Hawaiians pray to them. Icelanders sleep restlessly because of them. The lunar astronauts trained on them. Thriller movies are made about them. Sous Chef built a Las Vegas golf course on the scree of one. And now the Wine Pairing Weekend is trying to discern wines grown on or around them. Volcanos exist everywhere in the world and their ash, soil, and rocks can have a profound impact on wines grown under their influence.
Many wine regions have scorched terroir, including California, Washington, Oregon, Italy, Argentina, Greece, and New Zealand. Here in California, numerous Napa Valley AVAs contain in part or large measure volcanic rocks and soils. Examples include Atlas Peak, Calistoga, Howell Mountain, Wild Horse Valley, and Coombsville.
As can be expected, volcanic wines show a high degree of minerality and are expressively aromatic, fresh, and bright with, in the case of red wines, much less tannin than most. According to Patrick Cappiello, wine director of Pen & Ash in Manhattan, “The wines are much more aromatic as a result of the mineral content in the soil. The plants are just happier plants.” Anyone who has visited the Hawaiian Islands can attest to the benefits to the local flora from immersion in volcanic soil.
It was difficult to narrow my wine selections this month with such a large playing field. However, after a little research I settled on a 2009 AJ Pearce Cabernet Sauvignon from the Coombsville AVA in Napa Valley, a 2013 Monticello Vineyards Corliss Estate Chardonnay from the Oak Knoll District in Napa Valley, and a 2012 Anam Cara Chardonnay Nicholas Estate from the Willamette Valley in Oregon. I learned that red wine predominates in the volcanic terroir and I had fewer options among white wines. For cuisine I adopted coastal recipes from the shores of Hawaii to the decidedly non-volcanic shores of New England.
For the first pairing, I chose the wine and then tried to find an appropriate dish. The 2009 AJ Pearce Cabernet Sauvignon happened to be in our wine refrigerator, but we could not remember where we bought it or how much we paid. What a shame since it sure was tasty. Deep garnet in color and luscious on the palate with hints of jammy pepper and dark fruit, it was well balanced, had traces of minerality, and opened up beautifully as dinner progressed. Although 14.8% ABV, its tannins were restrained and there was little alcoholic heat frequently accompanying such a robust wine.
Roy Yamaguichi is a favorite chef of ours, particularly Sous Chef who dined frequently at 385 North in Los Angeles which Roy opened in 1984 and the first Roy’s Restaurant in Hawaii which he opened in 1988. Adapting a Roy Yamaguichi recipe I found online, I paired the AJ Pearce wine with Black Peppercorn Crusted Filet Mignon with Maui Onion Cognac Sauce. The peppery crust complimented the spicy pepper notes in the wine and the sweet onion sauce added an extra dimension of flavor to the meat. This wine/food pairing was a winner in my book and offered a restaurant-quality experience at home.
I was eager to see if we could notice the volcanic influence in white wines. So I prepared an Autumn Pappardelle with Lobster, Mushrooms, Shallots and Cream that I hoped would pair nicely with my two white wines. This dish is reminiscent of a seafood version of Beef Stroganoff. The creamy mushroom sauce adds a hearty, comforting texture and taste with the lobster contributing a note of luscious, rich flavor. This pasta dish is easy enough to make on a work night, and luxurious enough to serve to company.
Having two white wines allowed for side-by-side comparison and an early bedtime. The 2013 Monticello Vineyards Corliss Estate Chardonnay was pale straw in color but full bodied with notes of oak, pear, butterscotch, and possibly fig. The winery recommends pairing this wine with a creamy pasta dish, and it did show well with our pasta. It retails for $26.99 at Total Wine. Definitely delicious and not at all like the buttery chardonnays you might associate with the Napa Valley and elsewhere in California.
The 2012 Anam Cara Nicholas Estate Reserve Chardonnay ended up being our favorite pairing with this dish. It had notes of pear, honey, and roasted nuts. It was more austere and the acid was more discernable than the Monticello Chardonnay, and in my opinion better offset the richness of the creamy pasta and lobster. The grapes are Dijon Clones, but the wine is not Burgundian in style. Rather it has its own unique attributes. The wine retails for $32.00 at Total Wine.
Make sure to stop by the Wine Pairing Weekend Group this month for more Volcanic Origins food and wine pairings:
- Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm will share #WinePW presents Volcanic Wine and Food PairingsDavid at Cooking Chat paired Volcanic Cab, Potatoes and Beef
- Here at Culinary Adventure with Camilla you’ll find Wines from Scorched Terroir Around the Globe
- Sarah of Curious Cuisiniere wrote Australian Style Grilled Shrimp and Not So VolcanicAustralian Wine
- Lori at Dracaena Wines titled her post From the Ashes a Terroir Shall be Woken #WinePW
- Martin at ENOFYLZ Wine Blog gives us A Taste of Greece: Grilled Branzini with Ladolemono Paired with Hatzidakis Assyrtiko
- Jeff from foodwineclick thinks that Goats and Volcanoes are an Earthly Match
- Erin at Platings and Pairings whipped up some Pork Chops with Cherry Sauce
- Nancy at Pull that Cork made some Arancini Paired with Etna Rosso for #winePW
- Michelle at Rockin Red Blog is writing about Volcanic Wine: Erupting with Flavor
- Jade at Tasting Pour shared State Soil, Stoller Wine, and a Secret Recipe? #winepw
- Jennifer at Vino Travels went with a Sicilian volcanic wine pairing: Pasta Alla Norma with Nerello Mascalese
A special thank you to Camilla from Culinary Adventure with Camilla for hosting this month. Next month Jeff from foodwineclick will be hosting on October 10th and the group will be featuring the Merlot varietal.
- 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
- ½ cup water
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 8 ounces cremini mushrooms
- 8 ounces oyster mushrooms
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream
- 1¼ pounds cooked lobster meat (3 lobster tails)
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- 8 ounces dried pappparadelle
- ½ cup minced fresh parsley
- Place the dried porcini mushrooms in a small saucepan and cover them with water. Let the mixture come to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn off the heat and let stand for at least 15 minutes but no more than 1 hour. Drain the porcini mushrooms, straining the cooking liquid through a fine mesh sieve if it is sandy. Set the cooking liquid aside and coarsely chop the mushrooms.
- Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the fresh mushrooms and cook until they soften and release their juices, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the drained porcini mushrooms, their reserved cooking liquid, and the white wine and cream. Increase the heat to medium-high and let come to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the sauce has thickened slightly, about 3 minutes. Stir in the lobster meat and toss to coast with the sauce. Cook until lobster meat is warmed through. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste, and keep it warm over low heat.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the salt and papparadelle and cook according to package directions. Drain pasta well and immediately transfer to skillet with sauce. Add remaining butter and mix thoroughly over medium heat until the pasta is coated with the sauce. Add parsley to sauce and serve.