Francis Coppola Chardonnay
“This wine rains kisses in your mouth.” –Insatiable By Gael Greene
The first Wednesday of every month is Wine Wednesday! Spectacular wines under $10.00. Yep. Under $10.00. Sometimes wine is less expensive where I am, but most of the time it’s more expensive. Hopefully that means that I will pick wines that are well below the $10.00 limit for most of you.
I will post wines that I particularly like. I am no specialist by any means, but I do love wine. I know the basics of the different varietals, what regions generally produce, and how wines are made, but this space is all about preference. We all like what we like, and you might like what I like too. I will post food pairings and why those pairings are suitable for the specific wine.
Francis Ford Coppola Chardonnay 2016 (Gold Label)
Whoa, it’s already August! Heat waves and occasional night thunderstorms are upon us. I know we always say this, but where have the sunny days gone? Around this time, I get excited about fall but also fearful about not being able to suck up all that summer has to offer. Cue the watermelon and Chardonnay.
I always think of watermelon as the epitome of summer foods. Greedily eating from the rind as juice drips down your chin. Of course, I love combining it with things like mint and lemon to bring out even more freshness and compliment the sweetness. But lately, I’ve become fond of the classic (cliché?) watermelon salad. Slightly bitter arugula, fresh mint and lemon, creamy and salty feta, and sharp red onion all combine with watermelon to redefine its flavor in each bite. It was only until I began giving salads a chance that I stumbled across this gem.
The perfect accompaniment for this is a chilled Chardonnay. The round mouthfeel and slight oaky quality remind me of early fall and heavier blankets while just enough crispness survives to be refreshing. Perfect for the transition from summer to fall. And in this case, the wine ties in to the dish in another crucial way.
While versions of this watermelon salad litter the corners of the internet, many of us are still freaked out by the combo of feta and watermelon. It sounds like it just doesn’t go. But it does! And a glass of Chardonnay fills in the spaces. Want to know how?
Chardonnay is traditionally oak barrel-aged for a small period of time before being bottled. This transforms the wine in a multitude of ways. Primarily, it causes some water to evaporate into the barrel, losing some harsh volatiles while absorbing flavors and compounds from the barrel. This creates a more complex wine with a smoother, less fruity character.
In the case of chardonnay, it generally picks up vanilla and buttery notes from the barrel (traditionally French oak) in addition to some of that oaky quality. If you are fearful of super-oaky chardonnay, many today are lightly oaked in a combination of steel of oak chips. That brings us to the Coppola Chardonnay. This wine is wonderful because it has a nice balance of subtle oak, aging for just a few months. That gives us the best of both worlds. The buttery flavors come through in the flavor complementing the creamy, salty feta while apricot and citrusy notes round out the watermelon and lemon bringing it all together. See what I mean about filling in the spaces of the salad? This wine is also smooth and ‘silky’ (in wine-person talk) due to the oak-aging process which is a nice drinking quality in and of itself. Francis Coppola wines get a bad rap for being a larger, over-priced wine house, but this wine really is lovely. It is sometimes priced higher, but you can generally find them on sale at your local wine shop.
Onto the finale! This salad is extremely customizable, so feel free to use a different green or omit it altogether. Shrimp would be a great addition to make it more substantial, and olives and cucumber would be wonderful as well. As a final note, a full-fat, creamier feta is going to be more successful than what you might normally buy—both with the wine and the salad. Often, a fresher, non-cow version (such as sheep) will give you these characteristics. Enjoy! And Cheers to August.
Watermelon, Arugula, and Mint Salad
1 small seedless watermelon, rind removed and cut into 1-1 ½ inch chunks (about 2 pounds chunks)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, plus zest from half of the lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup roughly torn/chopped fresh mint leaves
¼ of a red onion, chopped
A couple big handfuls arugula leaves (or as much/as little as you want)
4 ounces full-fat, feta cheese
Salt and black pepper
- Whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil in a small glass measuring cup. Combine the watermelon with half of the zest, the mint leaves, and red onion in a large bowl. Pour the lemon juice/oil mixture over the top and gently mix to fully coat. Season with a few pinches of salt and pepper, though do keep in mind you’ll be adding feta to the final dish.
- Arrange the arugula on your serving plate and top with the watermelon mixture. Sprinkle the feta cheese on top followed by the remainder of the lemon zest. Serve immediately.