Pairings: Citrusy sauvignon blanc shines with seafood



Our Wine of the Week, Gracianna Winery 2016 Dry Creek Valley Kiwi’s Blend Sauvignon Blanc ($28), is rich and plush, with a fuller mouthfeel than you might expect from this varietal.

Fruit flavors are bright and bold, with hints of pomelo, sour orange, white pineapple, and, yes, even kiwi. Meadow grass warmed by the sun shapes mid-palate flavors and there’s plenty of citrusy zing on the wine’s lingering finish. It’s a feisty sauvignon blanc, with an edgy swagger. It is a sauvignon blanc that chardonnay lovers will appreciate.

The wine will go well with certain full-flavored foods, especially fish and shellfish. It’s a great match with salmon and even goes well with mackerel, which can be hard to pair because it is so intensely flavored. It’s a good match with Sicilian-style sardines with raisins, fennel and mint.

As fall’s harvest kicks in, you’ll want this wine around to enjoy with winter squash, too. Winter squash risotto, spaghetti with winter squash-walnut sauce, and winter squash sautéed in butter and finished with cinnamon and Champagne vinegar are all excellent matches.

Fish stews and chowders are excellent companions, too. Oyster chowder, Italian crab and tomato soup, smoked trout chowder and salmon-corn chowder all flatter this wine. It is also quite delightful alongside a traditional New England-style clam chowder, today’s recipe. Some recipes call for dill but I find it overpowers other flavors, both in the chowder itself and in the wine. Italian parsley is a good replacement.

New England-Style Clam Chowder

Makes about 6 to 8 servings

1 cup dry white wine

2 thyme sprigs

1 bay leaf

5-6 pounds small Pacific Littleneck or Manila clams, sorted, scrubbed and rinsed

3 tablespoons butter

1 yellow onion, cut into small dice

2 ounces pancetta, diced

2 large potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, peeled and cut into small dice

— Kosher salt

2 cups half-and-half

1 cup heavy cream

— White pepper in a mill

— Pinch of red pepper flakes, optional

3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley

— Hot sourdough bread

Pour the wine into a large pot and add 3 cups of water, along with the thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Bring to a boil over high heat, add the clams, reduce the heat so that the liquid simmers gently and cook until the clams open, from 3 to 8 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the clams to a bowl. Remove the clams from their shells. Discard the shells and set the clams aside. Carefully pry open any closed clams and remove the meat; it is rare that an unopened clam will be bad at this point, as you would have already discarded empty shells or mud-filled shells when you sorted them.

Strain the cooking liquid into a bowl, rinse out the pot and set it over medium heat. Add the butter, and when it is melted add the onion and sauté until soft and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Add the pancetta and sauté 2 to 3 minutes, until it loses its raw look. Add the potatoes and sauté, stirring gently all the while, for about 3 minutes; season lightly with salt.

Add the strained cooking liquid and simmer gently for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

Meanwhile, chop the clams if they are bigger than, say, a nickel; leave small clams whole.

Stir in the half-and-half and cream and heat through; do not boil. Stir in the clams, season generously with white pepper and add the red pepper flakes, if using, and the parsley. Taste and correct for salt, if needed.

Ladle into soup bowls and serve immediately, with hot bread alongside.

Michele Anna Jordan hosts “Mouthful: Smart Talk About Food, Wine, & Farming” Sunday evenings at 6 p.m. on KRCB FM Radio 91. Email her at