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Spanish wines, unless you are Spanish, is unlikely to be your first choice. The French and Italian have a longer and more popular courtship with this particular beverage. They are more popular, have a wider range and acceptance in the market. And, for those reasons, it is relatively easy to find gems amongst the Spanish compatriots at great value! Where the French wines are complex, earthy, rich and best appreciated with food; the Italian lighter, fruitier, mellower and easy to drink and laugh over, I find the Spanish wines offer a middle ground of being flavorful, punchy but without gravity. Some of them transition really well from cocktail hour to main course and through the between courses.
Yet, I must admit that despite my acknowledgement of the different note that Spanish wines bring to the table, I find fewer choices of reds that I am familiar with than compared to the other territories including the US. While, I continue to work on my portfolio of experience with the Spanish wines, one wine maker that does jump to catch attention is Rioja. For anyone who drinks any amount of red wine, the name is familiar. So, it was for me. I like their reds and the mild hint of spice I feel pairs well with some of the dishes I make. However, my favorites and hands on choice of drink for the warmer seasons is the Rosado line of wines.
The Rosado is comparable to the Provencial Rose except that the skins are left to ferment for longer, causing the red to deepen and flavors to richen. What I really like about them how full bodied they are, in that as cool as the wine flows on the palate, it still carries a distinctive punch of flavor. Roses I find are typically bland especially, especially contrasted with the richness of the full bodied red cousins. Honestly, I find there is nothing more refreshing than a glass of chilled rosado, whether you are simply unwinding with a friend on a hot day or nibbling over a plate of tapas. Even better, it pairs really well with fresh seafood as well as slow cooked heartier dishes.
As Summer is in full swing, my palate tends to run light during the season. I see myself shunning red meat more and drifting more to sea food. As much as fish feels light on the system, it lacks no weight in nourishment making it a great choice for quick and wholesome meals. Also, since I was asked to create a paired meal with Rioja Wines, I decided to take up this as a challenge to pair their non-white wines with sea food and showcase their versatility.
Salmon baked with basil chimichurri and served with baked potato and sweet potato thyme fries and roasted beets and carrots
. The meal had the notes of fresh herbs against the earthiness of the roasted vegetables. The beauty of this recipe is that while it is really 3 dishes, they are all baked and can be done together. That means, less hands on work and more time to yourself or with friends and it makes a fantastic meal for company. To pair, I chose a Rosado and a red from Temperanillo grapes that have a balanced note with lightly spiced finish.
Basil Chimichurri Sauce
3 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1 small red onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic
1/3 cup olive oil
2 T white wine vinegar
1 T honey
1/2 tsp chilli paste
salt and pepper as needed
Process all the ingredients to a smooth paste and reserve.
Salmon Baked with Basil Chimichurri
4 filets of wild salmon
8 T basil chimichurri sauce (from above)
salt and pepper as needed
Preheat oven to 375F.
Spread a thick coating of the sauce over the flesh side of the fish and bake for 25-30 minutes until opaque and flaking.
Baked Thyme Potato Fries
3 russet potatoes or sweet potatoes, sliced into 1/2 inch thick strips
few sprigs of thyme
2-3 T olive oil
sea salt and pepper
Toss salt and pepper over the potato slices and spread in one layer on an oven proof rack. Sprinkle thyme sprigs over. Place rack in a pan and drizzle the olive oil generously over.
Bake at 375 for 25 mins. Remove when crisp and lightly golden brown.
Roast Thumbalina Carrots and Golden Beets
8 Golden beets, sliced vertically in half
8 thumbalina carrots, cleaned and tops trimmed
salt, pepper and olive oil as needed
Toss everything together and bake for 20-25 minutes.