Chardonnay and stroganoff

“Which white are you drinking tonight?” my husband asked oh so innocently.

“Huh? I’m not drinking white,” I replied, not so nicely. (hey, it’s been a long day and I’m cranky and CLEARLY the wine in my glass is not white)

“Yes you are, because I need some for my sauce, so which one do you want to open tonight?”

Oh dear. Now THAT’S a good question.

You see, opening a bottle for both cooking and drinking is not as easy as it seems. I use cheap wine in cooking, but no one wants to drink cheap wine. (Readers, I know you know the difference between cheap and inexpensive.) So that rules out my cooking-only wines. And if I were to give my husband a pinot grigio that I don’t especially like, then I’m left with a half-bottle of wine I don’t really like. (basic logic here, folks)

This warm evening calls for a glass of refreshing sauvingnon blanc, but that’s much too fruity and tangy to use in a stroganoff sauce. That leaves me with chardonnay. But chardonnays can be very oaky and buttery and I’m not sure I want to pair that with a heavy cream sauce and beef.

What to do? What to do? (Hey, this is serious business!)

I decided to open a Hayton 2009 Family Reserve Chardonnay* from Cannery Row Cellars. It was part of a Wine Insiders shipment (currently $14.99 on the website) I recently received and not a wine I was familiar with. I took a gamble, knowing it could turn out to be oaky and heavy, so I was pleasantly surprised by how smooth and light it was.

The flavor is mostly apple and lime but it not biting or tangy. The acidity is perfectly balanced to be smooth yet refreshing. This chardonnay made an incredible stroganoff sauce and was a delicious wine to pair with the dish. And since it didn’t start out too tart, I feel like I can drink a glass and  put the rest in the fridge until tomorrow without running the danger of it turning into vinegar.

Moral of the story: Take a chance on cooking wines – you might be surprised. Bonus lesson: Don’t worry about cooking wines – your HUSBAND is COOKING after all!

* The 2009 is not on the Wine Insiders website right now, so the link is to the 2008.

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Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc

On this hot summer night, I needed a cool, refreshing white wine. So I reached for the white that turned me onto whites: Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc. I first tried this at a steakhouse at Lake Tahoe (the owners of Ferrari-Carano also own a couple of Reno-area casino-resorts) and loved it. Then again, I loved all of the three or four wines I tried that night! So when I saw it on sale at our local liquor bonanza, Ben’s Liquor, for only $9.99, I had to try it again.

Thank goodness I can still count on my judgment even after a couple of glasses of wine, because this wine was just as good as I remembered!

The Fume Blance is bubbly on the pour with a refreshing fizz on the tongue. It has a palate-cleansing freshness and a heat-quashing bite. It’s 100 percent sauvignon blanc, a varietal I’m not especially fond of. But don’t write this off as a simple fruity white wine. The undertones of honey and moss bring the melon and grapefruit back to ground level and make it a wine that you can drink all night long — a pre-dinner drink or a fish-dish complement.

Speaking of dishes, I rather inexpertly decided to drink this with ratatouille pot pie. I didn’t even begin to think about a proper pairing, I just knew what was on the menu for dinner and what I wanted to drink. But ya know what? It worked! I’ve made this dish before and paired it with a delicious tempranillo. Yes, a red. And tonight I paired it with a white. And they were both delicious. The ratatouille is basically an Italian-influenced veggie stirfry, so I figured that the veggies would go well with this slightly earthy yet brisk white. And it did.

Both the pot pie and the wine are my answer to a busy work night that is screaming for a taste of sophistication. I needed something on my plate and in my glass that made me feel like I’m consuming something of substance. Here’s to the best $10 you’ll spend on wine this week!

Cannery Row Chardonnay

Thanks to Groupon, I’ve been able to try some new wines much cheaper and more easily than browsing the wine aisle at the grocery store. As much as I love reading labels and looking at the selection on the shelves, shopping online is fitting my hectic schedule much better. My latest online find was through WineInsiders.com’s Groupon offer: $75 of wine for only $25. Yeah, baby!

I browsed the WineInsiders site and found several great deals, including tonight’s pick, Cannery Row 2007 Chardonnay.  It has a delightful aroma of buttery pear. It has a creamy mouthfeel with a clean finish. The pear is soft and smooth without a hint of syrupy sugar. This is truly the perfect chardonnay for me. I despise sweet, overly tart wines. While I have an affinity for heavy oak in my chardonnays, I’m discovering how tasty a buttery layer can be in the absense of oak.

This wine would pair really nicely with a fatty salmon steak or pasta and lemony alfredo sauce. I expected it to be more tart, so I made Betty Crocker’s spicy peanut chicken stir-fry, something I thought would pair well with a bright, lively white wine. I should have opened a sauvignon blanc to go with dinner, but I enjoyed the chardonnay despite the poor pairing.

While we’re on the subject of Cannery Row, I’m dying to check out the Wine Walk there. Has anyone done this? Monterey, on the coast of California south of San Francisco, is an adorable little town with tons to do (my last time there was for a family camping trip, but we spent plenty of time wandering the shops in downtown and digging for shells on the beach). But I didn’t know they have so much wine there! Add another line on my To-Do List!

The case of the missing New World

Tonight I made grilled chicken breasts stuffed with roasted red peppers and mozzarella cheese with sides of rice and corn on the cob. My selection of white wines is pretty limited right now, so I grabbed a New World 2010 Chardonnay (South Africa) and tossed it in the freezer to chill while the chicken grilled.

When I opened the bottle, I detected a bit of apple scent. At first sip, the chardonnay is bright with a melon twist.  The flavor is tart but the mouthfeel is creamy. Quite tasty!

This is a very sippable wine on its own, but it really hits the spot with the grilled chicken. I don’t know if it was the char from the barbecue, or the roasted red peppers, but something in the dish blended perfectly with the chardonnay and made both more enjoyable.

I can’t find any information online about New World. I ordered it through Barclay’s Wine for about $10 I think, and the only information on the bottle is that it’s imported by Barclay’s. This doesn’t tell me much.  I couldn’t even tell you for sure where you can buy it because it’s no longer on the Barclay’s website. This does not bode well for my readers or the value of this post. But hey, I’m drinking tasty wine, so there! (That was uncalled for, I suppose. Sorry, readers.)