We are excited to welcome Jennifer Cochran, good friend and Gård wine club member, as a guest blogger this week prior to the release of the 2014 Grand Klasse whites. She’s honest, witty, loves wine and is including a savory scallops recipe. Enjoy!

First off, I am not a wine expert. I think of myself as more of a seasoned wine drinker, as I love wine and have been drinking it for more years than I care to share.  I am also a long-time friend of Lisa’s and a big fan of Gard wines.

If you typically only drink whites in the summer, raise your hand. Me too, until recently.  I’ve been adding whites to the mix here and there this winter and honestly hadn’t reflected on that one single bit. Then I had dinner at a fantastic seafood restaurant the other night with friends, one of whom can only drink whites due to redaches (you know, headaches from drinking reds). We ordered a bottle of Pinot Gris to share and it was just okay with our meal. It was a little too light and crisp for me. Didn’t love it.  But then I ordered a Sancerre which was fuller, rounder, a little heavier but still cut through a bit of the wintery richness of the sauces we had been tasting throughout the evening – without overpowering the seafood like a red might. A perfect match.

That got me excited about trying a few more examples of the “winter whites” I have been reading about lately so I dragged my husband  over to Gård’s Woodinville tasting room to do some “research.” Yum!

Apparently, the point of view of some folks in the wine industry is that winter whites tend to be rounder, richer, perhaps oakier, and fuller bodied than summer whites in order to stand up to richer, heavier, comforting winter dishes. That is a theory I wanted to test. As we bellied up to the bar and began to taste, Gård Tasting Room Manager Warren Ball shared his opinion on the subject, “Most people think they should only drink reds during the winter. That’s just not true, especially when it comes to dining.” Aha, an opportunity for more research! With that in mind, we finished off our white flights and headed home with five bottles and a plan for a weekend wine experiment.

I’m not going to bore you with all the details because that isn’t what I think is important (except that Gård’s 2014 Roussanne was perfect for our seared scallop recipe, see below). What’s important is that my husband and I had fun trying different whites with several different dishes, some that we would normally never have tried together. We agreed on some pairings and disagreed on others. Most important of all, we both learned which whites we each like in winter. Those are our winter whites and we look forward to adding more to the list.

Up for trying your own experiment? Here are a few tips to consider when drinking whites in winter months:

  1. Be open.
    Open your mind to the idea of whites all year long. Can’t hurt to try. In fact, I am confident you will have fun. At least by the third glass.
  2. Warm it up.
    No one wants an icy cold drink in the middle of winter. And that’s okay – whites aren’t meant to be served at fridge temp (usually about 40˚F) anyway. Feel free to warm it up a bit to recommended 49-55˚F by leaving the bottle out for about 30 minutes or, in a pinch, cupping the bowl of the glass in your hands for a few minutes to warm it up. As an added bonus, the aromas will really shine.
  3. Take notes.
    Pour tastes of 2-3 different whites and try them with your dish or multiple dishes. Notice if any fall flat, are too tart, overpower, or stand up to the dish. Notice how you like or don’t like different labels of the same varietal. I recommend trying this over a weekend where you have more time to prepare food, perhaps even a few courses, and/or when you are likely be out to dinner where you can continue your experiment with little to no effort at all.
  4. Have fun!
    Make it a date night, enlist a group of friends, or take some much needed me-time just for yourself. And then enjoy the process of discovering your winter whites.

So yes, some would say winter whites tend to be rounder, heavier, perhaps oakier whites. I have come to the conclusion that winter whites are whites I enjoy in the winter. It’s that simple. Now it’s your turn, you be the judge. Let us know your thoughts. Cheers!
Oh, and if you’re interested in my husband’s killer scallop recipe, here it is…

Pan-Seared Scallops with Shallot and White Wine Butter Sauce

This is not a fussy recipe. Try red onion if you prefer. Chop the capers if you like something a little more subtle. Add Italian parsley or pine nuts as garnish if that’s your thing. Love butter? Add another pat when the wine goes in – it just makes the sauce silkier. Looking for a main course? Create more sauce and serve it over angel hair.

We’ve made this dish several times over the years with different whites, including an oaky Chardonnay and a Pinot Gris. All have been yummy, but our favorite, which has now become the staple, is Gard’s 2014 Roussanne – a perfect balance of acid and oak that really complements the sweet scallops and rich butter.

Serves 4-6 as an appetizer

1lb medium large scallops (ideally fresh, but we have also made these with frozen)

1 medium shallot, minced

3/4 cup white wine

1 tablespoon capers, rinsed

1 bunch/package micro greens, rinsed (pea shoots, watercress, whatever you can find)

1 tablespoon neutral oil (such as grapeseed or canola)

1 tablespoon butter

kosher salt

  1. Rinse and pat scallops dry. Salt both sides.
  2. Portion out about a loose handful of greens onto plates/bowls.
  3. In a hot pan, add oil and get a nice hard sear on one side of the scallops.  The timing really depends on the size of your scallops, but generally 2 to 3 minutes should do the trick. Oh, and don’t crowd your pan!
  4. Flip your scallops, add butter, and baste once or twice. Cook another 2-3 minutes.
  5. Remove scallops from pan. If you have a hearty green, scallops can be set on top now. If not, set aside and wait to assemble plates.
  6. Add shallots to the pan, sauté until soft, about two minutes.
  7. Add the wine and capers, reduce by about half.
  8. Build your plates – greens on the bottom, arrange 2-4 scallops on top, spoon the sauce over the top. Enjoy!