Spring cleaning isn’t much fun, unless, of course, you start in the wine cellar. My “cellar” is split between the pantry (humbly sharing the shelf with some liquor, a bag of petrified marshmallows and an aged balsamic that I treasure too much to use) and a splintery wooden crate under a dresser. These spaces fill up fast, so I use the month of March to cook from my pantry and freezer and to drink up old wine, making room for the new. Here are some deliciously respectful ways to show winter the door.
It’s likely you’ve been drinking reds all season and have a few whites around that are in danger of losing their zing. Young, fruity whites with peppy acidity like Sauvignon Blanc, Torrontés, or Verdejo, paired with a salad that uses up those pickled beets in the pantry will awaken your palate from hibernation. Julienne the beets, some endive and pear and toss with goat cheese, toasted walnuts and a dressing made with shallot, grainy dijon, apple cider vinegar and walnut oil. Found a rosé slightly past its prime? Make a nourishing Tuscan ribollita with the pancetta, bacon, or ham hock in your freezer, white beans, Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds and dregs of frozen stock or broth. Stir in fresh kale, anoint with a flurry of Parmigiano and a drizzle of olive oil and both you and that rosé will spring back to life.
Saddled with some random reds that aren’t the age-worthy kind? Defrost the pork tenderloins you bought in a two-for-one deal, then butterfly and stuff them with a mixture of sliced dates (or any dried fruit), pecans and blue cheese. Tie with butcher’s twine, season liberally, brown on all sides in a sauté pan, then transfer to a 425 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Glaze with a mixture of grainy dijon and maple syrup in the last five minutes. Stir up some creamy polenta, wilt some greens and pair with a fruity red like Pinot Noir or Beaujolais. Have a rustic Italian red that got stood up on lasagne night? Try it with this hearty version of pasta puttanesca that empties the pantry. Heat some anchovies or oil-packed tuna in a large sauté pan with garlic, crushed red pepper, capers, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, canned tomatoes, red wine vinegar and olives and spoon over cooked pasta. Got a spicy Spanish red loitering around? Make a chunky butternut squash chili with Spanish chorizo, onions, red bell pepper, canned tomatoes and white beans and serve with grilled bread for dipping.
Finally, to sweeten the chore, throw together a simple dessert like creamy rice pudding, pumpkin brioche bread pudding, or use that bag of frozen cranberries you have for a clafoutis. Pour yourself something from what’s left in the way of liquor —amaretto, limoncello, calvados, sherry, port—anything will do. Cleaning’s never tasted so good!
Pipe down the decibels
After a public hearing last week, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors voted to implement a measurable decibel level (60 during the day, 55 at night) in order to control amplified music at area wineries. The new policy will replace the current “audibility standard,” which states that music played at events should not be audible 100 feet over the winery’s property line. The vote represents a victory to winery owners who argued for an objective measure in the ordinance.
Drink local, not green
Why drink sub-standard green beer at a dingy bar this St. Patrick’s Day when you can drink award-winning local brews right where they’re made? Afton’s Blue Mountain Brewery was listed as one of Imbibe Magazine’s 100 Best Places to Drink in the South and this Thursday they’ll be serving up their local corned beef and cabbage with $3 pints of Irish Dry Stout between 3pm and 9pm.
Verdejo (n.): A wine grape grown in the Rueda region of Spain (northwest of Madrid) that produces an aromatic, fruity white wine by the same name.