California Pinot Noir is food wine

Today the sun was shining and it begged me to come outside for a Sunday afternoon picnic on our local San Bruno Mountain. The timing couldn’t have been better; yesterday I made a trip to the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market and had a refrigerator full of goodies suitable for picnics. Earlier in the week, I received several half-bottles of Robert Sinskey Vineyard’s 2009 Napa Valley Pinot Noir. I wish more producers made splits. It’s the perfect amount of wine for two on a Sunday afternoon. I grabbed one of these splits, packed a picnic and found a grassy knoll to lay out our spread.

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I love to pair picnic foods and wine. A great pairing really takes what could have been an ordinary experience and makes it extraordinary. Domestic Pinot Noir is generally so agreeable that it can make a very versatile food wine. Today I paired it with L’amuse aged Gouda, pimento-stuffed green olives from Nash’s Olive Oil (available at the Alemany Farmer’s Market), sheep’s milk ricotta & McEvoy Ranch wildflower honey on a Semifreddi’s sweet baugette, hot smoked salmon, and Twin Girls Farm blood oranges.

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This aged Gouda lends itself quite well to fresh, pure, fruity California Pinot Noir. The mild sweetness and caramel-laden creamy goodness of this cheese is perfect with the rich and complex wine. It can be difficult to pair cheeses with red wine but this has been a winner ever time I’ve had it. The cheese itself is really unique and delicious. It has a sweet and savory character, wonderful creamy paste and lots of pockets of protein crystals which add loads of texture.

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Another unexpected pairing I discovered was these beautiful blood oranges with the wine. They are very similar in richness, acidity and juiciness to the wine. Blood oranges are sweeter, less acidic and more floral than their pure orange brethren and are one of my favorite seasonal fruits. Right now it’s the end of the season for these in California. I’ll miss them!

It’s days like today that remind me of how lucky I am to live in such a rich, diverse place. This picnic tasted like the California landscape that has inspired me for so many years.