A Wine to Match Butternut Squash Risotto

Chardonnay with Risotto
New World Chardonnay like this 2007 from Johan Vineyards in the Willamette Valley is an excellent pairing with risotto.

Risotto is usually served as a first course in the northern Italian areas of Piedmont, Lombardy, and Veneto. In Piedmont, this means risotto is often paired with Barbera in a multi-course meal where antipasti is paired with a white wine like Arneis and the meat is paired with Nebbiolo. There are seemingly endless variations to basic risotto like Risotto alla Milanese where the rice is flavored with saffron and served with Osso Buco or Risotto ai Funghi. But many of these variations work better as partners with red wine. We recently visited Oregon’s Willamette Valley and returned with a trunk full of wine, including some surprisingly delicious Chardonnay from Johan Vineyards near Salem. As we scoured the internet for recipes to pair with this full-bodied and textural white, we ultimately settled upon a Cooks Illustrated recipe for Butternut Squash Risotto.

Making Butternut Squash Risotto
Chardonnay pairs well with the creamy texture of risotto while picking up on the earthiness of butternut squash and the toastiness of pine nuts.
The pairing of New World Chardonnay and risotto has a lot going for it even in its simplest form. For starters, most New World Chardonnay is broad and full-bodied, providing ample weight to match risotto’s substantive texture. Secondly, most Chardonnays have enough lemony acidity to give this dish some brightness and lift. When an earthy vegetable like butternut squash enters the mix, even New World Chardonnay will start to show its mineral side. And when the squash is sautéed or roasted, the oak found in most New World Chardonnay shows up nicely on those flavors. Finally, a garnish such as walnuts or toasted pine nuts, plays well with the nutty and toasty flavors found in the wine, pushing this pairing over the top.

Daniel Rinke
In addition to excellent Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Johan winemaker and viticulturist Daniel Rinke makes cutting edge wines like this Pinot Gris with extended skin contact.

A short note on Johan Vineyards: The name Johan comes from its young owner, Dag Johan Sundby, a transplanted Norwegian who owns 85 acres of prime Willamette Valley real estate near Salem, Oregon. Despite having recently acquired the property in 2005, Dag seems to be an adept business person and wisely hired Daniel Rinke as his viticulturist and winemaker, and allowed him to “run with it.” Inside the Johan cellar, we tasted some of the most unusual, exciting, and inspiring New World wines I’ve tasted in a long time. Look for experimental Pinot Gris wines with extended skin contact, co-fermented Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, as well as cleanly made Pinot Noir and the delicious Chardonnay mentioned above.

posted on January 25 2010 by jesse

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