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Pairing with Mere

Cacio e Pepe with a Twist by Meredith Griffin

Cacio e Pepe with a Twist by Meredith Griffin

My husband loves Cacio e Pepe, I guess because it’s basically grown-up mac n’ cheese, and it makes me happy because it’s another meatless dish option for us. After playing around with the traditional recipe, I stumbled upon this winning version! A little hint of citrus along with the Pecorino Pepato makes it seem more gourmet, but requires very little extra help. When I tasted the Viszlay Chardonnay, I immediately thought it would be delicious with this version of Cacio e Pepe. I serve either a simple green salad or roasted veggies on the side to complete the meal.

Ingredients for 2

  • 8 ounces Bucatini pasta
  • 3 tbsp butter (Miyoko’s vegan butter works too)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp freshly grated black pepper
  • Zest and juice from one Meyer lemon*
  • ½ cup Pecorino Pepato, grated (Pecorino cheese with black pepper, which may require a trip to your local cheese shop to find; plain Pecorino will work if you can’t find the Pepato version)
  • ½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese grated


  • Begin by cooking the pasts according to the instructions on the package.
  • When pasta is almost done cooking to al dente, add 1 tbsp olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and 1 tbsp butter.
  • Once butter has melted, add the pepper and lemon zest to the pan to cook for about one minute.
  • Add about ½ cup of the pasta water to the pan and bring to a simmer.
  • Add pasta and remaining butter and toss together.
  • Once butter has melted, reduce heat, and add cheese. Toss and add desired amount of lemon juice.
  • If pasta becomes thick add additional pasta water to help thin it out.
  • Divide between two pasta bowls or plates and enjoy with a glass of the Viszlay Chardonnay!

 *If your Meyer lemon gives you an abundance of juice, you may want to start with about half of it. You can always add more if you desire more citrus flavor.

Why this Wine?

The hint of citrus in the Cacio e Pepe adds an additional flavor profile to the dish, which helps bring freshness to the creamy texture. Similarly, the Viszlay Chardonnay has a creamy texture like many Chardonnays, but it also has bright acidity. There is a delicious harmony when the flavors of the wine and pasta come together.

January’s Easy & Squashy Chicken Parm by Meredith Griffin

January’s Easy & Squashy Chicken Parm by Meredith Griffin

Since it’s finally cooling off in New Orleans (that means days under 70°F), we’re finally in the mood for more warm, hearty dishes!

Italian is one of my favorite cuisines, so that’s usually where I get my inspiration. However, in an effort to keep the meal lighter I'm going to skip the pasta and opt for a baked chicken parmesan over spaghetti squash.

The goal is to deliver the coziness of a hearty meal, but with a couple simple tweaks we create a lower calorie dish. And to complete the meal I’m paring it with a glass of our 2016 Jewels of the Earth Merlot.


2 chicken breasts, pounded thinly

2 tsp Italian seasoning

Olive oil

1 small to medium spaghetti squash, cut in half lengthwise and seeds removed

1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated

½ cup grated or about 2 of the larger Mozzarella Bocconcini’s sliced into medallions

1 cup Marinara sauce

Shallot, garlic clove and 8oz diced mushrooms, optional

Fresh basil, optional

Salt and pepper

To Prepare for two people:        

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°F
  2. Prepare the squash by spraying it with oil and seasoning it with about 1 tsp of the Italian seasoning and a little salt. Place flesh down on a baking sheet. Bake at 400° for about 25-35 minutes until fork tender (the small one I cooked only took 25 minutes). Remove from the heat and set aside until cool enough to handle.
  3. While squash cooks, drizzle chicken with olive oil and season with the other tsp of Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Then sprinkle and pat Parmigiano-Reggiano on both sides of each piece of chicken. Place a cooling rack over a baking sheet lined with foil and spray rack with cooking spray. Place chicken on the rack.
  4. If using fresh mushrooms, shallot and garlic warm a medium pan over medium heat. Add a little olive oil to the pan and sauté shallot for about 3-4 minutes until translucent. Grate one garlic clove into the shallot, cook one more minute. Then add mushrooms and cook until softened. Add your preferred marinara to pan and let simmer.
  5. If not using shallot, garlic and mushrooms, simply pour your preferred marinara sauce in a medium pan and warm over medium-high heat.
  6. Once squash is done cooking, put chicken in the oven and cook for about 25 minutes. Remove and top each chicken breast with about 2 tbsp marinara and cover with mozzarella cheese. Put back in the oven and cook for about another 5 minutes until cheese is melted.*
  7. While chicken cooks, use a fork to remove squash from the shells. Toss with additional marinara sauce and divided between two plates.
  8. Top each plate of spaghetti squash with one chicken breast.
  9. Uncork the wine, pour two glasses and enjoy!

 *Internal temperature of chicken needs to reach 165°F

Why this wine pairing:

Although I generally believe that “what grows together goes together” and thus, would typically serve an Italian wine with an Italian dish, I’m pretty sure Italians would not classify this as a true Italian dish. Therefore, Jewels of the Earth Merlot gets my vote for this pairing!

Marinara sauce, because of its acid component, does not pair well with big tannic wines — like Cabernet Sauvignon. This Merlot has soft tannins along with bright fruit flavors that will complement the marinara, but it also has enough complexity and body to hold up to the flavors and hearty texture of this dish.


Holiday Brussel Sprouts Salad by Meredith Griffin

Holiday Brussel Sprouts Salad by Meredith Griffin

This recipe is inspired by one of my favorite salads I discovered many years ago in Phoenix, AZ before Brussels Sprouts were cool!

I’ve put my own spin on it by roasting the sprouts to bring out their flavor. You can add the dressing, but I’ve also just used just a little white balsamic vinegar and olive oil. The green Brussels with dried cranberries looks very festive for the Christmas season and it can act as a lighter dinner before a feast or as a side to your holiday meal.

I prefer this with a white wine like our Stormy Edges Chenin Blanc Viognier Blend or Beau Vigne, but if you add the pancetta or bacon, the Three Places Pinot Noir or other Pinot Noir will also pair well.


About 1lb of Brussel Sprouts, trimmed and sliced into thin slivers

About ¼ lb Manchego cheese

¼ cup Marcona almonds

¼ cup dried fruit (I use a combo of dried cherries, blueberries and cranberries but choose your favorites)

*Optional-1/4 to 1/2 cup cooked diced pancetta or bacon

For the Dressing

2 tbsp of Champagne vinegar

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp honey

¼ cup olive oil

Salt and pepper

How to Prepare

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Once the Brussels have been trimmed and sliced into thin rounds, toss them with about 1 tbsp olive oil and sprinkle of salt. Cook for about 20mins until browned and slightly crisped. (To crisp them up a little more you can turn the oven to broil and continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes)
  3. Meanwhile, using a vegetable peeler, create slivers of Manchego cheese.
  4. Chop the Marcona almonds into smaller pieces.
  5. Make the dressing by whisking all the ingredients together.
  6. Once the Brussels are done cooking remove from oven, transfer to a bowl and let cool about 5 minutes. Toss with dressing if using and then top with cheese, almonds, dried fruit and pancetta/bacon if using.
  7. Uncork the wine and enjoy!