I am terrible at meal planning. Usually I decide what I’m going to make for dinner each night based upon what I have a taste for and/or what I have in the refrigerator.
A perfect example: the other night I had a taste for Sloppy Joes. I had none of the fixings at home so I strolled over to the nearby grocery store to stock up.
Folks, don’t look for a Sloppy Joe recipe here. My version is a very imprecise, throw it all together combo of meat, catsup, Worcestershire sauce, a pinch of sugar, and whatever spices I feel like adding at the moment. Nothing fancy but I like it.
The wine I chose to pair with our very un-fancy Sloppy Joe dinner was the 2011 Cargasacchi “Cargasacchi Vineyard” Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir.
This great wine is grown in the Santa Rita Hills area of California’s Central Coast north of Santa Barbara. The distinct climate, meandering coastline and rolling hills of Santa Barbara wine country make for some really interesting micro-climates producing some really interesting wines.
I’ll let the folks at Cargasacchi Vineyards tell you about it.
The Cargasacchi Vineyard is at the western end of the Sta. Rita Hills appellation and exposed to severe maritime climate influence. The prevailing northwest onshore marine pattern sweeps inland off from the Pacific and across the broad Lompoc plain between the Santa Ynez Mountains and La Purisima range. The winds are channeled and accelerate through the narrow maritime throat of the Sta. Rita Hills. (from www.cargasacchi.com)
Can’t you just imagine those winds whipping off the Pacific, over the plains and through the valleys to provide just the perfect amount of cooling to the Santa Rita Hills region?
By the way, you might see the name “Cargasacchi Vineyard” on the label of some other Santa Barbara County wine producers. The Cargasacchi family sells a small amount of their fruit to wineries like Brewer & Clifton, Dragonette, Pali and others to make their own single-vineyard Pinot Noir using the grapes grown in the Cargasacchi vineyard. The same grapes in the hands of different winemakers can produce surprisingly different results!
The 2011 Cargasacchi “Cargasacchi Vineyard” Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir (around $35 retail) was awarded 92 points by Robert Parker. It brings dark berry flavors and a hint of cherry balanced by some earthiness with a nice long finish. According to the winemakers, this wine can be held for another six or so years but I thought it was great right now.
It was so great that Peter and I were tempted to polish off the bottle with our Sloppy Joes. But we did not.
So the next night, with this wine steering my meal planning, I looked in my refrigerator and came up with the perfect dinner.
One night last week we had a fruit and cheese plate for dinner. Peter found a delicious cherry paste in the cheese section of our local Bristol Farms store. It was really yummy with the cheese and we had about a quarter cup leftover, sitting in the refrigerator just waiting to be used.
I had a little bit of a “Chopped” moment, challenging myself to make something delicious with chicken breasts and the leftover cherry paste. The results, if I do say so myself, were pretty awesome.
Again, no recipe but basically this is how the magic happened.
I pounded the chicken breasts to a uniform thickness, seasoned them with salt, a little pepper and a generous sprinkle of powdered sumac. (For those not familiar with powdered sumac, this Middle Eastern spice brings a tangy flavor of lemon and cranberry.)
While browning the chicken breasts in olive oil, I put the cherry paste into a small saucepan to melt. To the cherry paste I added some red wine.
My brilliant son-in-law, Jerry, taught me the great tip of keeping some single serve wine bottles on hand for those times when you need to cook with wine but don’t want to waste the good stuff.
Now, if I were making Chateaubriand for company I wouldn’t take this cheap short cut but for a Tuesday night dinner with my husband? Absolutely!
I let the cherry paste and wine mixture reduce down to thicken a bit, poured it over the chicken then put the chicken into the oven at 350° to finish cooking. The chicken was served with a side of rice pilaf and a mixed green salad topped with a little goat cheese and dried cherries.
The Cargasacchi paired beautifully with this dish as well, highlighting the great versatility of Pinot Noir.
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