We’ve been cooking more lately. Like a lot. I’ve been working from home alongside Thing 1 and Thing 2 who have been doing distance learning. And overall, we’re doing fairly well. But man, have I become a short order cook! What used to be a weekly fight over the fact that a Nutella sandwich is not a good basis for a school lunch has now become nonexistent. Because now it’s all about the ‘hot lunch’ (which used to just be a Friday thing). Every time I look up, they are hungry (again) and I find myself in my kitchen yet again. I may need to start asking for tips!
Of course, in the beginning there was a certain novelty to all the family togetherness and the meals were a bit more elaborate. A few weeks into all of this and I’m now looking for some quicker meals that no one will complain about – and that will last for at least a couple of days. The one constant in all of this is that we’re still pairing great wines with dinner. So when I received a set of wines courtesy of Pedernales Cellars, I knew it would be fun to pair these wines with whatever we were eating. They specialize in Spanish and Rhône style wines and as I’ve had them on a number of occasions, I knew they were great food wines. So I put on my mad scientist wine pairing hat (yes it’s a thing) and began planning.
One of the hallmarks of a great pairing is a seamless transition between the wine and the food. So seamless that you hardly know when you go from one to the other. Alternatively, a great paring can also consist of contrasts (but different from something that clashes). Overall, most of the pairings I came up with achieved the harmony that I was looking for. Here’s what we paired. And all were kid-friendly.
2017 Texas Viognier w/ Homemade Cheeseburger Macaroni
Growing up, Hamburger Helper was a staple in my house. It was just my mom and me for many years and that was always one of my favorite meals. I mean, what’s not to love – creamy cheese and pasta. And while nostalgia is a great thing, I’m a bit more picky about what my kids eat. So I scoured the internet for the classic Hamburger Helper Cheeseburger Macaroni recipe sans all the preservatives and ingredients I can’t pronounce. Most of the recipes I found were a good start, but still needed a bit more flavor. I solved that problem with sautéing some onion along with some bacon and adding it to my cheesy pasta mixture. Finished it off with a bit of green onion and it was so darn good and better than anything out of a box!
For the wine, I chose the Pedernales Cellars Texas Viognier. The Viognier paired well with the dish in two ways. First, the acidity was a great foil for the richness in the dish and helped cut through all the decadent cheese. Second, the roundness and rich, lush fruit of the wine also complemented the richness of the dish. This was a win-win. And mad props to this well done Viognier as it’s a varietal that I sometimes struggle with. But not this one.
2018 Texas Dry Rosé w/ Stewed Okra, Sausage, and Tomatoes
One of my favorite things about summer is the bounty of fresh fruit and vegetables from the garden. Okra is one of those classic summer vegetables that I grew up eating. I still recall so many times sitting on the front stoop with my grandmother while she cut boxes full of okra. Today, I’m lucky to still get my share of freshly harvested okra and tomatoes every summer. Shout out to my brother-in-law who hooks me up every summer! And while many people like it fried, I didn’t grow up eating it that way and still am not a big fan. But cooked with some tomatoes and sausage (or even tasso), and it’s one of our favorite things to cook. Not to mention that it freezes well and it’s so easy to grab a bag out of the freezer. Since it’s not quite summer, we used canned diced tomatoes instead of fresh ones.
And for the wine, what else screams summer more than Rosé? When cooked down and stewed, the dish takes on a homey, richness that needs some acidity to lift it up. Enter Rosé. This particular Rosé is crafted of 67% Cinsault, 28% Mourvèdre, 5% Carignon and is a fuller-bodied example of the pink stuff. Given its heft, it can stand up to the bold flavors that come through in the dish. At the same time, the crisp minerality and acidity are a welcome contrast and help to cleanse the palate for the next bite.
2018 Texas Tempranillo w/ Grilled Beef Skewers
It was only yesterday when Thing 2 thought he didn’t like beef. Now, at the ripe old age of seven, he’s quite the connoisseur and frequently makes requests to visit premium steakhouses. #MonsterCreated. Since we’re at home (a lot) and the weather has been pleasant, we’ve been sitting out and grilling more. I’ve found that no one ever complains about a grilled vegetable, particularly when it’s accompanied by tender grilled beef.
And with beef, it’s hard to go wring with Tempranillo. Depending on who you ask, Tempranillo is regarded as the signature red of Texas. Whether you regard it as such, one thing that most of us agree on is that it is a variety that grows and performs well in Texas. And most of us will also agree that it is a fairly versatile wine. I’d previously had the 2017 version of this wine and found the 2018 to be just as enjoyable when it opened up. The rich black fruits, soft tannins, and hint of smokiness in the wine melded seamlessly with the char on the beef. A match made in heaven for sure. But I would easily have this with fajitas, burgers, grilled chicken, and more.
2017 Texas GSM Mélange w/ Bacon, Sausage, Mushroom & Olive (I pick mine off) Pizza
GSM stands for Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre and this is what Pedernales has historically included in its GSM red blend as the dominant varieties. But in recent years, they have been experimenting with including other Rhone varietals and have really began to love to what Carignan and Cinsault add to the mix. Both varietals tend to add juicy red fruits to the blend. This particular blend is comprised of 43% Mourvèdre, 25% Grenache, 15% Cinsault, 10% Carignan, 4% Syrah, and 4% Petit Sirah. Medium bodied with a great balance of fruit, earthiness, and tannin, not to mention being easy drinking, it has the ability to pair with a number of things. The dominant Mourvèdre is apparent as the wine is bold and structured, but the ripe fruit comes through loud and clear.
And since it was pizza night, this was the perfect wine for an easy going meal. The robust flavor of the bacon, sausage and the mushrooms were a match for the bold flavors of the wine. And the earthiness of the mushrooms and sausage equally matched the earthiness in the wine. If this had been a margherita pizza, it likely would have be overshadowed by the wine. But in this case, we had the prefect pizza with the perfect wine.
Like so many of our beloved small business, the folks at Pedernales Cellars are hanging tough and have revamped their operations to facilitate curbside and online shopping. With great deals on wine bundles, plus discounted or free shipping, now is a great time to gives these wines a whirl. And if you live near an HEB, you’ll find that select Pedernales Cellars wines are available. Is there nothing that HEB can’t do?! Wines can be ordered on the Pedernales Cellars website.
Cheers to easy meals, takeout, and great wine!