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While it’s always a treat to go out to dinner, Valentine’s Day is one of the few nights that I’d prefer to stay in. Sometimes the prix-fixe menus and forced romantic atmosphere can feel stuffy. Staying in can still be a major indulgence with the right ingredients…I plan on trying the following menu this Thursday (thanks, Martha!):

Appetizer: Artichoke-Parmesan Crostini, Main:Pepper-Crusted Filet Mignon, Side: Creamy Spinach and Slow Roasted Tomatoes, and dessert:Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse.

My husband and I will whip this up together while rocking out to some good records and sipping Rusty Red. This 100% Syrah is the perfect match for the pepper-crusted meat and veggies. It’s also the “Wine of the Month” at Cathedral Ridge Winery, so it’s a great time to stock up!
Cheers!     –AG

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The great American holiday of Thanksgiving is a mere two weeks away. Cathedral Ridge Winery has put together a holiday package of six bottles that have been especially selected for their compatibility with Thanksgiving fare. Herewith, a few recipes to inspire your planning and pairing…

Baked Brie with Pecans to pair with CRW 2011 Riesling

Herb-marinated cheese to pair with CRW 2011 Riesling or
Dampier Pinot Noir

White Bean and Caper Crostini to pair with CRW 2011 Riesling

 

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Blackberries are wildly abundant in September. In Hood River, one could easily fill a basket while walking through almost any neighborhood. I recently discovered the ultimate fall trifecta (blackberries! chocolate! Cabernet!) in the form of these perfectly grown-up cupcakes.  The recipe only calls for a 1/2 c of Cabernet, so you’ll want to enjoy a glass while you bake and–trust me–it pairs perfectly with a fluffy fresh-from-the-oven chocolate cupcake. –AG

 

Photo curtesy of www.bakersroyale.com

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For this coming Labor Day weekend, consider including a new element into any parties that you might host or attend.  A vertical wine tasting is tasting one particular varietal (from the same winery) from successive years to experience the nuances that can change from year-to-year. It’s a really interesting way to taste the way that unique weather patterns and soil conditions can slightly alter the resulting grape.  A fun way to do it is to place each wine in a bag so that the tasting can be blind. Take notes and share personal favorites. You might go in with some friends to enjoy both a white and a red vertical. A Cabernet would be especially versatile with summer grilling: Try the Cathedral Ridge September Special (the two newest cab releases against the vintage). Cheers!!

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The past several weeks have been Chanterelle mushroom season here in the Pacific Northwest, and those who know of a prime picking spot guard the secret with their lives. We happen to know of such a spot, where the Chanterelles are plentiful enough to fill large baskets if you hit it at the right time. After a picnic in the woods that included a little Pinot Noir (2009 Cathedral Ridge from Dampier Vineyard), we were like kids on an Easter egg hunt, plucking the golden delicacies until we had as many as we could carry.

After returning home with our bounty, we sauteed most of the mushrooms lightly in butter, and froze them to use throughout the year.  That night, we enjoyed the freshly picked Chanterelles with roasted salmon (caught by my father in the White Salmon river), which paired amazingly with the Dampier Pinot Noir.  I highly recommend the following recipe from Food & Wine…they suggest Oyster mushrooms, but encourage Chanterelles if they’re available.

ROASTED SALMON with CHANTERELLES IN RED WINE

Cheers! -AG

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This weekend, my husband and I had the pleasure of mountain biking to a remote section of the Lewis River in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington.  We camped next to the rushing river and enjoyed the solitude, campfire, and–of course–great food and wine.  We wrapped homemade burritos in foil and rolled them into the campfire and set a bottle of Cathedral Ridge Chardonnay Reserve in a shallow, rock-protected section of the river to keep it chilled (the river temp was about 55 degrees, which also happens to be a perfect temp for chardonnay–very convenient!).  We had a few glasses and kept the bottle in the river overnight.  The chilled chardonnay was waiting for us after another bike ride the next day, so we stretched out in the meadow and appreciated every detail that makes living in the Pacific Northwest so unbelievably great.

One of these reasons, among many, is that the Columbia Gorge happens to share geographic and climatic similarities with the Burgundy region of France.  Like the Burgundy region, the Columbia Gorge experiences sporadic weather ranging from unpredictable snow, rain, frost, and even heat. Cathedral Ridge grows their chardonnay grapes on the north side of the Columbia River at Huber (also known as Dampier) Vineyard in Underwood Mountain, WA.  Not very far at all from the spot where we enjoyed our bottle of Chardonnay Reserve, a luscious, complex, golden-hued wine.

While this region may share grape-growing qualities with France, the Pacific Northwest experience is truly unparalleled.  –AG

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Rosé is a beautiful wine to enjoy throughout the year, but it is often associated with the warmer months.  The Cathedral Ridge Rosé is done in the drier, Alsation-style with lower alcohol.  The 2010 Rosé carries pleasant floral notes but offers more body, and a crisp, dry finish.  Flavors of pear and grapefruit hit lightly on the palate, making this a perfect wine for late afternoon, and it complements a wide range of dishes from spicy asian fare to seafood.  As the days grow longer, make the most of the extended sunlight by uncorking a bottle of rosé and enjoying a French-style picnic with these (easy to prepare)Asparagus-Cheese Tartines.

Stock up: You have have five months of warm weather ahead!

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Cathedral Ridge Winery has two new releases available, 2010 Rose and 2010 Pinot Gris, both of which pair brilliantly with Shellfish and Potatoes a la Mariniere (via Bon Appetit).  The potatoes and freshly steamed mussels tossed in a light sauce of dry white wine (use the same wine you’re drinking–you’ll taste the difference), butter, and parsley is the perfect savory dish to pair with either a drier, Alsation-style Rose or a crisp and balanced Pinot Gris. This recipe is light, easy, and best of all–it will transport you to the relaxing coastal weekends in the not-so-distant future.

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We’ve always preferred to stay in on Valentine’s Day.  I would happily go out on the 13th or 15th, but there’s something odd about being out for a “romantic evening,” when everyone around you is doing the same thing.  That said, it’s still fun to go all out while staying in, and I’ve planned the menu: Steak with Drunken Mushrooms and Roasted Blue Cheese Potatoes.  It looks amazing and simple, leaving enough time to also make Dark Chocolate Brownies with Raspberry Goat Cheese Swirl.  This will pair perfectly with Cathedral Ridge Rusty Red, which is 100% Syrah; it’s an off-dry Syrah with notes of jammy blackberry, chocolate covered-cherry, and smokey star anise.  It’s a perfect complement to everything from the steak to the chocolate (and on sale at the moment)!

Also for Valentine’s Day, Cathedral Ridge Winery is offering Twila’s chocolates in both tasting rooms.  Pick up some Rusty Red, enjoy some chocolate, and head home to the most romantic spot in town.  Cheers!

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I recently discovered farro kale soup at a wonderful restaurant in Portland called Luce.  I couldn’t wait to try it at home, which I did this evening.  I made a soup base with about 1/3 cup of olive oil (from Ovino for those in the Gorge), a couple of medium onions, a carrot, and a single celery stalk–all finely chopped.  I added a few slices of chopped pancetta and let it brown, and then added garbanzo beans, and a 14 oz can of diced tomatoes (and a little bit of pepper and sea salt).  After a few minutes of allowing these flavors to blend, I added around seven cups of chicken broth, two small bunches of chopped kale (with ribs removed), and 1 cup of farro.  Bring to a boil for five minutes and then let it simmer for about an hour.  Grate some fresh parmesan, heat up a loaf of bread, and pour yourself a delicious glass of Cathedral Ridge Dampier Pinot Noir.  Add one more dash of good olive oil to each bowl of soup before serving. Dinner by the fireplace optional, but highly recommended.   -AG