Pairing food with Picpoul Blanc – (speed dating for food and wine)

Picpoul Blanc Pairing Bonny Doon 2016 Arroyo Seco Beeswax Vineyard

While on the Central Coast we made the pilgrimage to Bonny Doon Vineyard’s tasting room on the Pacific Coast Highway in Davenport, CA. We left with a couple bottles of their 2016 Picpoul. The grapes for this 100% Picpoul Wine come from Beeswax Vineyard in Arroyo Seco.

Picpoul

So this grape is from the Southern Rhone and often is used as a blending grape. The label by Wendy Cook steers you toward the meaning of the name.

Bonny Doon Vineyard 2016 Picpoul Arroyo Seco Beeswax Vineyard

Bonny Doon Vineyard 2016 Picpoul Arroyo Seco Beeswax Vineyard Label Art by Wendy Cook

“Pique-poule” means lip stinger in French (or pecking hens depending on your translation, either way…you can picture the hens pecking your lips) It’s one of those 13 varieties of grape that are allowed in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Picpoul does come in red (Picpoul Noir), white (Picpoul Blanc) and pink (Picpoul Gris), but the white variety is most prevalent, which is why Bonny Doon refers to their Picpoul Blanc as simply Picpoul.

In France it is best known today as Picpoul de Pinet from the Pinet Region of Languedoc.

Arroyo Seco

Arroyo Seco is an AVA in Monterey County. The AVA covers two towns, Soledad and Greenfield. The area sits in the Salinas Valley 40 miles from Monterey Bay, which brings dense fog and howling winds during the growing season in the Eastern and Central Portions of the AVA. Named for the “Arroyo Seco” a seasonal waterway that brings in water from the Santa Lucia Mountains and the Los Padres National Forest. The Western portion of the AVA runs east to west in a narrow gorge that is sheltered from the Monterey Bay fog and winds and has higher daytime temperatures. The AVA covers over 18,000 acres and is one of the smallest AVAs in California and has about 7,000 planted acres.

Beeswax Vineyards

Beeswax Vineyard is owned by the Silva family who also runs Poppy Wines. It was established in 2000 and has 24 acres of organically farmed wine grapes with blocks of Pinot Noir, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Picpoul Blanc. This tiny vineyard is in the Salinas Valley toward the southern end of the AVA and is nestled into the Santa Lucia foothills.

Bonny Doon 2016 Picpoul – Arroyo Seco Beeswax Vineyard

This wine was mouthwatering and bright, with a light straw yellow color. You get minerals, ocean and a floral note when you stick your nose in the glass and then tart green apple and stone fruit pits in your mouth. There is in the background this little bit of beeswax. It is a lovely and subtle wine.

What to Pair with it?

I spent a little time in the afternoon researching what to pair with this wine. I started with the Bonny Doon site, which gave me “the briniest oysters you can find or Dungeness crab.” Well, sadly, finding either of those for the evening dinner was not really a possibility, so I searched further.

Tablas Creek Vineyards also does a Picpoul (there are not many wineries in the country that do), and they suggested; Fried Calamari, Thai dishes with lemongrass and ginger, Dover sole, Cerviche, Braised tuna or Swordfish. Well, that I could work with and Calamari and some Thai lemongrass sticks were added to the shopping list.

Digging deeper The Wine Cellar Insider suggested “salmon, swordfish, scallops, clams, oysters and rich cream or butter sauces.” And Picpoul de Pinet suggestion “not only….seafood and shellfish as well as other traditional Mediterranean dishes, but also with cheese and chocolate.” And finally Wine & Good Food suggested “oysters, Mahi Mahi or a salad topped with strawberries and goat cheese”

Okay…so now we had a list to work with. We headed to TJ’s, to see what we could find that might fit the bill and give us a wide variety of things to try.

Pairing a Picpoul

Picpoul Blanc Pairing Bonny Doon 2016 Arroyo Seco Beeswax Vineyard

A Picpoul Blanc Pairing

So we ended up with a big platter with a variety of things to try with this wine. We included;  smoked oysters, herbed goat cheese, anchovies,  smoked gouda, sardines, olive tapenade, capers and a couple Spanish Cheeses; Manchego and Iberico . We later dinned on the Calamari with a mayo, greek yogurt dip with thyme, lemon juice and lemon zest and the Thai Lemongrass chicken sticks.

As I tasted an allegory took hold in my mind, so indulge me as it carries me through my tasting notes.

The tasting hook up

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Smoked Oysters

Smoked oysters are not my favorite thing, but paired with the Picpoul they mellow and created a lighter tone for both the oyster and the wines and pulling up a floral note in the wine. This couple I really didn’t think would get along and they ended up having a great conversation.

Iberco

This is a fine pairing (remember when your date told you that you looked “fine”). The Spanish cheese pulls out the body in the wine and the saltiness in the cheese. These two might date for a while.

Anchovies

Anchovies are a little loud and unruly in your mouth. A sip of the Picpoul mellows and soothes the flavor and makes those anchovies much more likeable.

Olive Tapenade

These two change when they are together and continue changing in my mouth, like a couple lovingly pushing each other to take another step.

Manchego

They meet and compliment each other. The compliments make them smile and their smile makes each more beautiful.

Sardines

This is a blending that just makes you happy. Neither the Spanish cheese or the wine stand out, but together they are just right, snuggling in my mouth like an adorable quiet couple.

Capers

The picpoul just flatters the capers here, brightening them, while toning the acid in both and giving a little floral note to the bite. I think Picpoul might get Capers number.

Herbed Goat Cheese

Alright these two are the life of the party. Each are good but together they are a party in my mouth and are tearing up the dance floor!

Calamari

I’m out of allegory here. This was a great pairing, and while I think it would have been good with just Calamari and Picpoul the addition of the dip with the greek yogurt, thyme and lemon zest really kicked it up a notch.

Thai lemongrass chicken sticks

This was good. Mellow not a stand out, but certainly a good meld.

Last notes

Just before finishing this post, I was doing some additional research on Picpoul and came across this description on Appellationamerica.com. http://wine.appellationamerica.com/grape-varietal/Picpoul.html

Maybe my allegory wasn’t so far off.

Hopefully, this will inspire you in a couple of ways. To search out some Picpoul to start with and then to try some pairings. Take a moment with a wine and a food and think about them. What do you taste, what does it make you think of. Taste and explore! Then come back and share with us!

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Summer Heat with a refreshing Vinho Verde

Food pairing with Vinho Verde

It’s hot. I mean, Vegas Hot, which is like someone opened the oven in your face when you walk out the door. A little breeze? Yeah, that feels like they turned on the blow dryer. We acclimate, but often you just need something refreshing. So you sit in the air conditioning pour a glass of Vinho Verde and ask Alexa to play ocean waves. If the fan is on in the living room you can pretend it’s an ocean breeze.  Here, I pulled up a bit of sunset from off the Pacific Coast highway to put you in the mood.

Well tonight is the night for that getaway. The Vinho Verde is chilling in the fridge and I have put together a menu to compliment it.

Vinho Verde. It means “green wine” or rather “young wine” by intent. This wine is meant to drink in the first year. And while the name indicates that it is a young wine, the name actually stands for a region in Northern Portugal, where these wines are made.

Espiral Vinho Verde

Vinho What?

Vinho Verde. It means “green wine” or rather “young wine” by intent. This wine is meant to drink in the first year. And while the name indicates that it is a young wine, the name actually stands for a region in Northern Portugal, where these wines are made.  You can learn more about this region on the Wines of Portugal site.

What grape do they use?

Most often Alvarinho and Loureiro, but also Arinto, Trajadura, Avesso, and Azal, among others. So, as you see, the variety and range can be wide.  Still these wines are typically made in a similar style.

What’s that fizziness?

Yeah, it’s kinda effervescent. At least sometimes. Originally this was because the bottles would still be fermenting a little after they were capped and that locked in some of the CO2. Now…well honestly, it’s often added. But regardless, it does make it refreshing.

So what are you eating it with?

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Seafood is always a good bet. A meatier white fish or something fried. We are having fried Calamari and Mahi Mahi burgers. It goes well with green vegetables, so I’m going to have a salad with some avocado (a little fat that the acid in the wine will cut through). Creamy rice dishes and potato dishes also pair well, so we will be doing a brown rice and quinoa blend with onions, butter, lemon juice and zest and some parmesan cheese, and latkes. I think arancini balls would be great with this too. We will taste it with Salmon, smoked trout, goat cheese and a parm/gouda blend also.

Now…about the wine.

This Vinho Verde is from  Espiral.  The wine is bright and when I close my eyes I can feel sea spray flying up from where it is crashing on the wet rocks (there’s my mini vacation). In my mouth it fizzes and opens with a bright tangy citrus. It’s lemon pop without the sweetness or the tartness of “Fresca” (who remembers Fresca?) without the bitterness. It’s joyful as well as thoughtful. The initial sip brings a smile that almost erupts to a giggle and then melts into a quiet moment of savoring, like closing your eyes to capture a moment at sunset on the beach. That…that is what is here in this glass, that balance of euphoric joy and a content sense of peace.

What did it bring to the food?

The calamari was fine. This is such a typically pairing that it was good without sending off any bells and whistles. The Latkes, now that was another story. The potato and onion had such richness and the lemon and acid in the wine cleaned your palate for the next bite. I could have continued eating this combination all night. Our salad of greens would have been fine alone with the wine, but add the avocado to give it some creaminess and fat to cut through, a little goat cheese for some tang and a vinaigrette of lemon juice, olive oil and thyme and the pairing had real depth in each bite. The Mahi Mahi had a lemon butter sauce  of lemon juice, melted butter salt, a dash of Worcestershire sauce and fresh thyme.   The weight of the fish and the lemon butter were perfect and the fresh thyme added this bit of unexpected depth that all played very nicely with the wine. Our grain was brown rice with quinoa to which I added butter, lemon juice, lemon zest and grated Parmesan cheese. Again, the creaminess and the lemon were perfect with the wine, the creaminess balanced the acid and the lemon popped back in to match. So like contrasting and complementary colors, these flavors pulled from different sides of the flavor wheel to make for a happy mouth.

Vinho Verde with Mahi Mahi, brown rice, avocado salad, calamari and latkes

We also tried it with a smoke salmon and a smoked trout.  The salmon was fine (kinda like the calamari).  I did notice that the flavor disappeared at first and then slowly returned to fill my mouth.  The trout on the other hand was really wonderful with the wine.  Being smokier it felt richer than the salmon and complimented the lemon and mineral nature of the wine.  This was an unexpected happy mix, inland creeks longing to return to the sea.

What I learned about pairing with Vinho Verde

Lemon, lemon, lemon

….that punch of lemon in your dish will reach out for the wine and want to dance.

Something richer and creamy

Then add a little creaminess, some fat to cut through, like the butter and cheese in the rice or the goat cheese and avocado in the salad. Or the richness of the potato and onion in the Latkes.

Fried is good

This wine is great with things that are fried, the salt and fat coat your palate and the acid and fizziness of the wine leave you with a clean slate for the next bite.  (like the calamari and most definitely the Latkes)

Seafood is a really good bet

The Mahi Mahi paired nicely because of the weight and the sauce.  A lighter fish I think would have disappeared.  Any fish that is not too delicate should go nicely.  I would like to try it with Swordfish or monkfish. Shrimp is also supposed to be a good bet.  With the minerality…I am also wondering about shell-fish, clams or fresh oysters.  Maybe I’ll try that next time.

Thyme, the unexpected harmony

Most recipes called for basil or parsley and while I can see that, I didn’t have any in the fridge.  I was left with Rosemary and Thyme as my options.  I went with Thyme.  As I added it I was wishing it was a lemon thyme to accent those fragrances, but in the end, I think it was better as it was.  The depth of fragrance really was an unexpected harmony to the meal.  This earthiness, a bit of forest, maybe again it’s that “land meets the sea” creating a balance.

I wrote about Vinho Verde once before and had a different pairing then.  You can check it out here:  Pairings at the Keyboard! Vinho Verde

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