By: Stacie Hunt – Certified Sommelier
Contributor’s website: Splash Pros
A few days from now, the official 2011 Summer will begin. Surfers will sit atop their various sized boards, watching as the Solstice takes place at sunset, others will hike up Runyon Canyon or head for the desert. It’s a most emotional time for humans as we shed the winter wearies and embrace the release of summer.
With the days beginning to grow long and warm, we turn our thoughts to calling friends over, dining al fresco, popping the cork on a favorite wine and maybe even making relationship and life changes to match the ripening of the season.
There’s just something about wine, sun, good food and company that lifts our spirits and infuses us with energy.
But, let’s get different! Here from Pedernal Valley in San Juan, Argentina come the Graffigna Centenario wines. This prestigious wine-growing region lies just north of the more familiar Mendoza region. Here are some wines and recipes paired to enhance your personal celebration of Summer, 2011.
Celebrity Chef Jon Ashton created a recipe for Whipped Goat Cheese Bruschetta with Strawberries to pair with the Graffigna Centenario Pinot Grigio 2010. Switching up the Italian favorite that combines sun-ripened tomatoes with basil and oiive oil, this bruschetta takes advantage of the warmer weather and the fresh, first crop of local strawberries. Offer this up as an pre-dinner bite with the wine, or a surprising palate refresher during the meal.
Pinot Grigio has a recognizable bright, citrusy, fruit flavor, followed by a crispness and acidity that creates a match with the acidity of the goat cheese. You’d never know this wasn’t a wine from Italy.
Now, for the next course. An easy – quick on the grill – rack of lamb, scented with fresh sprigs of rosemary and fresh or dried thyme will create an aromatic stir in your guests’ appetites. Some of the great pairings of wine with lamb are Pinot Noir and Syrah—but in the scheme of our changing things up – we ‘re going with a Malbec from Graffigna Centenario. Malbec is the famed, red wine grape of Argentina, here expressed in the Graffigna Centenario with smooth and rounded tannins and flavors of black berries and plums, with a bit of spice in the finish. If the day is particularily warm, Malbec can be chilled in the refrigerator for about ten minutes before serving, which will bring out the fruit flavors in the wine. Malbec is one of the red wines, that in summer, can actually be enhanced when told to “chill”.
Whipped Goat Cheese Bruschetta with Strawberries
Created by Chef Jon Ashton
Wine Pairing: Graffigna Centenario Pinot Grigio 2010
2 heads garlic, peeled
1/2 cup olive oil, plus extra for the toast
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 package goat cheese
4 slices sourdough bread
1 pinch Celtic sea salt
1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup balsamic glaze
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1. Pour the oil into a pan, set over a medium heat and add the garlic.
2. Fry until lightly colored, then add the herbs. Turn the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft.
3. Let cool slightly. Beat together with the cooking oil to form a paste.
4. Whisk the goat cheese.
5. Brush the sourdough with olive oil, season with Celtic sea salt and toast under the grill.
6. To serve, cut the toast into bite-sized pieces, spread a little garlic purée, smear some whipped goat cheese over and top with strawberries.
7. Drizzle balsamic glaze and add a sprig of mint for a final touch.
Rack of Lamb (serves 4)
Wine Pairing: Graffigna Centenario Malbec 2008
2 racks of lamb (1 ½ – 2lbs each; trimmed and frenched)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
2 tablespoon mustard
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
3 teaspoon fresh chopped rosemary
2 teaspoon fresh thyme
2 teaspoon fine-chopped parsley
1. Mix rosemary, thyme, mustard, olive oil and parsley in bowl.
2. Rub salt and pepper over lamb and cover with marinade. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
3. Wrap end of bones in tin foil.
4. Preheat a cleaned and oiled grill to medium heat.
5. Place the lamb meat side down on the grill for 1-2 minutes.
6. Turn lamb over (meat side up), and switch grill to indirect heat (either turn off burner directly under the meat, or move the coals to the sides).
7. Cook for 12-18 minutes or until lamb reaches 130-160 degrees. Let lamb sit for ten minutes, covered with aluminum foil, then slice the individual racks and serve with flageolet beans (use the ones in a can) that have been sauteed with onions, garlic and tomato.
Tip: Canned Flageolet beans can be found at Bristol Farms markets and Monsier Marcel in the LA Farmers’ Market on Fairfax.
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Conributor’s website: Splash Pros
Image Credits: Photo #1 – mycameraisbiggerthanyours.com (surfer at sunset), Photo #2 – Graffigna Winery www.graffignawinery.com (Graffigna wine bottles),Photo #3 – www.jonashton.com (photo of Chef Jon Ashton),
Photo #4 – www.driscolls.com (Strawberry & Goat Cheese Bruschetta),Photo #5 – Channel4.com (Rack of Lamb w/Rosemary & Thyme),Photo #6 – www.timesunion.com(Al Freso Dining scene)