We could tell a tale of perfect pairings, dishes that always delight, and wines plucked at their peak… but we would be liars and you would feel bad comparing our fantasy to your reality. Truth is food and wine are not always perfect at our house, but we usually have a perfect back up plan.
We were excited for Open That Bottle Night #OTBN, a night dedicated to declaring, “This night is special enough. I’m gonna open that bottle I have been saving.” We had a bottle of Chenin Blanc from Savennieres. Chenin Blanc has the longest list we have seen of possible aromatics and flavors and this grape can be made into still, sparkling, or dessert wines. It is the multiple personality of the wine grape world. It is most expressive when yields are low and hangtime is long.
Savennieres is an appellation in Anjou-Saumur in France’s Loire Valley. Here Chenin Blanc is held to very low maximum yields. Savennieres is not that far away from the land of Chenin’s sweet botrytized self – Coteaux du Layon, Bonnezeaux and Quarts de Chaume. Botrytis is a type of “beneficial” rot that develops in humid conditions and causes the grapes to shrivel resulting in sweeter wines. Savennieres is a dry version of Chenin Blanc. There is a lot of air circulation in this appellation so Chenin Blanc has a long hangtime without developing botrytis. Chenin Blanc is also known for having high acidity – a vital component to bottle aging.
So we had done our homework. Our bottle of 2005 should have been a symphony of flavors – mineral, fruit, herbs, savory, maybe even some honey and toast. It was even getting great comments on cellar tracker. Did we mention lanolin and sheep’s wool are two possible Chenin flavors? Sounds weird but as an undertone to brighter fruits these can lend an organic earthiness like the “barnyard” in good Burgundy Pinot noir. It is not, I repeat NOT, supposed to smell and taste like “OMG did a sheep maybe die in this bottle?” OR “Is this what spoiled sheep’s milk tastes like?” Needless to say we had a bad bottle and there were no warning signs. It can happen to even the best wineries.
Surprises happen, even to wine writers. This is why we always have a chilled bottle of inexpensive but delicious sparkling wine. Cava from Segura Viudas definitely saved the day. Cava is sparkling wine from Spain. It is made in the traditional method of Champagne but with mostly different grapes. Chardonnay can be used but Cava gets its distinctive flavors from Parellada, Macabeo, and Xarel-lo.. These deliver a wine with enough earthy flavor and crisp acid to enjoy alone at a price that allows mixing up your favorite sparkling cocktail. Perfect for saving the night or for unexpected guests. Our bottle cost ~$8 at Safeway and we were as happy as clams.
But we served crab. The plan for a our special bottle was making crab cakes for the first time. New to the Pacific Northwest, the availability of local Dungeness crab is a rare treat. Tip: Depending on the supply in a given year the price of Dungeness crab may increase for a couple of weeks following Chinese New Year.
Luckily the crab cakes were delicious. Here is the recipe.
- 1 egg
- 1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
- 1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
- ½ cup diced red pepper
- 2 Tbs. cilantro
- 2 Tbs. sriracha mayo
- ¼ tsp. salt
- ½ cup panko
- 1 lb. crab meat
- In a large bowl, lightly beat egg.
- Stir in mustard, Worcestershire, pepper, cilantro, mayo and salt.
- Fold in crab and panko.
- Scoop to form 8 crab cakes
- Chill in fridge for 1 hour.
I think my fellow #winePW bloggers may have had better luck.
If you are catching this post early enough, you can join our live Twitter Chat on Saturday, March 14, at 11 a.m. ET, via the Twitter hashtag #winePW. If you’ve come to us after March 14, consider joining us for #winePW 11 focused on wine pairings for early spring vegetables hosted by A Day in the Life on the Farm on Saturday, April 11.