If our Wine of the Week, Smith-Madrone 2014 Napa Valley Spring Mountain Riesling ($30) had a proprietary name it could be "Mountain Joy" for the high-elevation pleasure it imparts. It has the suave delicacy of grapes grown in rocky mountain soil with long light exposure and cool temperatures, along with a bit of the swagger and sass this varietal can display when handled with care and understanding.
On the palate, the wine offers an almost tempestuous swirl of fruit, full and lively, a merry-go-round of apricots, white peaches, nectarines, papaya, mango, pineapple, ripe Gravensteins and suggestions of orange honeydew melon. There are hints of orange flower blossoms, citrus zest, and enough mangosteen to make you long for a trip to Malaysia, where that elusive fruit is queen.
This wine is best with the tangy foods of Southeast Asia, especially Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. Thai larb with pork or squid, green papaya salads, green curries and the Vietnamese noodle salads known as "bün" are happy companions. As an aperitif, you'll enjoy it with feta cheese, green olives and Marcona almonds. For an easy weeknight dinner, enjoy a glass alongside a quick sauté of chicken thighs, sliced celery, sliced radishes, spinach, olive oil, lemon juice and fresh snipped chives.
A simple taco of corn tortillas filled with avocado and radish salsa is a quick and delightful pairing, as are open-faced radish sandwiches with creme fraiche or fresh chevre. It is also excellent with most simple green salads.
The wine is also absolutely exhilarating with green papaya salad, though the heat should be turned down a bit so that the wine doesn't turn at all bitter. Look for green papaya at local Asian markets such as Asia Mart (2481 Guerneville Rd., Santa Rosa). This salad, with Vietnamese roots, is perfect in spring and with this wine, as it doesn't call for tomatoes and long beans like the Thai versions do, and it has less heat.
Vietnamese Green Papaya Salad
Serves 4 to 6
1/4 cup fresh lime juice, from 2 to 3 limes
2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 or 2 Thai chiles or serranos, minced
4 cups julienned green papaya (see Note below)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 pound medium wild shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 boneless pork chop, about 4 to 6 ounces
3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
First, make the dressing. Put the lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, garlic and chiles in a small bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves. Set aside.
Prepare the green papaya if you have not already done so, put it into a large bowl, and fluff it with your fingers or a fork.
Fill a small saucepan half full with water, add about a teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the shrimp, remove from the heat and let stand 3 minutes, or until the shrimp are opaque pink. Transfer to a plate to cool.
Return the saucepan to medium heat and when it begins to boil, add the pork chop, cover the pan, and remove from the heat; let stand for 15 minutes. Remove the pork from the water, cool slightly, and use a sharp knife to cut into match-stick-sized piece.
Use your fingers to shred the shrimp into 1/4-inch pieces.
To finish the salad, add the shrimp and pork to the papaya and toss well. Add the dressing and the cilantro and toss again.
Transfer to individual plates or a serving dish and enjoy right away.
Note: Some markets sell backs of freshly shredded green papaya, which will save you a lot of work. Otherwise, use a vegetable peeler to peel a whole green papaya. Cut the fruit into quarters, scoop out the seeds, and peel away the layer of white skin in the cavity. Cut into wedges and either julienne by hand or using the small blade of a mandoline or Japanese Benriner slicer. Put the papaya into a large bowl, sprinkle with a little sugar and salt and use your fingers to work them into the papaya; let rest for 15 to 30 minutes, until the papaya feels a bit slimy. Rinse thoroughly under running water, drain, wrap in a tea towel and squeeze tightly to release as much water as possible.
Michele Anna Jordan is the author of 24 books to date; email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paradise Ridge Winery: Wines and Sunsets parties offer an easy family escape every Wednesday night, with food trucks and live music through the end of October. Food truck offerings range from oysters to tacos to tri-tip. Tickets: $10, kids 6 and older need a ticket. 4545 Thomas Lake Harris Drive, Santa Rosa. prwinery.com.
Larson Family Winery: Reserve outdoor tastings and picnic tables daily from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. for $15 per adult. The annual Harvest Hoedown on Oct. 22, features horse-pulled wagon rides through the vineyards, pony rides, grape stomps for kids and adults and a jumpy house. 23355 Millerick Road, Sonoma. larsonfamilywinery.com.
Benziger Winery: 45-minute tram tours roll through biodynamic farming country, ending with wine caves and tastings (grape juice for kids). $10. Tip: Normally the sheep are not visible on the tram tour, but in the wet and woolly months of January-March, there’s a good chance you’ll see sheep and their lambs. 1883 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen. beniziger.com.
Francis Ford Coppola Winery: The pool is open until Oct. 28. You can reserve a “cabine” and lounge chairs for 4 people for $170-$215, depending on the day of the week at francisfordcoppolawinery.com/en/visit/pools-andcabines. And just in case you were wondering if you can leave your children at the pool while you go wine tasting, the answer is: “No, children must be accompanied and supervised by a parent or guardian at all times.” 300 Via Archimedes, Geyserville. francisfordcoppolawinery.com
Preston Farm and Winery: Every Sunday, Lou Preston busts out the Jim Guadagni jug wine for a laid-back family picnic that you can cobble together from the farm’s homegrown olive oil, baked bread and fresh and pickled vegetables. Farm tours are available at 11 a.m. every Tuesday-Saturday. $30 for walking tour and tasting. 9282 W. Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg. prestonfarmandwinery.com.
Truett Hurst Winery: Kids might not know much about malolactic fermentation, but they know they love goats, chickens and sheep. And they know a nice open space to run around in when they see one. Added bonus: Peer from the banks of Dry Creek at the ongoing salmon habitat restoration. 5610 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg. truetthurstwinery.com