As a Wine Writer I often receive samples of wine from various wineries and agencies. Just as Autumn was knocking at our door here in Western Washington, I was fortunate to receive samples from Heibel Ranch Vineyards. I immediately knew these wines would be ideal pairings with two of my favorite backyard garden vegetable recipes, made possible by the end of the growing season harvest.
For years I have been passionate about the link between food and nature, finding the ways everything comes together in the garden and in the kitchen. I think my passion for gardening was planted as a seed from my parent’s gardening when I was growing up, even though at the time I hated the chore of weeding the garden. As an adult I have come to appreciate how gardening is a practice that provides immeasurable balance and substance to your daily life.
One thing that I work on continually, is finding ways to use all of the food that is grown in the backyard garden every year. Some years I do better than others at not only eating fresh from the garden throughout the growing season, but also in preserving the bounty of vegetables and fruits, to enjoy until the next year’s harvest.
Just a quick note here, you really don’t have to own acres of farmland to enjoy the benefits of gardening, our edible backyard that gives us about 100+ pounds of produce each year is around 1200 sq. feet. It just takes some work and commitment to eat delicious Backyard to Table food and create satisfying recipes from food that you grow with your own hands.
For me Backyard to Table is about the flavor and quality of the fruits and vegetables. It’s about knowing that the food that I grow is all Organic, which ultimately makes for the most enjoyable food and eating experience.
“The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.” -Alfred Austin
With fresh ingredients straight from the garden, I am sharing an “Ode to Backyard Garden” recipes that can also be frozen to savor while the garden is in winter slumber.
Each year we grow a number of different tomato varieties in all colors, I am particularly fond of the yellow and orange tomatoes and they typically take up a good part of the tomato growing space. For this recipe the tomatoes, celery, sweet bell peppers, garlic, onion and basil all came from the backyard garden. I typically grow carrots in the spring, but this year carrots were not planted until later for a fall/winter harvest so I used store bought carrots.
I roast everything for this recipe, tomatoes, onions, sweet bell peppers, carrots and garlic. This increases the cooking time involved but the vegetables reward you with more intense flavors. I even take the time to core and de-seed the tomatoes before roasting, but this is not a step that needs to be done since the soup will be puréed. Also, I separate the onions, garlic and carrots from the tomatoes and red peppers on the baking tray to allow the removal of the softer vegetables since they tend to cook faster.
I prepared my Backyard Garden Roasted Tomato Soup to pair with the GBH Cabernet Sauvingon from Heibel Ranch Vineyards. This is a bold wine that needed a flavorful soup to harmonize with, not a problem when you are working with garden fresh vegetables.
If time allows, I like to follow a slow cooking method of preparing our meals, giving flavors more time to mingle and intertwine. It is possible to make this soup in under thirty minutes, but once everything is in the pot I like to let the ingredients get to know each other, find out what they have in common and then work together to create something that keeps drawing you back spoonful by spoonful.
I think that we can all agree that Tomato Soup needs to be accompanied by a grilled cheese sandwich. Dunking the grilled cheese into the soup is a must in our house. Wanting to keep the bold flavors up to par with the Cabernet Sauvignon I made a sun dried tomato pesto to add to the grilled cheese sandwich and then cut the sandwich into bit size dippers.
To make the Sun Dried Tomato Pesto for the Grilled Cheese dippers you can use the recipe Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto recipe found on Once Upon a Chef’s Blog or you can purchase premade jar sun dried pesto.
This soup can be made with produce from the Farmer’s Market all year long if you don’t have time to grow your own vegetables. I would encourage you to take the extra step and buy the ingredients from a Farmer’s Market instead of your local grocery store, the impactful flavors of locally grown small farm produce will make all of the difference in the outcome of the Roasted Tomato Soup.
Another recommendation would be to double, triple or quadruple the recipe and divide the finished soup into lunch and dinner serving sizes to freeze. There is only a small amount of heavy cream in this recipe and the soup freezes beautifully.
Just imagine taking this Backyard Garden Roasted Tomato soup out of the freezer and enjoying it in February as you watch the snow fall while sipping on a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Wines are meant to bring out the nuances in food and vice-versa, so your most successful wine pairing will not only enhance the dining experience, they will also hopefully heighten flavors, textures and qualities in the food. All of these benefits were achieved when I paired the Roasted Tomato Soup with a GBH Cabernet Sauvignon from California Winery, Heibel Ranch Vineyards.
On the label of GBH (smartly dressed in his chef outfit) is George Bennet Heibel, the man who Heibel Ranch Vineyards pays tribute to with their signature Cabernet Sauvignon, which was first produced in 2008. This silhouette of George from a 1936 photo was taken when he was a chef at the Women’s City Club in San Francisco.
As the core for this 2017 vintage, three barrels were selected and aged for nearly three years in 50% new French oak. Elegantly layered with rich flavors the blend is comprised of 97% Cabernet Sauvignon & 3% Petite Sirah and I really enjoyed how the small percentage of Petitie Sirah added notes of plum, blueberry, and black tea.
I felt that Winemaker Trent Ghiringhelli’s tasting notes were spot on for this wine so I am sharing them here:
“2017 GBH ~ Cabernet Sauvignon
An opaque garnet hue is complimented
with enticing aromas of mixed berry
preserves and baking spice. Elegantly
extracted, subtle layers of savory fruit &
warming spice reward and soothe the
palate. Pleasant tannins wrap up this
beautiful wine and carry the long, smooth
finish. Enjoy responsibly with those you
Production of this 2017 GHB from Heibel Ranch Vineyards was small, only 56 cases were produced.
Some advice on food and wine pairings: Pairing can be difficult, and the best way to learn is often by trial and error. Finding wines you really enjoy and trying them with different types of food will teach you more than any guide book. Keep trying, because every bottle and food combination can be so different, plus once you stumble on a favorite pairing you’ll want to share it with everyone.
With some good soil, the proper temperatures and a little extra TLC, growing bell peppers can be a satisfying garden project. If garden space is not available, you can grow all varieties of peppers in containers, but bell peppers can grow into large plants, so it’s best to plant them in large enough pots.
Even though this is a Red Pepper Sauce if my garden gives me green, yellow or orange bell peppers all ripe at the same time, I use all of these colors for the recipe although I stive to keep red pepper in the majority to retain the color of the sauce. However, use what you have even if the color is somewhat lighter than deep red, the flavor will still be outstanding!
Having a really good Roasted Red Pepper Sauce recipe in your back pocket can open up more menu ideas that just serving it on pasta. It’s equally delicious on chicken, fish, and meatballs plus it can be served as a dipping sauce or used as a pizza sauce.
Bring on the herbs-Building flavors in your dishes can be achieved in many different ways, yet nothing adds more wonderful flavor or aroma to even the simplest of dishes than fresh herbs.
Get Growing: Growing culinary herbs is the easiest way to start a kitchen garden. Most herbs are undemanding and produce continuous harvests throughout the season. Even if you have no room for a garden, if you have a sunny spot you can grow herbs in containers or indoors in your window sill.
Here I picked some basil, chives and rosemary to add a herbaceous flavor to the Roasted Red Pepper Sauce.
Fresh herbs can elevate any dish and take your cooking to a restaurant quality level. Dried herbs can also add flavor, but you’ll want to use those when you have time to let them work their magic. They are best used in marinades or added to the cooking process early on.
An essential step, that creates the foundation for building the layers of flavors in this Roasted Red Pepper Sauce is not only enhancing the flavors of the red peppers, onion and garlic by roasting them, but combining them in the pot separately at first to allow each ingredient to build a bond with the other ingredients.
After roasting all of the vegetables, I combine the roughly chopped roasted onions and garlic into a stock pot with a dash of garlic olive oil and allow this to cook on a medium-low temperature. If you are patient you will really taste the difference with a depth of flavor that isn’t created until later in the cooking process.
Making a homemade sauce that is so simple and so incredibly delicious gets even better with the addition of freshly grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese.
This sauce is a great alternative to using a traditional tomato sauce for those who would like a sauce with less acidity and zesty flavor.
Incredibly Freezer Friendly: This sauce is perfect to make and freeze when you have a surplus of bell peppers! Plus, storing this sauce in the freezer will help you get weeknight dinners on the table in a flash.
Making recipes from produce that comes straight from the garden and enjoying it in the backyard or out on the deck is the best. For me, this is what simple backyard to table cooking is all about.
I added some homemade Italian meatballs to my Roasted Red Pepper Sauce and served it on freshly made Chitarra Pasta.
Wine alone is good, but when it is well paired it can become transcendent as certain foods open up your palate to interact with textures in a new way. With this in mind, I paired and included in this Roasted Red Pepper Sauce with the 2018 Lappa’s – Napa Valley Red from Heibel Ranch Vineyard.
2018 Lappa’s – Napa Valley Red is a blend of 49% Zinfandel, 39% Petite Sirah, and 21% Cabernet Franc.
The 2018 Lappa’s Napa Valley Red is masterly blended with a burst of dark and light cherries, vanilla and just a wisp of spicy smokiness on the nose. A smooth drinking blend that delivers an abundance of flavor from the Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. Savory yet decadent with just the right amount of tannins that carry with them a pleasing note of smoked cedar on the finish. Slightly jammy in all the right ways and deliciously luscious. A stunner when paired with this robust Roasted Red Pepper Sauce.
According to Heibel, “Lappa’s, was named for John Ghiringhelli who was the owner of Ray’s Place (now Ana’s Cantina), in St. Helena. drinking establishment where many of the characters that helped weave the fabric of Napa Valley wet their whistle. “Johnny” as his friends called him, was also known as “Lappa” an Italian slang nickname that is full of fun loving stories.”
Trent Ghiringhelli, Proprietor & Winemaker
You can learn more about Heibel Ranch Vineyards by visiting their Website.
I was sent samples of these wines from Heibel Ranch Vineyards. While it has not influenced this article or the wine reviews, as a writer I believe in full disclosure.
Images and content © Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.