The Dish @ Dashe
Fish Tales and Monkey Business from the Team at Dashe Cellars
Mike Dashe Co-founder & Director of Winemaking
Anne Dashe Co-founder
Rene Calderon Winemaker
Stephanie Flasher DTC & Wine Club Manager
Monica Chappell Project Manager
Jiliane Patriarca Tasting Room Teammate
Perhaps one of my favorite things to pair with wine is the ever-changing cheese plate. Wine and cheese are friends from way back. Both are the product of fermentation and both can express terroir, or the taste of the place they come from. In the case of cheese, the taste of terroir emerges from the different milk-giving animals; which can range from cows, goats, sheep and even water buffalos which just happens to make my favorite cheese of all time – Mozzarella di Bufala.
This primer can serve as a perfect introduction to the basics and can offer many ways for you to expand your knowledge and understanding of artisan wine and cheese, delve into the art of pairing the two and help you discover a delicious new dimension to your wine-drinking pleasure. So Let’s Go!
Wine & Cheese Pairing Tips:
The first rule of thumb is that white wines usually pair more easily with artisan cheese than red wines do – sorry red wine lovers. White wine’s acidity cuts through cheese’s butterfat beautifully. The creamy and nutty flavors in cheese can also bring a white wine to life by contrast. Along those lines, some consider Sparkling wine the overall cheese-friendliest wine. Among red wines, the most successful to pair with cheese are the lighter bottlings. Terroir-inspired combinations, artisan wine and cheese coming from the same region, can also be a great pairing strategy.
Pairings that Please:
- White or bloomy rind cheeses such as Camembert and Brie are the trickiest to match; safe bets include one of Dashe’s soft, fruity reds from the Les Enfants Terribles Series. My pairing shortlist would include either the Bio-Dynamically grown Heart Arrow Ranch Zinfandel or the 2017 Clarksburg Grenache that was recently featured in Wine & Food Magazine.
- Hard cheeses such as Cheddar, Parmesan, and Manchego go with the widest range of wines; safe bets are medium to full-bodied reds without too much tannin. Insert an age-worthy artisan Zinfandel here – one of Dashe’s Single Vineyard Zinfandel would be just the ticket. For me, I’d unapologetically sink my teeth into the Florence Vineyard Zinfandel along with a hunk of Parmigiano- Reggiano.
- Blue cheeses can be troublesome partners for any wine apart from the classic partnerships of port and Stilton. The salty with sweet principle prevails so why not try Dashe Late-Harvest Zinfandel from the Lily Hill Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma with your favorite blue veined cheese. My favorite blue is Point Reyes Original Blue also from Sonoma County – things that grow together go together.
- Strong, pungent cheese offers no safe bets. Sweet or fortified wines are likely to pair well or try an aromatic white such as the classic combination of Munster from Alsace and Riesling. Dashe Dry Riesling from McFadden Farm has a depth of flavor that makes it one of the most age-worthy Rieslings our artisan winery has ever produced, and it’s structured enough to stand up to strong cheeses.
- For Goat milk cheeses, Sparkling wine is a good match especially with young soft artisan cheeses; the more acid in the cheese the more acid the wine should have. Along with crisp acidity, sparkling wine possesses wonderful bubbles to cleanse the palate. The 2016 marked the 20th Anniversary of Dashe Cellars and to commemorate we released Dashe 2016 Méthode Champenoise Sparkling wine.
- Sheep milk cheese can handle a robust red made from Mourvedre, Carignane or Zinfandel. Hard to decide which direction to go in? Why not have it all with Dashe Ancient Vines Sonoma blend. Another option would be to go with one of two Dashe Single Vineyard Petite Sirah; Louvau or Todd Brothers Ranch, which is a wine club exclusive.
Strategies for Harmony:
Cheese and wine is a classic pairing - like peanut butter and jelly or cookies and milk. Both are natural artisan products, created using a standard process but with a myriad of results. When planning a cheese platter, try upping the ante with roasted nuts, walnut bread and a selection of dried fruits to create a more wine-friendly match. When serving a selection of artisan cheeses, try to choose three or four which all pair well with a particular style of wine. Highly oaked and super-tannic wines can be difficult to pair with cheese so try avoiding these options.
Just say cheese please!
It’s that time of year when we dive headfirst into all things Thanksgiving – bring it on! Last year I hosted 25 people at our Thanksgiving table. This isn’t the year for relatives to travel, so with everyone celebrating the holidays with smaller groups and mostly immediate family this year, there will be smaller portions which means less leftovers! One thing that will not change is the effort put into the meal.
In my humble opinion, the ultimate Thanksgiving meal is about so much more than just the turkey and sides. If ever there were a wine lover's holiday, Thanksgiving would be it. And one of the pleasures of my Thanksgiving is that every family member has a role in the big meal. My role is a peach. I'm the wine gal. It's a fine job for a number of reasons with my favorite being the many tastings I conduct leading up to the final wine choice. It's a tough job, but someone has to do it. I usually receive family advice along the way; don't bring anything wildly expensive and don't bring anything too weird. To fit the bill, the wine needs to be a crowd-pleaser and match the weight of the menu. No problem. This year, with a cellar full of artisan wines from Dashe, I think I've got it covered.
I’ve got a few tips that I’ve learned over the years regarding planning the wine for this delicious yet tricky wine-pairing meal.
How Do You Choose the Right Wine?
Here's an easy answer: No single wine will work perfectly with your entire meal so serve a few. Regardless of which wine you choose the style to look for is medium-bodied, fruity, and without a lot of oak which might overpower the food.
How Much Wine Should You Buy?
A bottle is about five glasses, so I go with a bottle for every two people. If you are serving wine before dinner, add a glass more per person to the equation.
Which is it, Red or White?
Either! Hands down my most favorite part of Thanksgiving is the stuffing. No questions asked. Using the stuffing as a wine guide: if you serve a basic bread-and-celery version, try a white such as Dashe Les Enfants Terribles “Concrete Cuvée” Chenin Blanc or a dry Riesling such as Dashe McFadden Farm Potter Valley Riesling. Add hearty mushrooms or sausage to that basic stuffing recipe then one of Dashe’s signature reds such as the bio-dynamically grown Heart Arrow Ranch Zinfandel would be the choice. But the best rule is to let guests drink what they like; be it red or white so plan to have both on hand.
With all that is going on in the world, Thanksgiving is a good time for us to count our blessings. Whether you are cooking at home for your family or taking advantage of the amazing take-out options available, I hope this special meal provides some comfort during these challenging times.
Family Stuffing Recipe
By Monica Chappell
As I said earlier, stuffing and I are BFF’s. It is hands down my favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal and as a result, I’m sharing my family’s super-savory recipe so look no further. Trust me, this stuffing with lots of gravy drizzled on top, Heaven! So, without further ado here it is.
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 cup celery chopped
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter plus 2 tablespoons cubed
- 1/4 cup dry white wine – something you would drink!
- 1 pound sweet Italian sausage meat removed from casing
- 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
- 1/2 pound day old Ciabatta bread cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- In a medium sauté pan add the onion, celery, 1 tablespoon oil and butter cook over a medium low heat for 10 minutes to soften. Add the wine and season with salt and pepper, simmer for about 5 minutes. Take off the heat and allow the mixture to cool.
- In a large sauté pan over medium high heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and Italian sausage meat and break up with a wooden spoon and cook until browned and cooked through, approximately 8 to 10 minutes.
- In a medium bowl toss together the celery and onion mixture, the chopped parsley, sausage, the Ciabatta bread and red pepper flakes. Combine all the ingredients.
- Whisk the eggs and add to the chicken stock, and 3/4 cup of the Parmesan. Gently place into an 8 1/2 by 8 1/2- inch glass Pyrex baking dish and top with the remaining Parmesan. Dot with butter. Place in middle rack and bake until top is golden brown, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
One of my favorite subjects to talk about is wine & food pairing. I love to try and demystify wine and food relationships one ingredient at a time and provide some pairing strategies. The simple formula – white wine with fish, red wine with meat – once dictated all wine and food pairings, but times have changed. Rules like this just don’t fit the way we eat today.
For me, if a wine and food pairing work well together, it’s usually due to one of the following principles:
- The wine and food are in some way similar - which usually diminishes the taste impression of that similar component.
- The wine and food contrast in some way - which usually leaves either the wine or the food as the dominant partner.
When pairing wine and food, several things can happen:
- Sweetness in food can increase the perception of bitterness and astringency in wine
- Saltiness in food can suppress bitter taste in some wines
- Foods with high amounts of acidity can erase the perception of acidity and make the wine taste richer and mellower
The Golden Rule; you cannot beat bubbles:
When in doubt drink sparkling wine. The tingling acidity makes most sparklers a perfect match for a wide variety of food. Try our Dashe 2016 Sparkling Wine, Methode Champenoise with a few of these food-pairing options. It is always a fun surprise to see how a bit of bubbles livens up the dinner and dessert table.
- Fried food and bubbles are best friends from Fried Chicken to Fries
- Buttered popcorn from Truffle to Parmesan dusted
- Old-school works too like caviar, oysters or foie gras
- So simple, but rarely gets better then smoked salmon or cured meats
- Fruit based desserts are a natural with the bubbles
A great way to explore new wine and food pairing combinations is to treat yourself to a wine and food-pairing book. Some of my favorite reads include:
- The Food & Wine Guide to Perfect Pairings by the Editors of Food & Wine
- What to Drink with What You Eat by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen A. Page
- Perfect Pairings by Evan Goldstein
- Great Tastes Made Simple by Andrea Robinson
Well matched, even the simplest food and the humblest wine can create instant magic. Create your own magic this summer with these pairing tips and have fun popping many corks and research the perfect match.
There's no better way to spend a SIP evening than creating a delicious dish while sipping a Dashe wine for inspiration. When the topic of food and wine pairing comes up, the usual flow of conversation revolves around what wine to drink WITH dinner. Yet sometimes the tougher decision is what wine to put IN dinner. That's because when listed as an ingredient, wine is often suggested in the most generic terms, and you're left to wonder - will any wine do? But there is more to cooking with wine than using up last night's leftovers. Take a look at my top 5 tips.
As a general rule, never cook with any wine you would not drink. The month old leftovers in the refrigerator won’t do. Any off flavors in wine become more concentrated during cooking.
Avoid using these all together. They are made of a thin, cheap base wine to which salt and food coloring have been added.
If the dish has bold or spicy flavors go for a more aromatic white such as our Dashe McFadden Farm Dry Riesling made from organically grown grapes from the Potter Valley. Our newly released 2019 vintage has a wonderful fruit/acid balance along with floral aromas that can counterbalance heavily spiced dishes.
Dry Red Wine
If a recipe calls for dry red wine, consider the heartiness of the dish. A long-simmered meat dish calls for a correspondingly hearty red like a Cab. A lighter dish might call for a less powerful red such as one of our lighter-styled 'les enfant terribles' Zin’s.
When you cook sparkling wine, you eliminate its primary qualities, bubbles, and alcohol. However, a simple beurre blanc sauce can benefit from the two remaining qualities of a good sparkler: high acidity and yeast flavor.