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Prosciutto and Melon Makes a Meal; Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc

My favorite meals usually start with a traditional recipe that’s been flipped upside down and turned into something completely different; while still keeping the flavors that made it great to begin with.  Does that make sense? To explain further, this meal is the perfect example. Everyone loves the traditional Italian appetizer of melon and prosciutto. The sweet, creamy melon versus the sharp, salty prosciutto defines a sweet and salty balance perfectly. The only problem is, prosciutto and melon on it’s own is not substantial enough to be a main course. Not until now that is…

A full flavored, acidic wine like the 2010 Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with the pungent anise flavor of fennel and in this dish fresh fennel adds a needed crunch.  This vintage has a background aroma of melon that is begging to be brought to life, and fresh melon will do just that. Since we have three of the four S’s of a culinary experience (sweet, salty, savory), we might as well add the 4th (spicy) with a homemade chili oil.  Not too spicy to overpower the vibrance of the wine, just spicy enough to add a punch of flavor.

Ingredients
4 red snapper fillets, skins removed
4oz prosciutto, thinly sliced
Salt, pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 ripe mangoes
1 bulb fennel, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon, finely diced chives

Lightly season snapper with salt and pepper.  Prosciutto will provide some salt, so be careful with what you add.

Cover one side of snapper with slices of prosciutto (however many it takes to cover top and sides of fish). Press into the fish and let rest 5 minutes.

Heat olive oil in non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add snapper, prosciutto side down and cook until crispy, about 3 minutes. Flip fish and cook on opposite side for another 3 minutes. Remove from pan and keep warm in oven. Continue with remaining fillets.

Remove peel from mango and cut flesh off center pit. Slice into rounds, about ½ inch thick.

Wisk red pepper flakes and EVOO in small dish until incorporated. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To plate: First layer several slices of mango on the bottom of the plate. Then layer in slices of fennel. Top with fish and then drizzle just
about 1 teaspoon of chili oil. Decorate plate with chives.

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Salmon Wellington with Fleur du Cap Chardonnay

The two staples in the wine world: Cabernet and Chardonnay.  Feature both options at a party and your friends will be satisfied with either.  All Chardonnays taste the same – that’s what we all think isn’t it? Well the 2009 Fleur du Cap Bergkelder Selection Chardonnay is an exception to that rule. The heavy oak flavor and thick buttery finish you picture when you think Chardonnay doesn’t exist here.  With a well-balanced weight and fullness, zesty citrus flavors and just a touch of vanilla oak aftertaste, this Chardonnay stands out among the rest.  If you are a “traditional” Chardonnay lover; give this one a chance and if you think you don’t like Chardonnay – this one may change your mind! (Especially if paired with the right meal to really enhance the aromas and flavors).

Sticking with the theme of “exceptions to the rule” a mornay sauce (a bechamel sauce with cheese added) is one of those: no cheese with seafood.  It can be done! A mild parmesan cheese melted into a thick, herbed cream sauce draping over a crisp puffed pastry layered atop soft, buttery salmon. YUM!

4 fillets fresh Atlantic Salmon, skin removed
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 large egg,beaten

Herbed Mornay Sauce
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
Splash Chardonnay
1 cup milk
¼ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
Pinch cayenne pepper
Salt
½ cup parmesan cheese, grated
¼ cup total fresh dill, basil, tarragon

Tomato Salad
1 pint heirloom cherry tomatoes, cut in half
½ shallot, sliced
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt/pepper to taste
Fresh basil

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cut each sheet of puff pastry in half vertically. Place one fillet of salmon in the middle of each ½ sheet
  3. Lightly season salmon with salt and pepper. Fold edges of pastry up and around salmon, using egg wash to seal.  Completely cover salmon so no parts of the fish are exposed.
  4. Place all pieces on baking sheet and brush entire outside with egg wash.  Bake until golden brown, 10-12 minutes.
  5. For the salad, mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and let sit until salmon is finished cooking.
  6. Heat butter in small saucepan over medium heat.  Add flour and whisk for 1 minute.  Add wine to deglaze and let cook for 1 minute.  Add milk, cayenne, nutmeg and salt, continuing to whisk. Let cook until thick, 3-5 minutes.
  7. Remove from heat. Add parmesan cheese and mix until melted. Add herbs and check seasoning.

Summer’s hot new white grape….Torrontes

There is no doubt in the wine industry that South America is the new ‘hot’ (in terms of popularity) growing region of the world. One of my favorite finds has been not the signature Malbec, but a relatively unknown white grape – Torrontes. See the details below and taste my recommendation at our Century Club Tasting this Thursday.

Grape Name:  Torrontes

Pronunciation:  Tor RON taze,

Color:  Green skin grape, produces white wine.

From:  Torrontes has recently become the standout white grape from Argentina – namely Mendoza. It can also be found in small quantities in Chile, as it is successful growing at high altitudes.

History: Torrontes is actually a general name used for three different varieties:  Torrontés Riojano,  Torrontés Sanjuanino, and Torrontés Mendocino. Torrontes Riojano is the most common and has come to be referred to as simply ‘Torrontes.’ This is the majority of the white wine that you will see in the U.S. All three varieties are native to Argentina from the Criollas grape family, an American born family with roots from the European species -vitis vinifera. Recent DNA testing has found that Torrontes is a cross between Muscat of Alexandria and the Mission grapes.

Climate: Torrontes prefers a high altitude climate with dry and windy conditions.

Characteristics:  Torrontes can produce two very different styles of wine: crisp and light or full-bodied and fruit forward. The crisp and light style is most similar to an Italian Pinot Grigio with amble acidity, citrus flavors and a light body. The second style features flavors of honey suckle, tropical fruits and citrus. It is most comparable to a unoaked,warm climate Chardonnay.

Pairing: Depending on the style, this wine does best with seafood and poultry with light sauces that are lemon or white wine based.

Recommendation: Goulart Torrontes, $15