RIVERSIDE GOURMET: Wisconsin Wines Pair With Fine Food, Chippewa River Scenery
‘Did you bring your wine?’ I asked. ‘Yes!’ they exclaimed
words & photos by Michelle Nystrom
“Pull back just two more feet – OK, stop!” Now the motor home was parked in a perfect spot right on the Chippewa River. After putting the slides out and setting up the lawn chairs, it was time to relax. Sitting and watching the water rushing by reminded me of the longship river cruise I took on the Seine River outside of Paris several years ago. The food, the wine, the scenery – unforgettable! It gave me the idea to celebrate my co-workers by doing a food and wine pairing in my RV right on the river. We’ve been working hard all week, and we needed a break.
Hearing the approaching sound of tires on gravel and then laughter, I knew my co-workers Mary and Shelly had arrived. We’ve been waiting for this day for a while now and I could tell they were excited. I had assigned them each the task of finding a bottle of local wine to share so we could see what we might pair with it. “Did you bring your wine?” I asked. “Yes!” they exclaimed.
With a sip of the Prairie Fumé, the sweet citrus and mango notes of the wine complemented the lemony mildness of the fish.
Mary brought a Prairie Fumé from Wollersheim winery, and Shelly a Magenta semi-sweet red wine from River Bend Winery. This should be interesting. Knowing that the white wine Mary brought would be comparable to a French Pouilly Fumé, I began thinking about replicating the meal Julia Child had at LaCouranne restaurant in Rouen, France. It was one of the stops on my longship cruise and was Julia’s very first French meal. Sole Meuniere with a Pouilly-Fume. It set her on her way to becoming a culinary star world-wide! Now we have to catch some fish for sure!
“Alright everybody, let’s get our rods set up!” I announced. We eventually managed to land a few good sized crappies, definitely having more laughs than bites. After cleaning the fish and pan frying it in tons of butter, I lavished parsley and lemon over it. With a sip of the Prairie Fumé, the sweet citrus and mango notes of the wine complemented the lemony mildness of the fish. Although it wasn’t exactly what Julia had, it was darn close!
After we started a fire and settled into our lawn chairs, I grabbed the Magenta wine Shelly brought and passed it around to go with a fresh pan of brownies I made. Reds always go with anything chocolate. “Yum!” It was a hit. The sun began to go down as we reflected on what a fun day we had. “Ouch!” Shelly suddenly yelled as she smacked a mosquito on her arm. We all screamed and laughed as we made a run for the RV to take cover from the wicked beasts.
It’s amazing how wine always brings everyone and everything together so perfectly.
ICE ICE BABY
It’s true that the sun really is different in the South of France. Ever hear of the “Mediterranean Tan”? After about a half an hour on my lounge chair on a beach near Nice, France, I expected to start burning, but I didn’t. The sun feels warm and rich on your skin, and later in the day it creates a beautiful brown glow. “This is way different from the Midwest Tan!”
Growing up in a small town of 7,000 people sure sets you up for culture shock when you travel overseas – but in a good way. I began daydreaming of living in one of the Chateaus nearby, when I was jolted out of my dream by a tinkling sound coming closer. The server handed me a wine glass chock full of ice cubes then poured a Rosé Piscine into it, set down a Nicoise salad, said “Bon Appetit!” and off he went.
Typically one does not put ice cubes in Rosé or Red wine. In the South of France you would have been met with an unapproving glance if you did. That is no longer the case, however. True or not, the rumor is that on a hot steamy day at the Cannes Film Festival in the 1950s, actress Bridget Bardot asked for several ice cubes to be added to her glass of Rosé and it became the norm!
From sweet to minerally, Rosé is a classic all-around wine that you can drink alone or with a meal. The rosés I’ve experienced in Wisconsin rang from presenting deep red hues to almost no color at all. But don’t be put off by a nearly clear Rosé, because the color actually comes from the skin of the grapes.
Finally back at home and sifting through my wine rack, I found a Blushing Rosé from Wollersheim Winery and a Pink Door Rosé from Parallel 44. Determined to find the perfect food and wine pairing, I came across the usual pairings of charcuterie and seafood. I’ve had good luck in the past by enlisting the contents of my refrigerator, so I thought I might give it another try. Let’s see, egg salad, no. Leftover bundles of bacon-wrapped asparagus, maybe. Prosciutto and fontina cheese. Wait a minute – hmm.
I grabbed a packaged pizza crust off the counter, then diced up the asparagus and prosciutto, and topped it all with the shredded fontina cheese. I swear I’ve seen this combination before, but I was more curious to see which wine would pair with this. Would this even work? After 15 minutes in the oven, I sliced the pizza and took a bite. To my delight, the mild flavors from the cheese and fresh asparagus, with the saltiness of the prosciutto paired superbly with sweetness of the chilled Wollersheim Blushing Rosé. Another one for the notebook! Viola! Enjoy a Pink Summer!
Michelle Nystrom of Eau Claire is a certified wine professional who loves to share her own wine and travel experiences.