Two Melon Soup – A High Impact, Low Effort Recipe

Hi, folks!

We had a busy weekend which started with the celebration of this gal’s birthday.

the birthday girl

You may know her as “Momma” from the comments section of this blog. I know her as the best mom a gal could ever have.

Our two-day celebration was capped off with a delicious dinner at McCormick & Schmick’s.  By the way, did you know that they will print a special occasion message to the guest of honor on the top of your menus? Nice touch, McCormick & Schmick’s.

On Saturday night we had a mini-reunion with part of our Camino de Santiago group at the home of fellow pilgrims, Nora and G.

Before dinner, we plugged our computers into G’s gigantic and gorgeous television to share pictures from the trip. We scrolled through 300+ photos bringing back great memories of a most amazing journey.

In honor of the evening’s theme, Nora prepared a lovely and delicious paella.

paella and two melon soup

Paella is something I enjoy eating but would never attempt to make myself. Nora is a gifted cook who whips up dishes like this with her eyes closed.

I’m delighted to be the frequent beneficiary of Nora’s culinary skills and have, in fact, “borrowed” her recipes for posts (Panzanella salad).

Today I’m going to share another of Nora’s recipes with you.

See that pretty bowl of soup served with the paella?

This Two Melon Soup, served chilled, is the perfect, refreshing start to a summertime meal.

Also, Nora assures me that the recipe fits my requirements of being High Impact, Low Effort. The hardest part, she says, is pouring the soup into the bowls.

two melon soup

Nora’s Two Melon Soup

  • 1 ripe cantaloupe, diced
  • 1 small honeydew melon, diced
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoon minced fresh mint

Puree cantaloupe with lemon juice until smooth. Transfer to a container and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Rinse blender then puree honeydew with lime juice and mint until smooth. Transfer to a container and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

When ready to serve, either:

Transfer purees into two separate measuring cups. With one in each hand, pour simultaneously into the bowl, pouring equal amounts on each side.

or use Nora’s preferred method:

Tip bowl slightly to the side and pour in the desired amount of cantaloupe puree. Pour the honeydew puree into the other side of the bowl as you are lowering the bowl back to level.

Either way might take some practice but the result is beautiful.

Garnish with a mint sprig.

Easy, peasy. Or so I’m told.

Big surprise, Peter and I brought wine to enjoy with dinner.

First up, a bottle of Albariño.

Albariño is a white wine commonly grown in Galicia, the Northwest region of Spain. Galicia is the very same part of Spain we walked through on the Camino of St. James. Along the way, we enjoyed lots and lots of great Spanish Albariño. 

Peter and I brought a bottle from one of the few U.S. producers of Albariño, Hendry Vineyard. It was on a trip to Hendry’s winery in Napa that we first tasted Albariño and fell in love with it.

2014 Hendry Albariño

The 2014 Hendry Albariño ($22) is light and refreshing with good acidity. It is fruity and floral without going over the top. 

Floral, herbal and peachy aromas. On the palate, tangy citrus, nectarine and passion fruit flavors reflect the bright acidity.

– Tasting notes via Hendry.com

Albariño reminds me a bit of Viognier in that it is a pretty versatile food wine. It pairs best with shellfish like mussels and clams but is also great with chicken. It’s the perfect white wine to serve with paella.

For the red wine lovers in the group, we brought a bottle of 2007 Clos Mogador Priorat from Spain.

2007 Clos Magador

This bold red Spanish wine, a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Carinena, is on the opposite end of the spectrum from the Albariño.

The 2007 Clos Mogador Priorat is dark and juicy and immensely satisfying. It brings flavors of licorice, blackberry, and black cherry. It’s a little bit spicy and a little bit smoky.

Oddly, though, because of the hearty nature of paella, this wine played well and did not overpower the flavors in the main course.

You have to love a dish with which you can pair both a light white wine and a bold red wine. Something for everyone.

For dessert, Nora made (you won’t believe this) homemade non-dairy rocky road ice cream with mini-marshmallows, almonds, and dashes of cayenne and red pepper.

That’s what I call a “HIGH EFFORT, HIGH IMPACT” recipe!

We ended the evening re-watching the movie that inspired us to do the walk in the first place, The Way.

This film from 2011 stars Martin Sheen and is written, produced and directed by his son, Emilio Estevez. Dedicated to Sheen’s father, Francisco Estevez, who hailed from Galicia, the film was inspired by a trip Sheen took with Emilio’s son on which they walked part of the Camino. A real family affair.

Although the movie tells the sad story of a dad completing the pilgrimage on behalf of his late son, it also captures the beauty, the community, and the spirit of The Way.

I highly recommend it!

And if you can get Nora to make some Two Melon Soup and paella for you – even better!!

I’ll bring the Albariño.

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Napa: 7 Gems And A Clunker – The Finale

Now that we have cleansed our palates from the disappointing stop at Darioush and accepted their subsequent apology, I’m happy to report that the final three tasting experiences on our Napa trip met, and even exceeded, our highest expectations.

The next stop was Chimney Rock where we were greeted, ushered into a private room and seated at a table set with glasses for each wine we would be tasting and this:

Chimney Rock welcome

Talk about making us feel welcomed!

Chimney Rock is owned by The Terlato Wine Group. Terlato is a worldwide importer and marketer of wines. They have full ownership of seven wineries and are partners with several more.

You may have seen Chimney Rock or other Terlato wines on Top Chef.

Visiting the beautiful Chimney Rock winery you would never suspect they had a giant corporate umbrella hanging overhead. The tasting room and grounds are so warm and welcoming they make you feel like you are at some small, family owned winery.

chimney rock winery

Chimney Rock is probably known best for their killer Cabernet Sauvignons. They make a range of single vineyard Cabs that each beautifully represent the area of Napa Valley from which they come.

As you can see from the VERY WELCOMING menu card, we had an opportunity to taste an array of wines ranging from a white blend to awesome Cabernet Sauvignons. I’ll let you in on a little secret…we even got to try a few wines that were not on the list.

Chimney Rock is truly one of my very, very favorite wineries and, as a lover of classic and delicious Napa Cabernets, holds a special place in my heart and in our wine cellar.

I love them and they love me back.

We started our last day of tasting at Chappellet Winery.

Chappelet

Located high up on Pritchard Hill with stunning views of Napa Valley and Lake Hennessy, Chappellet is a winery worth visiting.

We started our experience with a taste of Chenin Blanc and worked our way through a Chardonnay and a Zinfandel while strolling the facility and grounds with our uber knowledgeable and interesting guide.

After the tour we sat at a table amid the aging barrels and tasted a few more wines.

Because we had a birthday girl in our group and because her darling daughter had called ahead to let the folks at Chappellet know, we were treated to a taste of Chappellet’s flagship wine The Pritchard Hill Cabernet. Yum and Yum!

Chappellet is a great name to know because they make excellent wine at a price point that is a bit lower than many of their Napa brethren and they are fairly widely distributed.

We wrapped up our visit with lunch on Chappellet’s picnic meadow.

Chappellet picnic

The final stop on our vacation was at Hendry Wines.

The experience at Hendry is like no other. Definitely one I would recommend, especially if you are a student of wine and wine making.

George Hendry has a degree in nuclear physics from UC Berkley. He spends his time crafting excellent wine and designing particle accelerators. No big deal…

The Hendry family has farmed the same Napa land since the 1930’s. George grew up on that land, gaining a deep understanding and appreciation for every acre. Today Hendry wines owns 114 acres divided into 47 individual blocks.

The facilities at Hendry are not at all flashy. In fact, the first time we visited we drove by the place 3 times before noticing the sign marking the driveway.

Hendry Wines

That’s it. That is how you know you have arrived. I kind of love the simplicity.

George and his team apply an almost scientific approach to making wine – but in the best possible way. And, with great success.

It really is tough to adequately describe the uniqueness of the Hendry visit. We were lucky enough to be led by George’s right-hand gal and “Jan of all trades” who has a knowledge of everything from the dirt through the final bottled product. Jan’s husband, Jeff, is George’s partner in the cyclotron business.

George, who lives on the property, was putzing around and popped in to say hello and answer questions.

Just a regular guy who happens to make great wine and also particle accelerators.

Hendry produces lots of different kinds of wine in their 47 blocks which makes the tasting experience quite rich. White wine lovers will appreciate the balance of reds and whites on the tasting menu.

My personal Hendry favorites are their Albariño, Pinot Gris, Primitivo and Zinfandels.

hendry bottle

In addition to chronicling the wine tasting, as I looked through photos for this post, these stood out:

spaghetti bolognese

Peter making spaghetti bolognese

Omelette and frittata made by Ernie.

Omelette and frittata made by Ernie.

pizza

Byff assisting Ernie with pizza for the grill.

grilling

Guys grilling steaks.

The guys take good care of us. I’d say they are keepers.

Our Napa 2015 trip was a great success. Lots of great wine, great food and great fun with dear friends.

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My 5 Favorite Napa Experiences

In my humble opinion, the perfect wine tasting trip to Napa Valley consists of a combination of “belly up to the bar” tastings and special experiences. These experiences can range from small group tours to super fancy, over the top food and wine extravaganzas.

Each time we visit Napa, we try to add something new to our list.

Here are my 5 all time (so far) favorite Napa experiences.

CAKEBREAD CELLARS WINE AND FOOD PAIRING

Cakebread Food and Wine pairing

The Cakebread Cellars Wine and Food Pairing starts with a short tour of the winery – including the fabulous outdoor kitchen area – before sitting down to enjoy an array of delicious bites paired with Cakebread’s wines. Fresh local ingredients go into each dish. Your guide will lead you through each pairing helping to understand why each works so darn well.

Cakebread Cellar’s wines are pretty widely distributed so it is quite possible you have seen them at restaurants or in your local wine store. But, Cakebread also makes some very small production wines that are only available at the winery. Some of these will be included in the pairing.

Funny story…Our “Girls’ Special Birthday Group” went to Napa for one of our birthday trips. One member of our group has celiac disease (obviously not the funny part). When she saw Cakebread on our itinerary she said all she could think of was “Gluten-Gluten”.

But we visited the winery, everyone loved it and we even got to meet the charming Dolores Cakebread. Or, as we have come to refer to her, Mrs. Gluten-Gluten.

The Wine and Food Pairing is offered most Thursdays and Fridays at 11 am. The experience lasts 90 minutes and costs $45 per person ($20 for wine club members).

FAR NIENTE GUIDED TOUR AND TASTING

Far Niente is best know for its killer chardonnays but their Cabernet Sauvignon deserves equal praise. And then, of course, there is Dolce – the gold standard in sweet dessert wine.

Far Niente does not offer walk-in tastings. The only way to taste their wine on-site is to schedule a guided tour and tasting. Let me tell you, it is soooooo well worth it!

The tour takes you through the historic winery including the aging cellars. You will learn the history of the winery and the story of building the cellars on this lovely property.

The bonus stop on the tour, what makes the Far Niente experience different than any other, is visiting the Carriage House where you have the opportunity to see the late founder, Gil Nickel’s, incredible collection of classic cars.

Far Niente

After the tour (and taking a million pictures with the super cool cars), guests sit down to a tasting of Far Niente’s current releases, some select wine from prior vintages and Dolce.

Just a note, even if you think you don’t care for late harvest or dessert wines, do yourself a favor and TASTE THE DOLCE! I’m pretty sure you won’t regret it.

Each wine is paired with cheese which magically brings out the best in the cheese and the best in the wine.

Remember:

Taste wine with bread

The Far Niente Guided Tour and Tasting is by appointment only, daily between 10am and 3pm. Allow a couple of hours – you don’t want to rush through any of this! The cost of the experience is $65 per person but wine club members receive four complimentary reservations per visit.

Special tip: At the end of the tasting, politely ask if they have any extra empty Dolce bottles. These bottles are absolutely stunning and make an excellent vessel for olive oil.

Hendry Wines Owner-Winemaker Seminar Tour

George Hendry, the owner and winemaker at Hendry Wines, is an interesting guy. His father passed away leaving George in charge of the family farm. They had been growing a bunch of different crops but pretty quickly George figured out that the only crop making money was the grapes. Then he figured he should try his hand at winemaking. Good call.

By the way, when he is not making killer wines, George Hendry is a nuclear physicist. I’m just sayin’…

The Hendry Wines Owner-Winemaker Seminar Tour covers everything you could possibly imagine: the history of the land, the winemaking philosophy, the business of winemaking and whatever George feels like talking about. After the tour you sit down to taste 8 or 9 wines – everything from Albariño to Zinfandel. (I’m pretty sure we tasted at least 12 because George just kept thinking of another wine he wanted us to try.)

George is also a super-foodie. With every wine he poured, he described the dish he makes as the perfect pairing. By the end of our visit we were ready to invite ourself to dinner.

Hendry Wines

I love this experience because of the passion George Hendry has for his land, his grapes, the winemaking business and his wine. The visit lasts 2 1/2 to 3 hours and costs $75 per person, but the fee is waived if you purchase an equivalent amount of wine. By appointment only at 10am each day.

Darioush By Invitation Only

Even if you don’t sign up for this amazing experience, you should definitely make Darioush one of your Napa wine tasting stops. The winery itself is beautiful and the wines are exquisite.

Darioush Winery

Not kidding…this place is amazing.

During the Darioush By Invitation Only experience, your host fills you in on the interesting story of Darioush Khaledi’s journey from being a civil engineer in Iran to a grocery store chain owner in California to starting the winery in 1997. All this while enjoying small bites prepared by the resident chef and enjoying wines from Darioush Khaledi’s personal wine cellar. On our visit this included a variety of wines from the Darioush vineyard and some from France to show the influence they had on Khaledi’s winemaking philosophy. These are wines that we would never have access to on our own.

Peter and I splurged on this experience for a special anniversary trip. At the beginning of the event our host asked each person in the small group to introduce ourselves and tell our connection to the wine industry. All the other participants were part of “the trade” – wine store owners, wine distributors or restaurant sommeliers. When it came to be our turn to introduce ourselves, the host asked how we were connected to the wine industry.

Peter’s response: “Consumers?”

This fabulous event is available by appointment at 11am daily. It lasts two hours and costs $150 per person.

Kathryn Hall Rutherford’s Appellation Exploration

The most beautiful tasting room in all of Napa Valley.

Kathryn Hall Rutherford

It’s impossible to capture the grandeur of the chandelier. Designed to look like the roots descending from the vineyards above, this chandelier is adorned with jillions of Swarovski crystals. It. Is. Breathtaking!

As you wind your way up the one lane, narrow driveway to the top of the hill to enjoy the Kathryn Hall Rutherford Appellation Exploration, you are in for a once in a lifetime experience.

Starting with the gorgeous, sweeping views of the valley from the patio, your host will take you on a tour of the Rutherford facilities and into the vineyards including the 100-point Sacrashe Vineyard. A perfect score…doesn’t get much better than that.

The tour takes you through the caves lined with bricks reclaimed from Bavarian castles then ends up in the uber-luxurious tasting room where you will enjoy a comparative tasting of Hall wines from different appellations throughout Napa Valley paired with gourmet food bites prepared to complement each wine.

Every participant from the novice to the pro will enjoy the glorious wines but the true wine aficionados will appreciate the opportunity to compare wines created from the same vintage, subject to the same climate, handled by the same winemaker with the only difference being the plot of land from which the grapes have come. This is the kind of thing that wine geeks live for.

By appointment only, this 90 minute experience costs $125 per person ($100 per person for wine club members).

If you are traveling to Napa Valley and looking for a memorable experience to celebrate a birthday, anniversary, retirement or other special occasion, any one of these will fit the bill and make your trip.

Cheers!

I’m always looking for new ideas – what is your favorite Napa experience?

 

Now for the technical stuff…

Do Not Drink and Drive No Compensation

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Thanksgiving Wine

By now you have likely finalized your Thanksgiving dinner menu and compiled your grocery list.

Have you given enough thought to the most important component of the meal? More crucial than the turkey or stuffing or cranberry sauce?

Have you given enough thought to the Thanksgiving wine?!

Sometimes this can be tricky. You will want to select wines that appeal to a wide variety of palates and that pairs well with the range of dishes on your Thanksgiving table.

Pinot Noir

My “go-to” red wine for this type of situation is Pinot Noir. Usually a crowd favorite as a flavorful but not too heavy red wine, this varietal is a real chameleon when it comes to pairing with food.

Pinot Noir goes with just about anything.

Here are a few of my favorites. These should be available at your local wine store. I’ve even found them at our grocery store.

2012 Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir

2012 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir

This yummy wine is a blend of Pinot Noir grapes from a number of different locations (including the Bien Nacido Vineyard) in Santa Barbara County. The winemakers kept each vineyard’s wine separate for 6 months to let each develop their individual flavors before blending them into this gem.

The wine has notes of red berries and a hint of clove making it a great wine to go with both the tangy and sweet Thanksgiving dishes like cranberry sauce as well as the savory dishes like sweet potatoes and stuffing.

The 2012 Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir retails for about $22 per bottle.

2012 Byron Pinot Noir

2012 Byron Pinot Noir

This is another great Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir. At $19 per bottle, it brings lots of great cherry flavor that is balanced by some minerality. In my opinion, this yin and yang of sweet and savory notes, along with the medium body, explain why Pinot Noir goes so well with all kinds of food.

While the 2012 Byron Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir won’t necessarily knock the socks off your family’s wine aficionado, it has a good, crowd pleasing flavor.

2011 Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

2011 Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Let’s say you got off easy this year and get to be a guest at someone else’s Thanksgiving table. In addition to your assigned dish for the pot-luck dinner, perhaps you want to bring a special bottle of wine that you hope (fingers crossed!) the hosts will open on the spot and share with you and the other guests.

The 2011 Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($45 per bottle) would be a very good choice. You might remember that I told you about this wine as part of my Pinot-Palooza post.

Although climate challenges made 2011 a tough year for winemaking, Robert Parker of Wine Advocate awarded the Flowers Pinot Noir with a score of 91 points. This is what he had to say:

A model of total elegance and class, the 2011 Pinot Noir from Flowers is absolutely gorgeous. Savory herbs, crushed flowers, licorice, salt, orange peel, mint and plums are all woven together in the glass. Today, the 2011 is impeccably crafted and flat-out gorgeous. Although very much a medium-bodied wine, I would not at all be surprised to see the 2011 blossom with more time in bottle. This is an impressive effort. Unfortunately, the Sonoma Coast was the only 2011 Flowers Pinot I was able to taste, but based on this effort, 2011 is certainly shaping up well here. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2021.

Think about it. Savory herbs, orange peel, plum. Wouldn’t these complement Thanksgiving dinner’s variety of flavors very well?

Just be sure you are first in line to grab a bit of this wine before the bottle is empty!

White Wines

I’m not much of a fan of Chardonnay so I’m going to lead you in a different direction for the white wine to go with your white (and dark) meat turkey dinner.

Perhaps a little non-traditional, I think that these wines will bring an element of lightness and brightness to offset the inevitable turkey coma that we all feel at the end of our feast.

2012 Trefethen Dry Riesling

2012 Trefethen Dry Riesling

This is another wine I have mentioned in an earlier post.

I just love this wine. It is not too pricey ($20 per bottle) but brings a lot of flavor and body.

Some people have a bias against Riesling because they expect it to be sweet. This dry Riesling would change their mind.

It would be interesting to serve this wine to some of your white wine loving guests without telling them which varietal you were pouring. I’m guessing you would have some Riesling converts.

2011 Tatomer Vandenberg Riesling

2011 Tatomer Vandenberg Riesling

Another great Santa Barbara wine, the 2011 Tatomer Vandenberg Dry Riesling ($23 per bottle) is the wine that opened my eyes to the fabulousness of a dry Riesling.

Steven Tanzer of International Wine Cellar awarded this wine 91 points; Robert Parker gave it 89 points. Both mention the nice, medium body and great finish. Hints of honey and Meyer lemon would match well with a dish of candied yams or glazed carrots.

Yum!

2013 Hendry Albariño

If you really want to go non-traditional, how about going with an Albariño (pronounced Alba-reen-yo)?

Similar to a Viognier, this wine (with roots in Spain) is an excellent food wine. Albariño has great body and high acidity which means it can stand up to hearty foods in a way that many white wines can not.

I’ve told you about our visit to Hendry Vineyards. I definitely have a soft spot in my heart for Hendry wines because our experience tasting with George Hendry was so memorable.

The 2013 Hendry Albariño ($20 per bottle) brings floral notes and a hint of Meyer lemon with plenty of body and finish. It is bright without being wimpy.

No one wants wimpy wine.

This Albariño would be a great first-course wine but I’d also love it with a savory starch dish like potatoes or stuffing.

 ≈

With the wide range of flavors and textures in your meal, there is no single right answer to the Thanksgiving wine pairing question. Why not try something new this Thanksgiving?  Oh, and be sure to let me know what you choose!

In case you missed it, here is my Thanksgiving wine post from last year which includes some tips on choosing and serving the wine.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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