Now that it’s actually getting warm here in Seattle, it’s time for those delicious Summertime meals – lots of fresh vegetables, salads, and seafood. Normally, I watch my food budget very carefully, but when the farmer’s markets are rocking the produce, I fill up my bag with abandon and gather friends around to enjoy the light fresh flavors of the fields, rivers and ocean.
While some people drink red wine year around, I match my wines to the season and, of course, the food.
One of my summertime favorites is Sauvignon Blanc, a white wine that is extremely food friendly, particularly with these fresh and light summer meals. Why is it so good? The secret is in the balance – Sauvignon Blanc is light to medium body with grassy and citrus flavors, usually lower alcohol, but it also has fairly high acids. When matching food and wine, you need to be careful about acidic or tart foods – a wine without sufficient acidity can taste thin and bitter in the face of tart food and can ruin the meal. Conversely, a wine with a higher acid will pair beautifully both acidic foods and rich foods – it will stand up to the acid in a tart dish and cut the richness in a dish with more fat. Sauvignon Blanc is a classic from France in the Loire where it’s grassy and green, and Graves, where it’s sometimes blended with Semillon, making it a bit rounder with apple and melon overtones. From New Zealand, the Marlborough versions are pungent with gooseberry and tropical tones of passion fruit and nectarine.
Last summer, some friends and I took a memorable trip through Oregon; stopping at farm stands to collect a rainbow of tomatoes, basil with the roots still on, goat cheese packed in olive oil and herbs, sweet, crunchy hazelnuts and stunningly fragrant peaches. With this bounty tucked safely in the back seat (and a couple of bottles of Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc already on ice in the cooler), we headed down the coast. At Depoe Bay, we noticed that the crab boats were out, riding very low in the water. “Crabs!” we cried out and I pointed the car down the steep road towards the tiny bay. We spilled out of the car and ran over to the docks to select our main course. Several boats had big plastic bins with Dungeness crabs, priced by size. We each purchased one and the fisherman wrapped them first in newspaper, then in a mesh bag, advising us to put them on ice if we could. We smiled, knowing that we were all set in that department – surely, the crabs wouldn’t mind nestling next to the wine for a bit.
We checked in to our favorite beach cabin and raced down to the beach. You’re just not at the beach until you feel the sand between the toes and shriek at the cold water splashing up your legs. Once we were convinced that we were really there, we returned to the cabin and got to work on our dinner.
A pot of salted water went on the stove, and a baguette was sliced, toasted, and then slathered with the herbed goat cheese. Tomatoes and basil were chopped and tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper. And those crabs were tumbled together into the pot, emerging red and steaming 15 minutes later, all ready to eat. We prepared a simple cobbler with the peaches and hazelnuts to go into the oven when we were ready after dinner.
The meal was a success – the Sauvignon Blanc with it’s slightly herbal and tropical fruit qualities slyly matched both the acidic tomatoes and goat cheese crostini but also cut the richness of the butter dredged Dungeness Crab morsels. Sitting around the fireplace later with bowls of sweet peach cobbler, we agreed that it had been a perfect day.