On my first sip of Rombauer Vineyards 2017 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($24), our Wine of the Week, a veritable orchard of tangy citrus blossomed. Flavors leaned toward lemon, but a bit later it resolved into lime and lime zest. There are threads of tropical fruit, especially pomelo, mangosteen and some of the other sweet-tart fruits found closer to the equator.
The wine is quite refreshing, with that minerality suggestive of a light rain on a summer morning. But there is a richness, a plushness, too, that ebbs and flows as you sip.
You’ll enjoy the wine with everything from a delicate shrimp, radish and avocado tostada to a rich green Thai curry. Chicken salad with a lemony dressing, a croissant slathered with crème fraiche and radishes and pan-fried rockfish tucked into a soft corn tortilla and topped with avocado salsa all make great matches with the pretty wine. When Padrón chiles come into season soon, you’ll enjoy the wine with a fresh chèvre topped with fried Padrons and drizzled with just a bit of lemon.
You can even enjoy this wine with red meat, if you like. Its plush texture rises to the richness of, say, a ribeye steak grilled rare. To make the match blossom, squeeze the juice of a lemon over the meat while it rests after cooking. Serve it atop a bed of just wilted spinach and you’ll wonder why such a pairing isn’t suggested more frequently.
Today’s recipe takes inspiration from watercress, as its mildly spicy green flavors draw out subtle characteristics in the wine, something almost earthy. You can if you like, omit the soup and use the watercress salsa verde on sautéed Petrale sole or on a simple sandwich of grilled chicken.
Watercress Vichyssoise with Salsa Verde
Makes 3 to 4 servings
6 cups, approximately, homemade chicken stock
1 large or 2 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced, preferably dry-farmed
— Kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup fresh watercress leaves
3 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley leaves
— Grated zest of 1 lemon
— Black pepper in a mill
2-3 tablespoons crème fraiche
Pour the chicken stock into a medium saucepan, set over medium heat, add the potatoes and simmer gently until they are tender when pierced with a fork, about 10 to 12 minutes.
Remove from the heat and let cool for a few minutes. While it cools, put the olive oil into a sauté pan set over medium heat heat, add the watercress, parsley and lemon zest and sauté quickly, until just wilted. Remove from the heat and add to the stock and potatoes.
Use an immersion blender to puree the soup thoroughly.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Chill for at least 3 hours, until the soup is quite cold. While the soup chills, make the salsa verde.
Ladle into wide shallow soup plates, top with a generous dollop of salsa verde and enjoy right away.
Variation: Serve chilled with a generous dollop of Watercress Salsa Verde (recipe follows) atop each portion; omit the chives.