America is missing beautiful white wines by insisting on drinking what we perceive to be “dry” with “dry” equating to “smart,” “stylish,” “modern,” and what the beautiful people drink – beautiful dry wine for beautiful people – and we don’t see Chenin Blanc as “smart” “stylish” “modern” or what those gorgeous savvy masses are imbibing. Just a little thought and a little experimentation will prove that mindset to be uninformed, not to mention boring. There is more to white wine than Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.
I asked one of my favorite wine professionals (Milton Leiter) for a suggestion for an Easter or springtime table wine, and he didn’t have to think about it long. We walked directly to the Chenin Blanc section. Years ago when I had his job in the same wine department, we always had a Chenin section set up for Easter and Thanksgiving, but I’m here to tell you that Chenin ‘back in the day’ was not what Chenin can be today. He suggested the 2011 L’Ecole No. 41 Chenin Blanc from Columbia Valley, Washington State. Hubby and I tried it tonight with a baked chicken breast, after a blue cheese spread that has been in my recipe file for a hundred years, served on a warm little French baguette and a toast to some vacation plans that came together today.
L’Ecole 41′s Chenin Blanc is from 30-year-old vines, incredible for a U.S. white wine, and especially for Chenin Blanc from the States. The nose of this Chenin is pungent, rich, elegant. Without tasting, pear, apple and delicate dogwood or maybe honeysuckle were prominent – like a waft right off the branches in a light breeze. On the palate the wine has crisp acidity, balanced with lushly ripe melon and peaches, a slightly sweet perception as appreciated in the ripe fruits we love, and on to a dry, completely clean finish. At 0.86% residual sugar and 13.5% alcohol, this is a dry, food friendly wine. For a simple discourse on residual sugar, visit The Wine Curmudgeon here and the Palate Press for a residual sugar chemistry lesson.
A traditional Easter or springtime table might have orange-marmalade glazed ham, yeasty rolls, sweet potatoes or a gratin, fresh shrimp, pasta with white sauces, arugula or fresh spinach and strawberries or raspberries, deviled eggs or egg-based dishes for brunch, mixed melons, fresh green beans or haricot verts if available, tiny blanched asparagus and chicken dishes limited only by your imagination. L’Ecole 41 Chenin Blanc is a match for all the above.
Southern Living Magazine has a beautiful spread of variations of springtime dining. These lemon-dill chicken salad-stuffed eggs caught my eye and look at the plating – so fresh and pretty. See all Southern Living menu suggestions here.
I mentioned the blue cheese spread appetizer with the Chenin Blanc before dinner. If you love blues, try this and don’t be afraid to mix it up a bit. It’s great with dried cranberries too.
One 4-ounce package cream cheese
4 ounces good quality blue cheese, a Gorgonzola or Stilton, crumbled
1/8th teaspoon finely minced fresh garlic
1/8th cup finely minced chopped celery
1/4th cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans
Salt and White Pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients except blue cheese.
When mixed, gently fold in blue cheese.
Mound on serving dish on a bed of greens, and serve with warm baguette slices or thin crackers.
If you prefer a cheese ball or log, double the ingredients but set the chopped nuts aside. To the cheese mixture, add 1/4th teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce. Form into a ball or log and refrigerate 24-36 hours. Before serving, roll in nuts to coat well. Nuts and all, this cheese ball freezes well, and can be divided into several small balls or logs.
Easter Wine No 1 – Sauvion Vouvray 2011 (also 100% Chenin Blanc from the Loire)
Easter Wine No. 2 – Gundlach Bundschu Estate Gewurztraminer 2011, Sonoma, California
Easter Wine No. 3 – L’Ecole No. 41 Chenin Blanc 2011, Columbia Valley, Washington State
How about a sparkling?:
Segura Viudas Reserva Heredad Cava, a dry Spanish sparkling wine, food-friendly and awesome
The first day of Spring has come and gone – Wednesday, March 20th. YAY! The 5 o’clock-somewhere-patio-attitude is hopefully a reality soon.