Foodie Friday: Cucumber Roll-ups!

Happy Friday, and welcome to a new series here on Cuvee: Foodie Fridays! Each week, I’ll post a delectable dish along with a wine pairing to share with your guests or with your special someone. Starting off easy with an awesome appetizer that is perfect for spring/summer meals: chorizo-goat cheese stuffed cucumber roll-ups.

Just a few ingredients will earn you rave reviews!

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 1 English Cucumber (the longer kind, usually plastic wrapped in the grocery store)
  • .5 lb Chorizo
  • 1 4-ounce log of goat cheese
  • Toothpicks for serving

Directions for Deliciousness:

  • Cook the chorizo in a skillet (if using chorizo sausage, remove from casing before cooking)
  • Allow chorizo to cool slightly. While still warm, mix goat cheese in with chorizo
  • Put mixture into a bowl and chill in refrigerator (at least one hour, but can be made ahead and chilled overnight)
  • Peel cucumber, and cut it in half
  • Now slice thin pieces of cucumber lengthwise (the easiest way to do this is using a mandolin, but a knife will work with steady hands)
  • Once chilled, spoon a tablespoon of chorizo-goat cheese mixture onto one end of each cucumber slice.
  • Roll the cucumber up around the mixture and secure with a toothpick.

Suggested pairing:

2011 Shenandoah Vineyards Chenin Blanc-Viognier – This wine really does showcase the best of both Chenin Blanc and Viognier worlds. Predominantly Chenin Blanc, this blend has the body and creaminess to stand up to the goat cheese in this appetizer, but is light enough not to overpower the cool crispness of the cucumber. The Viognier adds just a hint white peach. Enjoy!

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VA: Viognier Aptitude?

Is Virginia for Viognier lovers?

With 82 of Virginia’s 228 wineries producing Viognier, this vivacious varietal is set to make a name for itself in the state for lovers. In 2011, the Virginia Wine Board decided to designate Viognier as the state’s signature grape, hoping to brand it as a Virginia specialty, much the same way that Cabernet Sauvignon can be associated with Napa or Pinot Noir with Oregon. With such an astounding array of styles and character, Viognier certainly isn’t a bad grape to hitch your proverbial wagon to. Generally, wines from this varietal fall into two main styles: bright, lively and slightly sweet with plenty of stone fruit, apricot and honey, or a full-bodied, drier version that exchanges some of its fruit forwardness for oak and vanilla nuances.  Virginia does them both, and does them both well.

Noticeably absent from the 2013 Governor’s Cup Case, one might wonder if Virginia Viognier is really the standout that the state was hoping for (though just one wine in the Governor’s Case is a non-red, and that was the 2008 Trump Winery Sparkling Rose). Still, here are three outstanding wines that make perfect partners for seasonal spring and summer dishes:

Whether Virginia will achieve global acclaim for its Viognier remains to be seen, but this thick-skinned grape may be just the right metaphor for Virginia’s burgeoning wine industry as it looks to take on heavy hitters from California and Condrieu on national and international stages.

Viognier grapes ripening on the vine.

Of Wine, and Wonder, and AVAs!

Watch out Cali, Virginia is stepping up its game. The birthplace of American wine is celebrating another exciting arrival:  a brand new American Viticultural Area (AVA). The AVA designation must be approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), and affords certain rights to wineries and vineyards within the delineated area (like labeling their wines “estate bottled”). More importantly, however, an AVA designation imbues the area with certain standard of quality, and specific characteristics. Ever bought a chardonnay from Rutherford or Alexander Valley because you’d had one from the area that you liked before? That’s why AVAs are important. As the TTB puts it, “the use of an AVA name on a label allows vintners and consumers to attribute a given quality, reputation, or other characteristic of a wine made from grapes grown in a certain area to its geographical origin.”

Boxwood's Rachel Martin and VA First Lady Maureen McDonnell unveil the new Middleburg AVA sign.

Boxwood’s Rachel Martin and VA First Lady Maureen McDonnell unveil the new Middleburg AVA sign.

The new Middleburg AVA is Virginia’s seventh recognized viticultural area, but marks an important milestone for Virginia wine.  The culmination of 6 years of hard work by proponents, the new AVA solidifies a growing trend towards superior quality wines, capable of competing (and winning) on national and international stages. Some of Middleburg’s wines already are.  During the sign unveiling ceremony last week, the driving force behind the AVA petition, Boxwood’s EVP Rachel Martin, had this to say:

“This AVA designation promotes Northern Virginia as a recognized US wine growing region further placing Virginia in a national context of making wine and allows us to tell a more comprehensive story of Virginia vineyards, wines, viticulture and winemaking practices.”

And Boxwood certainly is telling a story. Their powerhouse Bordeaux blends are quickly climbing the menu ranks in restaurants throughout the region and across the country. But they’re not alone. Nearby winery RdV Vineyards is a rising star, following years of soil research and site analysis to find the right plot of land to cultivate the best fruit for their Bordeaux blends.  With both the Lost Mountain and Rendezvous blends winning a spot in the 2013 Governor’s Cup Case, winemaker Rutger de Vink is putting his money where his grapes are and taking on Napa Mertiage and Cabernet blends in their very own blind tasting at the vineyard. This is definitely an AVA worth your tasting time.

For a snapshot of the Middleburg AVA boundaries, and the wineries and vineyards therein, check out this interactive map.