Philosophers will debate endlessly whether food enhances wine, or wine enhances food. Frankly, I don’t care which enhances the other, I just know the two together are worthy of many words. My focus this year is definitely on the best food and wine pairings I can create, usually within a reasonable budget and amount of time. When Robin, my better half, decided to make Ina Garten’s Shrimp Scampi recipe from her Food Network selections, I knew just the wine in the cellar to pair with this simple, but delicious meal. I’ve held on to a bottle of Passaggio 2009 Unoaked Chardonnay for several weeks, a sample from winemaker Cynthia Cosco, and was excited to serve it up! Was this $16 white wine palatable, and did it work with the recipe?
The first answer is of course it was palatable, as I rarely share bad wines with the world. Cynthia’s philosophy at Passaggio is quite simple, Follow Your Passion, and that clearly shows in her wines. Currently Passaggio’s passion extends to the Unoaked Chardonnay, and a Pinot Grigio that I’ll be tasting later in the week. There’s insider information that perhaps we’ll see a Passaggio Rose in the future. Yum! Cynthia sources her grapes for the Chardonnay from Lodi, California, and uses the Crushpad custom wine making facility to work her magic!
In making the Chardonnay, Cynthia chose to veer away from the “typical” oaky, buttery chardonnay we see out of many California wineries, and let the fruit express itself, rather than the wood. Therefore, the wine is fermented in stainless steel, rather than in oak, and it does not go through malolactic fermentation. “Malo” will provide the heavier, buttery mouth feel that you find in some Chardonnay wines, such as Chateau Montelena of Bottleshock fame. To get a bit of a heavier mouthfeel, Cynthia stirred the wine, which was aging sur lie for six months, every other week. Aging sur lie, or aging on lees, means that the wine stays in the same tank or barrel with the yeast that helped ferment the wine. Often this provides a bit of richness and complexity to the wine, which was very noticeable in the Passaggio chardonnay.
Right out of the bottle, the nose was a little buttered popcorn with pears, and the palate was crisp, with tropical fruits and a little spice, all of which took me by surprise. Usually spice comes from the oak, not the chardonnay, and this was unoaked, right? RIGHT! After about 5 or 10 minutes of breathing, the nose opened up to be a lot less butter popcorn and a lot more pear and fresh fruits. The palate also changed, with a very nice tropical pineapple and pear flavor, with no spice or butter in sight, or taste. Many wines can really benefit from a little air, or breathing. I already went to the “Geek Side” with Sur Lie, so just trust me on this one. Opening the bottle, pour a quarter of a glass, and let oxygen get into the bottle and glass for 5 or 10 minutes for a fabulous glass of wine.
So I’ve told you that the wine rocked my socks, but what about the food and wine pairing? Well, first of all, Ina makes great food, so you know the meal on it’s own was going to be amazing. Easy to make, with fresh flavors of garlic and lemon that enhance the flavor of the shrimp, not mask it. The pasta was al dente and not over sauced, making it a participant of the meal, and not a casualty. We changed the recipe and omitted the red pepper flakes so that the fresh flavors stood out more, and not the heat. However, I’m tempted to make this recipe this weekend with the red pepper flakes, and see how it goes. While I’ve linked to the recipe above, I’ll post it here (without permission, I’m a rebel, huh) for your convenience. Please, Food Network, don’t be mad!
The pairing was, of course, spectacular. Chardonnay and shrimp is usually a fool proof food and wine pairing. However, the tropical flavors of the Passaggio Unoaked Chardonnay complimented the lemony zip of the shrimp scampi so wonderfully, each mouthful beckoned another sip, and each sip, another mouthful. The Passaggio Unoaked Chardonnay is a great wine for $16, and paired with this dish that will run you about $15 to serve 3 or 4 people, you’ve got a great meal for about $30.
A few other wine writers have tasted and shared their thoughts on the Passaggio Unoaked Chardonnay. Check out what Frank Loves Wine and The Iowa Wino had to say. I’d love to hear what YOU have to say! Leave a comment below about Chardonnay, Passaggio, what food you’d like me to pair and post, or what you had for lunch! I don’t care, just leave a comment!
Linguine with Shrimp Scampi by The Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten from Food Network
1 tablespoon kosher salt plus 1 1/2 teaspoons
3/4 pound linguine
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
1 pound large shrimp (about 16 shrimp), peeled and deveined
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/2 lemon, zest grated
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/4 lemon, thinly sliced in half-rounds
1/8 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (we skipped, but give it a go!)
Drizzle some oil in a large pot of boiling salted water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and the linguine, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or according to the directions on the package.
Meanwhile, in another large (12-inch), heavy-bottomed pan, melt the butter and olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic. Saute for 1 minute. Be careful, the garlic burns easily! Add the shrimp, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and the pepper and saute until the shrimp have just turned pink, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Remove from the heat, add the parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, lemon slices, and red pepper flakes. Toss to combine.
When the pasta is done, drain the cooked linguine and then put it back in the pot. Immediately add the shrimp and sauce, toss well, and serve.