Our Wine of the Week, Pellegrini 2015 Unoaked Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($24), is a lovely example of how the flavors of the varietal blossom in the absence of oak. Fruit flavors — especially peach, mango and a bit of white pineapple — are lush and rich yet the wine is not flabby, as some overly oaked chardonnays can be. These fruit flavors give way to bright hints of lemon, lemon zest and pomelo, acidic qualities that continue to reverberate on the wines crisp finish.
These qualities expand pairing options beyond what works with oaked chardonnay. Seafood is always a reliable match and when you pair it with something light — a lemon citronette, for example, or a voluptuous lemon risotto — the match soars. Sicilian seafood salad — crab, calamari and rock shrimp in a garlic, lemon and olive oil dressing — is a stellar match that encourages the wine to blossom. Southeast Asian salads are good matches, too, provided they are not too spicy.
Green salads can be difficult to pair with wines but this wine can work beautifully, especially if you add, say, sliced pears and use pear vinegar in the dressing.
Pork tenderloin is another happy companion, and you can enhance the match by basting the pork with pear jam or pear butter thinned with a bit of the wine.
To enjoy the wine as an aperitif, make sure it is well chilled and offer cheeses with a nutty character, such as French Comté and Gruyere, Sicilian Scamorza and such local cheeses as Vella Dry Jack and Valley Ford’s Estero Gold.
For today’s recipe, inspiration comes from the wine’s compatibility with macadamia nuts; it’s a gorgeous pairing and offered here in a simple fall salad, perfect during a heat wave.
Avocado, Pear and Macadamia Nut Salad
Makes 2 servings, easily doubled
1 small shallot, minced
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar or rice wine vinegar
— Kosher salt
— Black pepper in a mill
1 firm ripe avocado
1 firm ripe pear
— Handful of small arugula or young salad greens
4-6 tablespoons avocado oil, macadamia nut oil or olive oil
1/2 cup whole macadamia nuts, lightly toasted and chopped
Put the minced shallot into a small bowl, add the vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Set aside while you prepare the avocado and pear.
Cut the avocado in half lengthwise, remove the pit and use a paring knife to cut very thin lengthwise slices. Use a large spoon to scoop the slices out of the skin. Fan half an avocado on individual serving plates and squeeze a little lime juice over it.
Peel the pear, cut it in half lengthwise, cut out the seed core and cut into thin lengthwise slices. Arrange on the plate with the avocado, and squeeze a little lime juice over it.
Mound the greens in the middle of the plate and season with a little salt.
Stir the oil into the shallot and vinegar mixture, adding as much as is necessary for a proper balance of acid and oil. Spoon dressing over the avocado, pear and greens, season lightly with salt and pepper and scatter macadamia nuts on top.