Chef in the Vineyard, by John Sarich

What wine lover doesn’t like a good cookbook to go along with their favorite wine? Or perhaps, it’s a good book about wonderful wineries you should visit along with some fantastic recipes and food pairing menus. Either way you look at it, you should add this book to your cooking library, especially, if you’re looking to pair some wines of the Pacific Northwest with your cuisine. This book offers a valuable selection of simple yet elegant recipes and pairing your fine cuisine with quality wines from the Pacific Northwest.

The first part of the book takes you through a guided tour of John’s favorite wine and vineyard estates of the Northwest. Afterwards, you’ll find yourself with a quality selection of recipes and wine pairings to try at home. The book is well organized and you can intuitively find what might peak your interest. If nothing else, you can always use the “Guide to Food and Wine Pairing” he shares in the book. The chart is straight forward and easy to read. It serves as an excellent guide for the expert or novice wine lover.

You’ll find the “journey” that John takes you through with ten of his favorite wineries of California, Oregon, and Washington better than most wine tour buses. His personal insight and knowledge of these places serves well with how he pairs their wines with different recipes. Each estate featured also has a nice index at the end with what estate wine and food to pair, along with the page numbers indexed. So if you just can’t wait till you’ve finished reading about the current or following estates, don’t be embarrassed at the urge to jump right over to the detailed recipe section and start cooking! For some good tidbits, feel free to jump right to the Chef’s notes section of each estate. You may get some insights not found in most other wine & food cookbooks. At the end of each estate story is a small section on the page of John’s “Favorite Ingredients”. That section just shows the personal touch he has in writing about these places. The great photographs of each estate also help compliment the artistic story that John tells about each establishment.

While wine making can be an art and a science, being able to master wine and food pairing is an artistic quality that comes with experience. For example, it’s not so much that you pair a red wine with a meat dish, but which red varietal and estate can make all the difference in the world with your meaty cuisine. The recipes that follow in the book show how John pays that extra special attention to each dish. He just doesn’t select any Pinot Noir. He selects the right Pinot Noir!

You get the “full meal deal” with recipes: appetizer, soup & salad, seafood, poultry, vegetarian, meat, sides (aka fixin’s in some parts of the country), and dessert. With 140 recipes available, there is something for everyone. Hard core food lovers may have a difficult time getting past the appetizers. If you’re really into appetizers, these selections just might make a meal for you and then some! Warning: the Ahi Poke and Steamed Clams recipes may be an indulging sand trap! Once you’ve indulged in the appetizer section, the book continues with soups and salad selections. Most may find the Asian Crab Noodle Soup a favorite surprise at your next house party. And there is nothing like a crisp cool salad dish along with a chilled white wine to help cool you down on a warm summer day. The seafood selections have to be one of the shining stars. For the northwest area, it is only appropriate that some of the seafood recipes may be considered signature dishes of the Pacific Northwest winery estates. For poultry dishes, go for the game hen or quail recipes if you’re looking for something other than chicken. Vegetarians have not been left out. Some may be surprised at what there is to offer and there is a red and white pairing selection to these vegetarian dishes just like with meat, chicken, and fish. For those new to these kinds of veggie entrée dishes, you can’t go wrong with the Spinach Lasagna! Meat lovers, this book is definitely for you! You’ll not only find some great dishes to whip up, but John knows the art of pairing that special red wine and the estate it came from to compliment that meaty dish. The side dishes are just as important as the wine pairing to compliment the main entrée. So, pick a good recipe and don’t forget dessert. The Warm Berries on Ice Cream recipe is a killer and has become one of our new favorites for the bountiful fruit available in the summer. Yum! You’ll be craving a late harvest sweet Riesling with this dessert.

So…are you hungry yet? Cheers and enjoy!