For many a home chef, it is relatively simple to pair a dish with a wine. You can consult Mr. Google, or visit a variety of wine sites, like Another Wine Blog, for suggestions. But suppose you have a recipe that pairs well with one red wine, but want to serve two different varieties - what then?
That was my dilemma for a tasting of 3 wines from Green Valley of Russian River Valley hosted by The Larsen Projekt last month. A gaggle of wine writers and bloggers were to gather on-line at the appointed time to taste two Pinot Noir and one Syrah from the "coolest, foggiest region of the Russian River Valley." One of the smallest appellations in Sonoma County, California, Green Valley AVA lies in the southwestern part of the Russian River Valley, surrounded by Sebastopol, Forestville and Occidental. The area is beautiful, and cell phone reception spotty (if you are a Sprint subscriber). It is home to a number of artisans and musicians, and was once the last stop on the Northern Pacific Coast Railroad.
The fog is Green Valley's trademark. Back before we had GPS it once took us about 1.5 hours (a 35-minute trip) to get from Healdsburg to the charming B&B in Occidental, primarily due to the dense fog and our lack of familiarity with the area. We've since been back a number of times to enjoy the local craft beer, wineries, and cozy atmosphere.
There are over 100 growers in the area covering a total of 19,000 acres. Most of the vineyards are planted to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, relatively easy for pairings (and great with turkey dinner). But throw in a Syrah and it starts to get a bit tricky. Robert sent us a Tri Tip recipe that Camlow Cellars' winemaker Craig Strehlow made for a BBQ Competition and a $50 gift card to help pay for the pairings' menu and challenged us to come up with some interesting sides. Since it was Joe's bowling league night, the cookery was up to me. Joe's the one with the culinary training -- but I've learned a bit from watching him and The Food Network. Since one of the Pinots is called Magna Porcum -- bacon was definitely on the menu. I decided grilled Brussels Sprouts with bacon and Parmesan, and mushroom risotto would pair nicely. I need lower sodium, so I halved the salt required. I added dried cooking lavender to bring out its notes in the Syrah. Here's my twist on the recipe:
Oven BBQ Tri-Tip Recipe (adapted from that of Craig Strehlow of Camlow Cellars)
Prepare 8 hours in advance (or overnight)
Don't let the butcher trim all the fat off your tri-tip, you'll need it to sear. If you can't find tri-tip, ask your butcher for London Broil or Chateaubriand.
2 Tablespoons Yellow Mustard
1.5 Tablespoons Kosher Salt
3 Tablespoons Dark Brown Sugar
1.5 Teaspoons Dry Lemon Peel
4 Teaspoons Black Pepper
1.5 Teaspoons Paprika
1.5 Teaspoons Dried Cooking Lavender
1 Teaspoon Dried Rosemary
Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Coat the meat with mustard and rub in. Sprinkle rub over the meat and gently work in to the meat. Wrap coated meat in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Craig's recipe calls for barbecuing over smoked Applewood. To oven roast, you'll need a large, heavy oven-proof pan. (We like cast iron)
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Add 2 tablespoons of cooking oil (we prefer olive) to the heavy oven-proof pan. Heat heavy pan on stove top burner on high until pan is very hot. Then add Tri-tip, fat side down. Turn down heat to medium high and sear for about 4 or 5 minutes. Turn the roast and put it (and the pan) into the oven. Cook the meat for about 10 minutes per pound until internal temperature reaches 130 degrees for medium rare. Don't cook it longer -- that is how you should serve Tri-tip. If some of your guests prefer overcooked meat let them heat their individual slices in the microwave 30 seconds at a time -- that way you don't ruin it for everyone.
Lavender Mushroom Risotto
Properly prepared risotto is cooked slow and served al dente (cooked firm to the bite, but not hard in the center). This dish takes about 50 minutes to cook (20 minutes prep time, 30 minutes cooking) so start it before you do the Tri-tip and finish while Tri-tip is in the oven.
1.5 cups Arborio rice
4 slices of bacon (uncooked)
6 cups of chicken stock, divided
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 oz (1/2 small package) Cremini mushrooms, sliced thin
4 oz Porcini mushrooms
2 shallots, diced
2 tablespoons of fresh, finely chopped chives
1 teaspoon dry lavender
sea salt to taste
fresh ground pepper to taste
Warm the broth in a saucepan over low heat. Render the bacon in a large pan. Cook it slowly over medium low heat and remove from pan, drain off half the bacon grease save for later. Stir in the mushrooms, cook about 3 or 4 minutes until they soften. Remove the mushrooms and liquid. Set aside. (Now sear the Tri-Tip, and put in the oven.)
Add remaining bacon grease and stir in shallots. Cook about a minute until they start to get translucent. Stir in rice and coat with bacon grease. When rice turns to a pale golden, stir in the wine. Stir constantly until all the wine is absorbed. Now add 1/2 cup of chicken stock, stirring constantly until absorbed. Stir in lavender. Continue to add chicken stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring continuously, until rice is al dente. This should be about 20 minutes. Remove from heat, Stir in mushrooms and their liquid, chives and Parmesan. Crumble bacon, stir and serve.
For our tasting, I started with a Wild Mushroom Soup topped with bacon and a few mushrooms to pair with the brighter Sedition Pinot Noir. I also prepared charred Brussels sprouts with bacon and Parmesan to taste with the Magna Porcum Pinot Noir and Scherrer Syrah. Mushrooms love Pinot Noir, and lavender provides a nice transition from the Pinot Noir to the Syrah.
This was the first time I had ever cooked Tri-Tip and I think it came out pretty well. Joe added his seal of approval with "This is the best meal you have ever prepared -- it tastes like I cooked it." It made me laugh -- he's such a humble guy when it comes to his own cooking.
Sedition 2013 Chenoweth Vineyards Pinot Noir
With the election just a month passed, and reporters losing access (or inclination) for honest reporting, the name alone made me want to taste it. Sedition Wines is the brainchild of Jigar Patel and Josh Bartels, two guys raised in the Midwest who met "during their rebellious days of youth at Purdue University." The 2013 Chenoweth Vineyards Pinot Noir is complex, with fruit coming from two vineyards and 3 clones (Pommard, 667 & 828). The Pommard clone gives it a deep color, dark cherry cola aroma and hints of baking spice. The co-fermented Clones 667 and 828 add acidity and elegance. The 2013 is Josh's first vintage, and only 230 cases were produced. Alcohol by volume 13.8% Priced at $75, the wine can cellar for a number of years. It is available through their website.
2013 Camlow Cellars Magna Porcum Pinot Noir
Camlow Cellars in a venture between Craig Strehlow, former winegrower/winemaker with Keefer Ranch and Keefer Ranch wines; and Alan Campbell, a Sonoma County native and local photographer who also spent time gardening, farming and as a wine grower and wine maker. The Magna Procum is from their Estate grown Big Pig Vineyard. The Pig is comprised of 4 clones; Swan, Pommard, DRC and Calera. Offering aromas of boysenberry and baking spices, this Pinot Noir brings dark cherry and plum flavors on the palate with a hint of fig, a touch of lavender and a lingering finish. Its smooth tannins and lingering finish loved the Tri-tip and risotto. Aged for 15 months in new and used barrels (33% French,) the wine is 14.4% Alcohol by Volume. 211 cases made. Priced at $45 for a two bottle minimum, you can learn more here.
Scherrer Syrah Calypso Vineyard, 2012
Our "cellar" is never without Syrah - our favorite of all the wine varieties. Fred Scherrer's 2012 Calypso Vineyard Syrah certainly meets with our approval. Just 67 cases produced, it is indeed phenomenal! Notes of lavender, blackberry and cardamom play with mocha covered plums and dark chocolate espresso beans with a touch of cedar. Dark, brooding and sexy, it loved the Tri-tip, risotto and Brussels sprouts! Released in March 2016, the wine is priced at $45.
Fred first made wine in the early 70's as a teenager with grapes from the family vineyard in Alexander Valley. He followed his passion with a degree at UC Davis while working concurrently at a local winery "doing the dirtiest and most menial jobs imaginable." Not to be deterred, Fred continued honing his skills at Greenwood Ridge Vineyards in Anderson Valley and then Dehlinger Winery. In 1997 he moved into a facility of his own. Once producing just three varietals from Scherrer Vinyeard in the beginning, Scherrer Winery now produces about 4,000 to 5,000 cases comprising about a dozen wines. He says about half of them are Pinot Noir. The others include Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and a Dry Rose. Fred works alone at the winery most of the year, and wife Judi handles the administrative and compliance. His wines are currently available in California wine shops and restaurants, as well as a number of states across the U.S. He also ships directly to most wine-friendly states. You can also purchase through the website.
Don't just take our word for it: read everyone's comments from our virtual tasting on Twitter at #GreenValleyWine
We hope to taste more wines from this AVA in the future!