Towards the end of this summer, I had the opportunity to host a dinner party at my home to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Rodney Strong Vineyards. At the time, I had no functioning kitchen (aka no stove, no oven, no countertop, no dishwasher…nothing.), but I jumped at the chance to host it because ever since my trip to Napa last year, I’ve become a bit obsessed with US wines, with Rodney Strong vineyards being at the top of that list. So, armed with a small charcoal grill and a case of wine, we had our first dinner party in our new home.
I’d never planned out a meal along with a wine list before, but as I read through the flavor profiles of each wine the menu just kind of came to me. I wanted to keep it simple since I only had the grill to work with, but I really wanted it to compliment and bring out the flavors of of the wine I paired with each course. As you can imagine, it was incredibly hectic trying to prepare a five-course meal on a small charcoal grill on my own, so I ended up being unable to take pictures of the actual party, but the good news is that the food came out perfectly and each wine was just as delicious as the meal it was served alongside.
To start, I made the crostini recipe in this post by toasting the bread on the grill and sautéing the kale with balsamic in my cast iron skillet over the hot coals. I paired it with a 2013 Rodney Strong Estate Vineyards Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon Blanc to let the acidity of the wine shine through, and shine it did.
For the main course, I spatchcocked (new favorite word) a chicken for the first time and had marinated it overnight in an asian plum glaze before slow-grilling it over indirect heat from the coals, which I’d heaped towards one side of the grill (recipe is in my cookbook!) The result was one of the most moist, tender, and juicy chickens I’d ever had. The smokey charcoal flavor seeped into every bit of the bird in the most wonderfully subtle way, and it could not have paired better with the 2011 Rodney Strong Symmetry Red Meritage, Alexander Valley. This wine is made up of grapes from small lot vineyards that consistently produce the best of the best of Napa’s wines. The slight sweetness from the plums in the chicken’s glaze brought out the fruity undertones of cassis and blackberries, and the savory drippings from the bird complimented the spice and rich silky texture of this wine perfectly. I’d highly recommend this for a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner pairing, since it works incredibly well with seasoned poultry.
After all that eating, we waited a bit to have dessert, and I’m glad we did because it made us enjoy the light finish much more than if we’d tried to stuff ourselves right after the main course. We ended the night with these grilled peaches with honey over vanilla ice cream, paired with the 2008 Rodney Strong “A True Gentleman’s” Port, which was an excellent decision, indeed. The hot sweet peaches melted away at the thick ice cream, and the cinnamon in the peaches brought out the spiced undertones in the port perfectly. The creaminess of the dessert as a whole went incredibly well with the sweet, fruity flavors of this especially tasty port.
So, with our stomachs full of an amazing array of food and wine, and with the coals slowly cooled down to ash, the first party in our new home came to an end. With the constant tending of the coals I wasn’t able to take any pictures of the dinner, which was my biggest regret of the evening, but at the same time it allowed me to focus more on the food, wine, my guests, and really cherishing the memory of all my friends gathered together for the first time in our new home, so perhaps it wasn’t such a bad thing after all.
Note: Rodney Strong sent me these wines to use in the dinner party, but all recipes and opinions about the wines are my own, per usual!
Sautéed Kale & Goat Cheese Crostini With A Balsamic Reduction
- 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Sautéed Kale & Goat Cheese Crostini
- 5 large leaves of kale torn into pieces with the thick center veins removed and discarded
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 8 slices French bread
- 8 ounces goat's cheese can be feta, chèvre...any kind of goat or sheep's cheese
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
- freshly ground black pepper
Simmer ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat for 10-15 minutes, or until it coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature to thicken.
Sautéed Kale & Goat Cheese Crostini
- Sauté the kale with the olive oil and balsamic in a medium-sized frying pan or cast iron skillet over medium heat until the kale cooks down, shrinks, and becomes wrinkly, about 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Brush both side of each slide of bread with a tablespoon of the butter and toast them on a grill or griddle until lightly golden. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Sprinkle or spread 1 ounce of cheese onto each toast, sprinkle each with a pinch of black pepper, and place a few pieces of kale over the cheese. Drizzle the balsamic reduction over the crostinis and serve immediately.