Friday, March 9, 2012

A Toast to Seasonal Transitions: Seyval Blanc

 By Kitty Maloney
Originally published September 2010

Since I moved to East Coast I have really come to appreciate the splendor of fall. Several days last week, the crispness of fall nipped at you in the early morning. That was followed by summer’s last stand; a mini heat wave just in time for the Autumnal Equinox. The change of seasons is a time period of compliments and contrasts from this I drew my inspiration for this month’s article.

I selected a wine from a recent trip through the Heart of Virginia Wine Trail, Lake Anna Winery’s Seyval Blanc. The day I visited the winery was a day of contrasts… what started out as a sunny late August day quickly turned to a dark and stormy day. Taking refuge in the tasting room of the Lake Anna Winery there was note of fervor in the air. This was due to the arrival of the storm, as the winery was in the process of harvesting grapes… rain is not a welcome visitor during harvest.

Lake Anna Winery is located outside of Fredricksburg, VA, near the entrance to Lake Anna on the Heart of Virginia Wine Trail. The vineyard was founded in the early 1980’s by Bill and Ann Heidig. At that time, the intent was to grow grapes to sell to other wineries. In 1990, after many successful crops and watching several other wineries will awards for wine made from their grapes, Bill and Ann decided to launch their own wines. In 2000, Eric and Jeff, two of the Heidig’s four children, took over the winery and with the addition if winemaker Graham Bell in 2002, winery continues to thrive and produces many award winning wines.

Seyval Blanc, a hybrid grape, as it is a cross between and old world wine grape and a native American grape developed by a the Father and son-in-law Hybridizing team, Bertillee Seyve and Villard. Seyvl Blanc thrives in colder climates, is quite disease tolerant, has a short growing season (roughly 100 days) and  produces larges clusters of medium sized fruit.  Today it is one of the most successfully grown grape varietals in the Eastern US, Eastern Canada (notably Ontario) and the UK. Seyval Blanc is traditionally made into crisp white wines that are well balanced. Tasting notes tend to be green apples, pears and a citrus element in the aroma. The wine tends to have a long finish, with a minerality similar to white Burgundy and Sauvignon Blanc from the Bordeaux or Loire Valley, has contributed to Seyval Blancs success especially in the Midwest and Eastern United States. The color of Seyval Blancs tend towards the pale yellow or golden color similar to that of a Sauvignon Blanc.  

In the spirit of the changing seasons the menu for this paring highlights the transition of the seasons as summer fades into fall and paired with Lake Anna Winery Seyval Blanc 2009.

1) Cordon Bleu inspired Chicken stuffed with prosciutto and swiss cheese on a bed of garlic mashed butternut squash.
2) Orecchiette Pasta with sautéed mushroom, onions and summer squash with a light herb chevre sauce.

As the mushrooms and onions were slowly sautéed, the chicken was pounded out to roughly 1/4 inch thickness, herbed, layered with the prosciutto and cheese, rolled and pan baked. The butternut squashed was cubed, brought to a boil and reduce to simmer until fork tender. As the orecchiette neared the ending of the cooking time the summer squash was added to the sauté of onions and mushrooms to cook until tender. The orecchiette is than added to the vegetable sauté and the herb chevre sauce is stirred in until all the vegetables and pasta were lightly coated.

The first taste of the chicken roll with the interplay of the creaminess of the swiss and the saltiness of the prosciutto slight overpower the chicken, but followed by a sip of the crispness of the Seyval Blanc the flavors balance out and the blend nicely. The minerality of the Seyval Blanc clear the palate of the creaminess of the swiss and the mashed butternut squash but does not overpower the taste of each. The acidity of the wine cut through the saltiness of prosciutto allowing the wine and chicken to strike a pleasing balance.

A sip of wine confirms that this is a traditional Seyval Blanc with its citrus nose with notes of green apples and pears. It is crisp and well blanced wine with a long finish that is quite pleasing. 

When tasted with the Orecchiette pasta vegetable sauté, the Seyval Blanc provided an interesting interplay of enhancing, contrasting and balancing the flavors of the various ingredients of the side dish. The wine brought out the sweetness of the vegetables, enhanced the herbs in the chevre sauce. The creaminess of the chevre sauce truly enhanced the crispness or minerality of the wine. The combination of the sweetness of the vegetables and creaminess of the herb chevre sauce allowed for a blanced interplay between the pasta and the wine, as pasta would not be a normal pairing to a Seyval Blanc.

Seyval Blanc is a delicious crisp wine that is a beautiful alternate to either Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. It is delightful to sip on its own or with a chicken or seafood meals as we think about our summer adeventures and look forward to what the fall holds in store for us.

If you happen by the Lake Anna Winery be sure to say hello to Bandit, you will have a hard time not giving him your wine crackers.