WINEormous tastes Dunning WineLike most folks who drink more than their fair share of wine, I am of the firm belief that wine is meant to be enjoyed with food.  Not only that, but food will often affect the taste of wine (not always in a positive way), so pairing a dish with the appropriate wine can be a bit of a trick.  I find that the standards of white wine with fish or poultry, sweet wine with sweet or spicy food, red wine with meat or game, etc. are a great place to begin, but barely address the finer nuances of pairing food and wine.  My point is very well illustrated by a recent tasting of Dunning Vineyards 2009 Estate Chardonnay ($24 SRP).

The Women’s and Men’s Wine Council(s) sample wines on a fairly regular basis and offer up our reviews.  Although there is some talk of a joint council (yay!), we currently meet separately, and this month both groups tasted the Dunning 2009 Estate Chardonnay.   As the results of our tastings were so dissimilar, I can draw but one conclusion: it is all about the food.

A classic barrel fermented chardonnay, this wine was a huge hit with the ladies, scoring the highest marks.  Dunning uses 50% new French Oak with a very tight grain to produce full-bodied flavors.  The men found the wine to be light with a quick finish, allowing the food to take center stage.  The women found with time and air, flavors of vanilla and pear were evident along with notes of citrus and nutmeg.  I was pleasantly surprised that the wine was not overly oaky as I prefer non-oaked chardonnays.  Though the men’s council did not find a dish that made this wine sing, they did find it to be food-friendly.  The women enjoyed it with crackers with cream cheese and olive tapenade, Edam Cheese and several other dishes, but found that it paired best with the Apricot Sage Biscuits that Linda Kissam provided.  Being me, I felt compelled to recreate the store version from scratch, so here is the winning recipe from my “test kitchen” (ha-ha).  Trust me; take these beauties to your next wine tasting or party and they will fly off the plate.  Buttery, crunchy, earthy, salty, sweet = perfect wine food.

Apricot Sage Cookies

Apricot Sage Cookies (via Epicurious)


  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened well
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup chopped dried apricots (those living in the Temecula Valley or San Diego County must try apricots from Terra Bella Ranch found at the local Farmer’s Markets)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 350°F and lightly grease 2 baking sheets.

In a bowl whisk together butter, sugar, and egg until smooth. Sift in flour and baking soda and add apricots, sage, cornmeal, and salt, stirring until combined.  Drop tablespoons of dough about 1 inch apart onto baking sheets and bake in batches in middle of oven 10 minutes, or until pale golden. Cool cookies on sheets 2 minutes and transfer to a rack to cool.

Between the two groups, we tasted 7 more wines, so more of my favorite food and wine parings will follow!  I am delighted to report that four of the featured wines will be from Dunning.  Located off the beaten path in Paso Robles, Dunning is considered one of the “Far Out Wineries.”  Their wines are available on line and at a number of fine restaurants in the Paso Robles area.  Check out their website: HERE  for more info.  Though “far out,” they are producing very approachable wines that both please the palate and pair well with food, so I look forward to sharing them with you.

Thanks again to all the Council members: Linda Kissam (especially), Tom Plant, Roger Paige, Scott Vinton, Ken Barnes, Debbie Israel Wiens, Judee Jachim Smith, Carmen Micheli and Sue Richter.  Count on me to provide the Apricot Sage Cookies for our next gathering!