment with grilled asparagus and lightly steamed spinach; also recommended with pork or shellfish.
VALUE: Fairly priced at the $14 winery retail; worth buying by the case at the $6 blowout offer in California Wine Club's summer sale.
WHEN TO DRINK: Not meant for long-term aging, but body, richness and earthy complexity might make an interesting experiment in cellaring for a year or two.
WEB LINK: You'll find the Buttonwood Farm Website here:
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Also available cut-rate during California Wine Club's "Summer Sippin" sale,
Summer Sippin' Wine Sale with
Click here to order from a selection of wines priced from $5 - $10.50. Perfect wines for Memorial Day, Fourth of July, beach BBQ's and grilling parties with friends:
Check out this recipe for Sensational Summer Sangria:
1 - 750 ml bottle of chilled Santerra Cellars Dolcetto (on sale for just $6 per bottle)
Brought to you by The California Wine Club ~ America's only wine service featuring real-working, smaller, family-owned California wineries! Call 1-800-777-4443 or visit
Rancho San Diego Travel
You are invited to a special wine tasting tour of Argentina and Chile, Dec. 1-11, 2004, hosted by Michael Schachner, food and wine consultant, writer for Wine Enthusiast magazine, and author of several articles on Chilean and Argentinean wines.
Tour featuring Buenos Aires - Mendoza - Santiago - Santa Cruz - Colchagua Valley, home to many of the best Chilean wineries.
Tour highlights: small escorted group - private tasting - leisurely designed for cultural visits and free time - dining at some of the finest restaurants of South America - Wineries especially selected by Mr. Schachner. December is the best time of the year in Southern Hemisphere.
Tour space limited - For information and to receive your color tour brochure by mail, contact Bernard Streiff by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bernard Streiff - Certified Travel Counselor
This week on WineLoversPage.com
Here are links to some of our recently published articles that I think you'll enjoy:
Bucko on Wine: Alsace and the Mosel
Wine Lovers' Discussion Group: Vineyards on ungrafted vines
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:
Zin vs. Norton (May 7, 2004)
Discovering Uruguay (May 5, 2004)
WT101: Barbera (May 3, 2004)
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Grilled asparagus (May 6, 2004)
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:
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Monday, May 10, 2004