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Carpe Vinum: Veggie Tales

Large_larryWhen my teenage son was much younger, he went through a brief, but very intense Veggie Tales phase.  The Veggie Tunes played in continuous loop in our house (and inside my head).  Larry the Cucumber went everywhere with us.  One night, I was in the kitchen cooking dinner — getting ready to chop a cucumber.  My son walked into the kitchen, processed what was about to happen, and, with a panic in his voice, said,

“MOM!!  Don’t cook Larry!”

To this day, I can’t chop a cucumber without thinking I’m committing vegicide.

Vegetables can be tricky to pair with wine.  Vegetables can kill a wine.  But with the right pairing, vegetables can make a wine sing!  We’ve had our annual 4-day spring here in Virginia, and temps have settled into our summer pattern — hazy, hot and humid.  So for this month’s Carpe Vinum, we decided to take the theme in a lighter direction:  Veggies!

As always, the recipe titles are links to the recipes.  (Except for the Grilled Portobello Mushroom recipe, which I wrote out).

Aa Badenhorst Family White 2010 and Chateau Soucherie Anjou Blanc Les Rangs De Long 2012 paired with Zucchini Three Ways:  Zucchini PancakesCream of Zucchini Soup, and Roasted Zucchini.  If you’ve ever planted a zucchini in your garden, you know how prolific they are — and there are only so many loaves of zucchini bread you can make (or stand to eat).  Before summer is over, you will need about 4,000 recipes to use up your crop of zucchini!  All of these recipes are delicious, but my favorite is the Zucchini Pancakes — who doesn’t love food in fritter form?

Aa Badenhorst Family White 2010 ⭐⭐⭐⭐/90
From the Swartland region of South Africa.  A blend of nine different grapes:  33% Chenin Blanc, 14% Grenache Blanc, 14% Verdelho, 11% Roussanne, 7% Viognier, 7% Semillion, 6% Grenache Gris, 5% Clairette Blanche , and 3% Colombard.  (I got to add two more grapes to my Wine Century Club application with that list).  Great mineral notes on the nose.  Medium body. Layered, complex flavors of almond and spice, along with fig and tea.  So much going on in this glass.  A real thinker.  $30.


The Pairing 👍
A home run with all three zucchini preparations.  There’s enough balance and complexity in the wine to both stand up to, and compliment all three zucchini dishes.  A blend has a little something for everyone, doesn’t it?


Chateau Soucherie Anjou Blanc Les Rangs De Long 2012 ⭐⭐⭐/88
From the Loire region in France.  100% Chenin Blanc.  Bracing backbone of acidity.  Minerals on the nose, light-bodied, with flavors of green apple and a little unripe peach.  As the chill comes off this wine, it becomes more and more complex.  $18.


The Pairing 👍
Great with the fritters, but struggled with the soup and the roasted zucchini.  I suspect this wine would be otherworldly with shellfish (and a lemon wedge).


Marchesi di Barolo Gavi 2011 paired with Linguini with Broccoli Rabe-Walnut Pesto
I loved this dish . . . I would never have thought to make a pesto out of broccoli rabe (non-sequitur:  rabe auto-corrects to rage, which amuses me) and walnuts.  I was a little heavy-handed with the garlic, but at the very least, I didn’t have to worry about a run-in with any of the Cullen’s after eating this dish.

Marchesi di Barolo Gavi 2011 ⭐⭐/82
Gavi is a little tiny DOCG within the Piedmont region in northwestern Italy.  100% Cortese.  I really wanted to like this wine because it looks so clean and refreshing . . . but it was just blah for me.  The nose was a little weird — gasoline and earwax.  I couldn’t decide if it was flawed. Absolutely bone dry with some wicked acidity.  Mineral notes with an unctuous mouthfeel that didn’t seem to mesh with the high acidity.  $14.

The Pairing 👍
More meh than thumbs-up.  The garlic and broccoli rabe definitely helped to neutralize some of the acidity in the wine.  And the food brought out a brininess in the wine.  But I can’t help but think there are other wines that would stand up to the strong flavors in this dish.  I’d love to hear if anyone has other suggestions.


Cote Mas Cremant de Limous Brut Rose paired with Glazed Beet and Burrata Toasts.
Sure, I’d heard of burrata cheese before, but I’d never actually tasted it.  That’s why Carpe Vinum rocks — new foods, new wines.  For my fellow uninitiates (yes, I’m making up words), burrata cheese is a firm outer shell of mozzarella with a creamy, gooey interior.  Kind of like the Cadbury Egg of mozzarella cheese.  It’s amazing.  And beets?  Love them.  Beets really deserve more veggie love than they get.

Cote Mas Cremant de Limous Brut Rose NV  ⭐⭐⭐/89
From the Languedoc region of France.  Fermented in stainless steel vats.  After the primary fermentation is complete, a “Liqueur de Tirage” (a blend of sugar and yeast) is added to the juice, and then a second fermentation takes place in the bottle.  Clean nose, rose petals.  Great texture with delicate peach flavors.  Nicely balanced.  I’m definitely buying more of this, especially at $15.

The Pairing 👍👍
Zippity-do-dah . . . this was GOOD!!  The bubbles were a perfect complement to the creaminess of the burrata and the acidity of the glazed beets.  More, please!!


Laird Jillian’s Blend Napa Valley Red Wine 2009 paired with Grilled Portobello Mushrooms with Fennel and Asiago Cheese with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Mmmm . . . mushrooms!  There’s something so very satisfying about a steaky portobello mushroom.  If you try this recipe, be sure to make both sauces — each one imparts a different portfolio of flavors to the mushrooms.

This is a recipe my friend Diane created, so there’s no link.  But because I know you’ll want to try this, I typed it out for you (I’m thoughtful like that).

4 large portobello mushrooms
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup balsamic vinaigrette
4 slices fennel (1/4 to 1/2 inch in size)
Basil leaves
Salt and pepper
Rolls or your favorite bread slices for sandwiches

Roasted Red Pepper Dressing

1/2 cup chopped roasted red peppers
1/4 cup low fat mayonnaise
1 garlic cloved, minced
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Basil Mustard Dressing

1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon garlic, minced

Marinate the portobello mushrooms in balsamic dressing and garlic.  Season with salt and pepper.  Marinate for at least 30 minutes prior to grilling.  Slice fennel into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices.  Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Grill mushrooms and fennel until nicely juicy and browned.  Layer on toasted bread with fennel and basil.  Top with your favorite dressing.

Laird Jillian’s Blend Napa Valley Red Wine 2009 ⭐⭐⭐⭐/94
Paul Hobbs (yep, that Paul Hobbs) is a consulting winemaker at Laird.  68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Syrah, 12% Merlot.  Dark ruby in color.  Absolutely mesmerizing nose.  I could sit here and inhale this wine all night and not even need to taste it — it’s that great.  But I want to taste it.  Flavors of black cherry with layers of tobacco and chocolate on the back end. Incredibly soft, yet complex.  Teetering on perfect balance (or at least what I’d like to think is perfect balance).  This is a Holy Cow! wine.  Exceptional.  I don’t want this bottle to end!!  $42.

The Pairing 👍
I would have been very happy to pair this wine with absolutely nothing.  This wine doesn’t need an ensemble, it shines on its own.  That said, it was terrific with the portobello and fennel.  The licorice notes in the fennel really brightened the wine, and the wine made the shrooms sing.

I hope you enjoyed this month’s Carpe Vinum.  We’ll be on hiatus over the summer, but once the troops head back to school, we’ll head back to our food & wine classroom!


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