Is This Thing On? -- Or, Back in the Saddle Again

First, it's been awhile. Sorry about that. There's good reason, though, I promise! My June 24-27 trip to Walla Walla, WA for the 2010 Wine Bloggers' Conference left me inspired, exhausted and looking forward to some exciting new opportunities (e.g., writing an article for the online wine magazine Palate Press -- watch this space for details). I'd been looking forward to the conference since I registered way back in October (when we also made wine; my, that was a busy month), and am happy to report that it exceeded my expectations in every regard.

After starting out with an early morning airport-confiscated-corkscrew incident (as all good wine trips must, I'm afraid), the charmed-weekend experience truly began in the Seattle airport when, while waiting for the Walla Walla puddle-jumper, I met a fantastic-in-real-life group of wine bloggers and industry folks I knew (online) from Twitter. It continued in the airport shuttle van, when Master Sommelier and wine-and-food celebrity Andrea Immer Robinson and I had to practically sit on one another's laps in order to fit everybody in (fortunately, we're petite gals; the forced intimacy of our dueling hipbones quickly led to cheerful conversation, and a great story I'm saving for later). Throughout the entire weekend of delicious food and (mostly) tasty wines, I found myself surrounded by amazing people whose company made the early mornings and late nights a pleasure.

Oh, and I debuted the j.brix Grenache barrel samples for a number of fine new friends. I also learned a thing or two about writing; and Washington wine. (Fodder for posts, and articles, to come.)

Simple, Savory, Scrumptious

Back around these parts, the weekly double-double-blind food and wine pairings continue, and once I returned from my lost weekend, I was on wine duty while Jody cooked. Regular readers of this space will know that Jody likes to prepare meals fit for a spread in ... well, what, now that Gourmet's no longer in glossy? (Though if it's true that it's coming back for the iPad, sign me up.) In any case, it's usually something quite fancy when he's in charge of cooking. (Recall scissor-trimmed quenelles.) So, in the event he doesn't start preparing days in advance and ends up making a "regular" meal, he mopes a bit afterward, as though he hasn't really done his job. Which I think is a shame, because, behold:

Rustic, (somewhat) simple, and satisfying. No one's complaining!

Bone-in, pan-seared, oven-finished pork chops, seasoned with plenty of salt and pepper. Quick-grilled summer corn on the cob, brushed with melted butter on the grill, so the kernels burst like juicy popcorn when they touch your teeth. Farfalline pasta (mini-bow ties) mixed with fresh ricotta, lemon zest, and delightfully bitter broccolini (which was quickly blanched first, then sauteed with olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest and a drizzle of local raw honey).

I Choose You, Said the Bottle

What of the wine? I'd visited the local wine shop where they never know quite what to do with me (there's also the local wine shop where they're too aloof to really care what to do with me, and the other local wine shop where they're too distracted to find out what to do with me). Not a lot of time; a "last chance" bin by the counter; a quick review of a label, and yes; that's it. It's nice when the bottle finds you like that.

The nose on this wine! Currants, spice, white and black pepper, earth. Big, but balanced. On the palate, a soft texture with a grippy mid-palate sensation, and lasting acidity on the finish. Flavors of currant again, and red fruits. It was demanding food. So, we obliged. But first, Jody guessed. Malbec? Cab Franc? None of those. But, it was a blend.

2008 il campo red wine, Central Coast (CA), Giornata Wines, Paso Robles, CA. $14.99. 14.5% alc.

Ah, now, this sang. What caught my eye on the label, you ask? These words: "A Modern Red Field Blend - Inspired by Italy - Crafted in California." A red Cal-Ital field blend; that's just the kind of thing I didn't know I was looking for until it found me. But what's in it? Further investigation revealed a blend of mostly Sangiovese, with some Merlot and Petit Verdot. A short barrel-aging regimen (10 months) in mostly neutral French oak and stainless-steel let the fruit take center stage. And, it's made by dream-following husband-and-wife winemaker/viticulturist team Brian and Stephanie Terrizzi-- 350 cases produced.

An Easy Companionship

The pairing was just delicious. Easy to enjoy both with and in between bites, the wine complemented the meal without overshadowing it, fleshing it out around the corners; completing it, truly. 

Things that work: A rustic (but not really) meal, and a rustic (but not really) wine. Perfect dinner companions; neither one overbearing, monopolizing the conversation, begging for attention. No, these guests will be invited back to the table, with pleasure.

Until next time, friends. Cheers! Leave a comment, won't you?