Column: A California twist to St. Patrick’s Day

Normally, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated with hearty meals where potatoes take centre stage. And to go with the festivities is often Guinness and Irish whiskey. This weekend, you might want try something different. Enjoy some tasty Irish cuisine with rays of California liquid sunshine: wine.

For example, uncork Crema Sonoma Coast 2017 Chardonnay ($30.99). Back in the late 70s when I first discovered California Chardonnay, La Crema stood out as a delicious white wine, a crème de la crème.

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La Crema, is part of Jackson Family Wines empire founded in 1982 by Jess Jackson. This winery specializes in making wines sourced from all along the cool craggy Sonoma Coast. Because of the cool climate, the grapes ripen slowly allowing complexity to develop. I loved the lemon, apple, pineapple and pear bouquet and flavour.

Aging in French and American oak provides a vanilla creaminess, a smell and flavour of hazelnuts and a bit of spice. And being near the ocean allows the grapes to retain their crisp acidity, which makes for an excellent wine to serve with food.

Speaking of food, a delicious Irish classic I recently cooked is the Leek and Potato Soup. It's a chicken stock base with leeks, potatoes and green peas. Plus I added some parsnip to go with the spuds. This tasty pottage is topped with bacon bits and sour cream. Creamy, savoury and satisfying.

The La Crema Chard is lighter and leaner than many from the sunshine state. This, as well as the acidity, balances the rich soup.

For a tasty main course, try this favourite on St. Patrick’s Day, Irish Stew, a rich dish with potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, red wine, thyme and broth.

The recipe calls for beef but because I was serving the La Crema 2016 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($35.99), I decided to use lamb instead.

The Pinot displays a gorgeous Burgundy colour with a bouquet of smoke, red fruit, beetroot and earthy notes. On the palate it is smooth with flavours of cranberries, strawberries, black cherries and licorice.

The wine’s bright berry notes are a pleasant contrast to the thyme and Worcestershire flavours of the stew. It also brings an earthiness to complement the root vegetables, allowing for a cohesion of flavour.

As a side dish, nothing is more Irish than Colcannon. Basically this is creamy mashed potatoes with gently fried green cabbage and chives. Think of it as a wee bit of green and white to balance the savoury stew.

The wine to accompany this veggie dish is the Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve 2016 Chardonnay ($23.99). This is America’s favourite Chardonnay since 1992. And there’s a good reason for its popularity.

While the La Crema Chard was lean, the Kendall-Jackson is tropical, full of vanilla, coconut, pineapple and mango. In your mouth there is a rich ripe mouth-feel of tropical fruit and citrus. Winemaker Randy Ullom has done a fantastic job of producing this wine.

While the wine and the Colcannon are tasty on their own, together there is a quantum leap of delicious flavour. The wine’s acidity complements the richness of the buttery mashed potatoes and the flavours of the cabbage. A match made in Ireland, if not heaven!

Sásta Lá Fhéile Pádrai (Happy St. Patrick’s day!)

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