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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.

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.

Waiting on a Wine Angel

I really don’t mean to, but I rub off on people.  It might be my youth, insatiable personality, or the mullet I’m currently working on.  But I’m also pretty sure it has something to do with my wine knowledge.  I wrote last time about how I have a little wine box – chardonnay, cabernet, and pinot noir.  Unfortunately sometimes I think that my little box rubs off on my clients as well.  As I have started to venture outside the box, subsequently they do as well.

Recently, I suggested a bottle of Purple Angel to a group for dinner.  Purple Angel is a premium carmenere and petit verdot from Chile.  We also added some other bottles to the pile including Soda Canyon’s newly released 2009 Cabernet.  So what happened with my little experiment?  The Purple Angel was popped open at dinner to reveal a complex, but tightly wound wine.  Giving it even just an hour to breathe doesn’t do it justice.  So the group opened the Cabernet which paired wonderfully with the meal.  The Purple Angel was put aside for another day and time.

The next day, one member of the group tasted the Angel.  Better.  The day after, better still.  The wine continued to develop over the next three days and blew the client away – something he was not expecting from a carmenere or Chilean wine.

Lesson learned?  Drink what you like, but have the courage to explore once in a while.  Oh…and always bring a back up bottle to dinner, who knows what is going to happen!

What Exactly is Fume Blanc?

Robert Mondavi's Private Reserve Fume Blanc

Robert Mondavi's Private Reserve Fume Blanc

It works everytime, add a “Fume Blanc” to a tasting menu in the category of Sauvignon Blanc and you are sure to get some confused patrons.  So what exactly is Fume Blanc?

Before the 1970’s Sauvignon Blanc was thought to be an inferior grape….even though the first cuttings of Sav Blanc were brought over to California in the 1880’s from Chateau d’Yguem – the premier Sauternes vineyard in France…but enough about that.  Sauvignon Blanc (or Sav Blanc as many refer to it) was made to sweet for American taste and therefore was not the easiest wine to sell for domestic producers.

Enter Robert Mondavi, who even a the beginning of the California wine movement, was a force to be reckoned with.  Mondavi produced an excellent (and large) crop of Sauvignon Blanc grapes in 1966 and was adamant about selling the grapes as a premier wine.  He eventually bottled and released the 100% Sauvignon Blanc wine under a new name, Fume Blanc.

Today Fume Blanc is merely a pseudonym for a domestic Sauvignon Blanc, but can vary in style slightly.  Some producers of Fume Blanc use the production methods Mondavi did in that first vintage – aging it in oak barrels – to set it apart from the competition and create an unique twist on the varietal.

Here are some of my favorite Fume Blancs:

Grgich Hills Fume Blanc, 2008
100% Sauvignon Blanc from the cooler Napa County regions of Carneros and American Canyon.  Aged for six months on the lees (s

Grgich Hills Fume Blanc

Grgich Hills Fume Blanc

tems of the grapes) in French oak barrels, 80% neutral (used previous to this vintage), 20% new.  Flavors of grapefruit and melon, with green vegetable flavors and balanced acidity.
$30, or Buy 2, Get 1 FREE (Coupon code: BUY2)

Robert Mondavi Private Reserve Fume Blanc, 2008
The original Fume Blanc.  92% Sauvignon Blanc, 8% Semillon from Stags Leap District,  Oakville, Napa Valley and Northern California.  68% of the grapes were fermented in French oak barrels, with the remainder in stainless steel tanks to maintain freshness of the grapes’ flavor.  Lime, lemongrass and a hint of spice.