My prediction is that 2015 will go down as the summer we ate outdoors more than any other in recent history. Ideal al fresco dining includes four essential elements: delicious food, amusing wines, good company and beautiful weather.
Whether it’s brunch on the patio, lunch on the deck, or a backyard barbecue, our tastes have changed, and people these days are ignoring everyday foods in favour of more gourmet affairs. We’re choosing lighter fare, and we are fortunate to be able to easily source the foods described here from the many gourmet shops in Oakville and Burlington. We’re even more fortunate that the grape varieties that thrive in Niagara are perfectly suited for your summer sipper.
As a general rule, a bright, crisp Sauvignon Blanc with its refreshing high acidity does wonders to cut through fatty rich foods like guacamole, double cream brie cheese or creamy pasta salad. It also stands up well to acidic vegetables like asparagus, so go ahead and buy that gorgeous asparagus quiche to go with your Niagara Sauvignon Blanc – the pair will be bliss on the palate. As we all know, some cheeses go better with white wine, some with red; yet almost all pair well with a crisp, dairy-loving Sauvignon Blanc.
An Ontario Riesling is the best summer wine to go with sweet and spicy dishes. The slight fruitiness of many Rieslings will help tame the heat of spicy Italian, Asian and Indian dishes. For example, take a gourmet celery leaf, tomato and Cannellini bean salad laced with pepperoncini. A chilled Riesling simply dances with the pepperoncini heat. It also works wonders with sweeter foods like cold shrimp served with a red seafood sauce or sticky, honey and garlic chicken wings. The modest sweetness of a caramelized onion flan makes a delightful light summer lunch and is a chic choice with Riesling.
The herbal nature of a Niagara Gamay Noir works with foods of similar character such as pesto-drenched macaroni salad, or a cold dish of cilantro stir-fried pork. Other options include the ever-popular kale chips, tabbouleh heaped on chèvre bruschetta, or chimichurri sauce as an accompaniment to cold slices of rare beef. Gamay Noir pairs well with an earthy goat’s cheese, and works beautifully as an accompaniment to a wild mushroom, thyme and goat’s cheese wood-fired oven pizza.
Niagara Pinot Noir with its earthy tones pairs well with a game terrine, or a creamy foie gras mousse spread over thick slices of baguette. The bottom-weight richness of marinated, gourmet mushrooms really combines well with Pinot Noir, as does a truffled dressing over an arugula and shaved Parmesan salad. Summer is the season for finger foods so pair your Pinot Noir with a cold rack of ribs with bourbon sticky sauce, a platter of savoury samosas, or little tartlets with warmed sheep’s cheese and sundried tomatoes.
Summer is a great time to break out the bubbly. Prosecco is one of the lightest of all sparkling wines, perfect for warm weather and it goes really well with salty foods like black olive paste. All the rage in Paris at the moment, spread it over chunks of artisan bread and wash it down with a bubbly wine. If you’re a fan of gravlax, don’t be afraid to include lots of salty capers, because bubbly wine was made for these kinds of indulgences. You can squirt fresh lemon over cold shrimp, and know that the CO2 bubbles from a sparkling wine will tame the lemon’s acidity, pick up the sweetness in cold seafood, and keep the palate clean for a wider variety of foods than any other wine.
By Lynn Ogryzlo
Lynn Ogryzlo is a food, wine and travel writer, and international award winning author and regular contributor to Look Local Magazine. She can be reached for questions or comments at www.lynnogryzlo.com.