What: Around the holidays many of us tend to eat too many heavy meals such as prime rib, beef tenderloin and roast pork. We also drink a lot of red wine this time of year.
Those pairings are especially good when the temperature drops and we want to warm up.
But the weeks before and after Christmas I also try to throw in some lighter meals, featuring fish and shrimp. For those meals we have to have white wine.
That’s why I’m recommending a white wine this week as an alternative to the red meat-big wine norm. The g3 chardonnay from Goose Ridge Vineyards is an especially good alternative because it has such a low price. In a blind tasting, you might think this wine would cost double what it does.
I tasted the 2012 vintage that had been in my cellar, but the 2014 vintage on sale now will be similar. The winery blends this crisp chardonnay from various lots that have been vinified separately, so the taste profile doesn’t change much from year to year. My tasting once again proved to me that a well-made white wine can be cellared for a couple of years without harm.
The wine’s pale yellow color in the glass leads to pleasant citrus and floral aromas. The first sip reveals flavors of mango, pineapple, pear, Granny Smith apple and a touch of lemon. This complex wine also has some butterscotch and vanilla hints on the finish. The creamy, smooth mouthfeel leads to a long, pleasant finish.
The complexity of the wine comes from great grapes and the blending process, which combines individual barrel-fermented and aged lots with stainless steel-fermented and aged lots. This allows the wine to have the fresh crispness of the fruit while bringing in some spice and toast flavors from the barrels.
The wine is a good example of Washington’s wine industry, which continues to grow in production and quality. It trails only California in total wine production, and has more than 850 wineries. Nearly all of the wine comes from the dry eastern part of the state.
The Columbia Valley in eastern Washington is well-suited for producing great wine. The Cascade Mountains form a large rain shield, keeping the coastal rains away. The largest wine region in the state, Columbia Valley averages only 6-8 inches of rain a year, most of that falling during the winter. In the summer the grapes enjoy warm days and cool nights with a long ripening season.
Because the Columbia Valley is 800 miles north of Napa Valley it gets an average of two more hours of sun each day than that famous California region. But being so far north keeps the climate moderate and doesn’t give too much heat to the grapes. The cool nights also help preserve acidity in the grapes, an essential ingredient for elegant wines.
While Washington has become renowned for its merlot and cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and riesling continue to be important grapes there.
Winery: The story of Goose Ridge Estate Vineyard &Winery started in the early 1900s when M.L. “Van” Monson left North Dakota for the Yakima Valley with a love of farming and a dream to start a family business.
The family got established in cattle and orchards in the Columbia Valley, but didn’t plant their first grape vines until 1998 with the help of Dr. Walter Clore, father of the Washington wine industry.
Van’s son, Arvid, and his wife, Suzanne, continued the commitment to quality farming, and little by little added to their acreage until they now have 2,200 acres planted on a south-facing slope next to the acclaimed Red Mountain AVA. The family lives by the adage “great wines are grown, not made.”
They opened the winery in 1999 and produced their first wine in 2000. A state-of-the-art winery followed in 2008. The winery is committed to limited production, hand-crafted wines from select estate-grown grapes.
Today, grandchildren Valerie, Bill and Molly remain true to Van and Arvid’s vision of growing a vineyard and forging a winery built to last. The winery continues to be family-owned and operated. It is the largest contiguous vineyard property in Washington state.
As a part of sustainable farming, and to control vine damaging rodents and insects, the Monsons encourage burrowing owls, songbirds, bats and other wildlife by providing nesting houses and promoting protective natural habitats and corridors.
Cover crops of wheat and barley are planted in alternate years with natural vegetation to further promote a lively habitat for the good, natural predators that prey on vine-blighting insects, reducing or eliminating the need for pesticides. These groundcovers further control erosion, choke back weeds and enrich the soils with important nutrients at the end of their lifecycle.
“My sisters and I grew up with the understanding you don’t farm for this generation, you farm for the next one,” said Bill Monson, president of the company.
The winery specializes in Bordeaux and Rhone varietals.
The g3 series of wines includes chardonnay, rosé and cabernet sauvignon. The first g3 wine was a red blend of three varietals. The g3 label represents the original blend, as well as three Monson Family generations farming the Columbia Valley for almost five decades.
The Goose Ridge label includes pinot gris, merlot, syrah, cabernet sauvignon and a red blend.
The Stonecap label includes riesling, chardonnay, merlot, syrah and cabernet sauvignon.
The winery also offers a chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and red blend under the Tall Sage label as well as cider sold at the tasting room.
Goes With: We drank this beautiful wine last weekend, with shrimp creole, a dish I love almost as much as gumbo. I like the creole because of the fresh flavors from celery, green pepper and onion, and of course, the shrimp.
It is a light dish, and paired with the wine it refreshed us and didn’t slow us down the way some heavy meals can.
The meal and the pairing were superb. The rich fruit flavors of the wine nicely balanced the tasty shrimp and vegetables, which I served over rice.
Heat three tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large skillet. Add two large onions, diced; three ribs of celery sliced diagonally; half of a bell pepper, diced; and 4 tablespoons of minced garlic. Sautee for five minutes.
Meanwhile, combine a heaping tablespoon of flour, one teaspoon of chili powder, one teaspoon of salt, half a teaspoon of black pepper, one bay leaf and one cup of water, mixing well. Add the mixture to the vegetables, cover the pot and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Add one large can of diced tomatoes, one teaspoon of sugar and half a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce. Stir well to combine. Cover and simmer another five minutes.
Add one pound of shrimp, peeled and deveined, and heat until the shrimp turn pink, about five minutes. Let the mixture stand for about five minutes and serve over rice.
- Wine tasting. 5-7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 23, Kroger, 435 Lewiston Road, Grovetown; new wines presented weekly; free; (706) 619-3420
- Wine and beer tasting. 4:30-6:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 23, 3-6 p.m Saturday, Dec. 24, Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans; (706) 922-9463
- Wine tasting. 5-8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 23, Whole Foods, 2907 Washington Road.; five wines with snacks; $5; (762) 333-0260
- Wine tasting. 5-8 p.m. Friday, January 6, Wine World, 133 Georgia Ave., North Augusta; three whites, three reds and cheeses; $5; (803) 279-9522