Recently, I had the good fortune not only to acquire a copy of John Sarich’s latest book, Chef in the Vineyard, but to experience a guided tasting by the wizard of wine-food pairings himself. This educational journey across the palate took place at Chateau Ste. Michelle, arguably a cornerstone of Washington State wineries, where Sarich is Culinary Director.
With Sarich positioned at the head of a long table in the Chateau’s elegant library, I took my seat along with a dozen of my colleagues from the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association. A plate of six delectable bites framed by six wine glasses, each with a generous tasting pour, waited at each place setting. Sarich welcomed us and, as expected, began an entertaining and informative talk about wine, particularly the varietals grown in Eastern Washington, where the Chateau and most of Washington’s nearly 800 wineries source fruit.
Sarich has made fine wine and food his life’s work—not a bad career, during which he’s worn many hats, from restaurateur to Emmy-nominated cooking show host to author to culinary educator. Chef in the Vineyard, released in 2010, is Sarich’s fifth book.
In this beautifully illustrated volume, Sarich hand selects 10 great wine estates in the Pacific Northwest and California and matches their wines with recipes that range from appetizers to desserts. He not only pairs recipes with suggested wines, but presents multi-course menus based on the collection of wines from each winery.
Chef in the Vineyard, like Sarich’s guided pairing, is full of simple tips and expert wisdom designed to demystify wine and food pairings. A basic principle Sarich likes to impart is to pair “bold flavored foods with bold flavored wines, delicate flavored foods with delicate flavored wines.” Principles and the often complicated nuances of wine-food pairings aside, he also stresses that it is a matter of personal taste. “Drink what you enjoy,” he says.
For those of us who need to take a little of Sarich’s wisdom with us, Chef in the Vineyard includes an invaluable chart: “Guide to Food and Wine Pairing.” Too bad it’s not wallet size. In general, it’s a help when it comes to matching foods with varietals and, perhaps more important, what pairings to avoid, e.g., raw oysters and oaky Chardonnay.
Whether you’re someone who drinks Merlot with every course simply because you like it, or someone who seeks that perfect pairing, the recipes Sarich presents in Chef in the Vineyard are accessible, simple and designed for the home chef.
And Sarich’s guided pairing at Chateau Ste. Michelle? Well-chosen wines do indeed enhance the flavor of foods, and vice versa, especially when we’re conscious of the delightful chemistry that occurs on the palate. If you can’t bring John Sarich to every meal with you, a copy of Chef in the Vineyard is the next best thing that will help you tune in to that chemistry.
Here’s a recipe excerpt with suggested wine pairings from Chef in the Vineyard:
Seared Alaska King Salmon with Chanterelle Mushrooms
With the fresh salmon and wonderful chanterelle sauce, all that is needed to complete this dish is simple steamed rice.
Chateau Ste. Michelle Indian Wells Chardonnay, Columbia Valley
Chateau Ste. Michelle Canoe Ridge Estate Merlot, Horse Heaven Hills
1 cup white rice
4 (4-ounce) salmon fillets
For Chanterelle Sauce:
2 tablespoons chopped pancetta or bacon
To prepare rice:
Bring the rice and water to a boil in a saucepan with a lid; reduce heat, cover, and leave to cook until tender, about 15 minutes.
To prepare the salmon:
Season the salmon with the salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil and butter in a sauté pan to medium-high. Sear the salmon fillets on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the salmon from the pan and place on a serving platter.
To prepare the chanterelle sauce:
In the same sauté pan that was used for the salmon, add the pancetta and cook until crispy. Add the garlic and shallots and sauté until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the chanterelle mushrooms and sauté until soft. Stir in the wine, chicken broth, Dijon mustard, and thyme. Simmer for a few minutes until reduced. Stir the cream into the sauce. Season the sauce with salt to taste.
Pour the chanterelle sauce over the salmon and serve with the steamed rice.
Recipe from Chef in the Vineyard, courtesy of John Sarich and Sea-Hill Press, © 2010 Sea-Hill Press and John Sarich.