Confluence: New Zealand and Oregon
New Zealand Chardonnay and Oregon Hazelnut and Squash Pizza
Our dear friend, the Honorable Doug Mitchell, with whom we've shared river rafting adventures and misadventures, long dinner table talks, and other good bits of life, officiated our wedding ceremony. In his opening remarks, he described lives coming together in marriage as being similar to the confluence of rivers flowing together to create something larger than themselves. The theme of confluence has been on my mind ever since.
Our first (and fantastic, I may add) post-honeymoon meal at home reflected a beautiful confluence of Oregon and New Zealand ingredients. The two came together like the Rhine and Mosel. Or better, the Young and Makarora. Or, maybe even the Rogue and Illinois.
Te Kairanga, a lovely Martinborough winery in New Zealand's Wairarapa wine region, produces several interesting varietals, but it was their 2008 Casarina Reserve Chardonnay I couldn't come home without. While at their cellar door (NZ for tasting room), I found hints of toasty hazelnuts, lush yet zingy lemon curd, and soft lees-y butteriness that set my food-and-wine pairing wheels in motion.
Eighteen hours straight in either an airport or airplane on the way home gave me some good time to think about that wine and our next meal. As I whiled away the hours over magazines, my good pal, Martha, provided the just-right inspiration with her November article on Oregon hazelnuts. Hadn't I tasted hazelnut notes in the wine? Butternut squash pizza with hazelnut crust. Te Kairanga Chardonnay. Confluence.
Our honeymoon trip occurred during the New Zealand spring, just as we are squarely into the fall season up above the equator. While Down Under we were served several menu items from the end of their pumpkin season, setting our tastebuds for the first Delicata squash from our own garden. Additional Oregon goodness in this recipe included fresh sage from my ten-year-old plant in the herb pot outside our back door and hazelnuts purchased from a local grower at our farmer's market. The beautiful long-necked garlic? A special wedding gift from our friend Chip, straight out of his garden, as a symbol of good luck and blessing from his Italian tradition.
My Baby schlepped the spicy, acidic, bright green and delicious New Zealand olive oil home in his suitcase. We had shared it with bread, cheese, and wine during a stay in a charming converted stable in the Marlborough region. I'd wanted to leave the open bottle behind, imagining an oily explosion in our bags at 11,000 feet. His good packing prevailed, and it is ours to enjoy while it lasts.
Recipe notes: While delicious in flavor, I found the dough recipe, as written, to be too dry and tough. Next time I'll make the dough a bit softer (less flour/more water) for more tenderness. Also, I succumbed to the written directions and set my convection oven temperature to the recommended 500˚. I know better. Next time, 450˚to allow the veggies to soften before the crust turns too brown. Our Delicata squash was terrific, as would be any pumpkin or squash, so you have lots of freedom there. And, I added big crumbles of Queso Fresco for a little creamy cheesiness. The magazine's ancillary hazelnut crusted broccoli rabe pizza recipe was also tremendous, and I won't hesitate to make it again either.
Our First Meal at Home as Husband and Wife
The food/wine match result was a smash hit. The lemony zing provided a contrasting lift to the earthy nuts and squash, while its round soft texture worked in harmony with the texture of the squash and the olive oil notes. It's good to be home!