Are you the type of person who places an order for your favorite pizza pie and then heads to the fridge to double-check and make sure you also have some beer? If so, I can relate, in fact my go to drink with pizza used to be a crisp hard apple cider which just seemed to go so well with any topping on a pizza. However, times change and tastes change and now wine is usually my most reached for beverage to accompany pizza. When chosen with a little bit of care, it will complement the right savory pie perfectly. Now it is no surprise that like so many others pizza has been a staple of our diets over the past several months in 2020, to include both homemade pizza and when we are sick of cooking, delivery or carry out.
Pizza is one of those great meals that once you have the dough taken care of all that is left is to decide on the topping and pop it into the oven. Easy, delicious and most importantly always satisfying also, a little wine added to the meal definitely adds some pizzazz to pizza night. Now, I understand the importance of pairing the right wine with certain pizza toppings and how the butterfat of the cheese, the spice of certain meats and the general saltiness of the pizza are all important elements when it comes to finding the ideal match. But, here’s the thing unless you’re tossing a Cabernet Sauvignon into the mix with a Hawaiian Pizza the number one rule should be to drink what you love. You know your own tastes and what you think goes well with what you are eating. There are thousands of websites out there that are just screaming at you to pair this pizza with this wine, it is really enough to make you crazy. So, let’s make it simple. Let’s match flavor intensities with wine intensities and just go for it. The worst that can happen is that you don’t like the pairing, then go grab a beer, finish your pizza and save the wine for later. Food and wine should be about experimenting and the experience as well as lessons learned both positive and negative.
Today I want to share with you a fun collaboration that I had with Left Coast Estate, an Oregon Winery in the Willamette Valley. If you have read some of my past posts you will now that I have shared a visit to Left Coast’s Winery and I continue to be a strong supporter of them because of their strong sense of community, sustainable practices and overall quality of the wines they make. I am also excited to write about an interview that I had with Taylor Pfaff about how Left Coast has been fairing during the pandemic, the wildfires and what new and exciting things Left Coast has been working on. First however, we are going to dive into something that the folks at Left Coast love as much as I do, Wood fired Pizza and wine.
I think of Vegetarian Pizza as a Garden Party a place where earthy, savory, sweet, and salty flavors with a kick of heat can all join together and throw a spectacular shindig. For this Vegetarian Pizza I incorporated fresh peppers and tomatoes from our backyard garden along with sweet Walla Walla onions, mushrooms and black olives on top of two sauce, a traditional pizza sauce and a curry pizza sauce. The end result is always a crowd pleasure in our house fulfilling everyone’s pizza craving without the meat. To pair with this Vegetarian Pizza I chose a rosé. The best thing about rosé is how well the subtle flavors pair with food – especially, vegetarian dishes.
2018 Left Coast Estate Suzanne’s Reserve Rosé:
Zesty aromas and flavors of Rainer cherries, citrus, and watermelon are intensified with a combination of savory dried herbs, spices and a hint of summer meadow grass and wildflowers. Creamy well-balanced acidity and a lingering finish that is reflective of a classic Oregon Pinot.
Each summer I grow as much basil as I can to dry and add to the spice cabinet, but my favorite thing to do with a bounty of fresh basil is to make pesto in large batches and freeze a portion of it to use all winter long in a variety of dishes, including pizza. This Pesto Chicken and Bacon Pizza uses this homemade pesto as a base and is quickly becoming a favorite in our house. It is a very satisfying pizza, garlicky, cheesy and honestly who doesn’t love adding bacon to a pizza? With so many bold flavors going on you could pair this pizza with a number of different wines including a Pinot Noir or in this case a White Pinot Noir.
2019 Left Coast Estate White Pinot Noir:
This 100% Estate grown White Pinot Noir is a blend of 91% Pinot Noir, 6% Pinot Meunier, and 3% Pinot Blanc; not to mention it is one of my favorite Oregon wines. Wonderful floral aromas float around the glass with each swirl as pears soaked in a vanilla cream invite you to keep exploring this wine. Enticing flavors of pineapple, ripe stone fruit and a little spiced cherry along with a crisp minerality make this richer than an average white wine. One of the things that I love about this White Pinot Noir is how it changes with the seasons and with food that it is paired with. With the Pesto Chicken and Bacon Pizza the delicious fruit finish was a great counterbalance to the garlic and salt flavors.
“Neapolitans have always had their fast food. It’s called pizza.” -Luciano De Crescenzo
Homemade Pesto can be expensive to make with the soaring price of Pine Nuts so in place of Pine Nuts I often use other nuts like Cashews or Walnuts.
When I think of a really satisfying pizza, it is a hearty pie piled high with all kinds of meats and cheeses. Here is where a red wine will provide the balance your taste-buds need, one that will counter the rich fattiness of the meats. Juicy-berry flavor and an earthy dimension in a wine like this Pinot Meunier will bring out the robust flavors of the meat and enhance the notes of melted cheese. This Meat Lovers Pizza includes mild Italian sausage, Genoa salami, prosciutto, pepperoni and bacon along with three types of cheese whole mozzarella, smoked white cheddar and a triple cheddar blend.
Completely unique and extremely food-friendly Pinot Meunier is much more than just one of the trio of grapes most famously known for making Champagne. Slowly, Meunier is winning people over who like its bright, fresh flavor of raspberries and cranberries, along with its softer balanced tannins.
2016 High Acres Pinot Meunier: I think one of the appeals of this 100% Pinot Meunier is definitely its uniqueness and the sense of enjoying a wine that not everyone else is drinking. As far as how it pairs with a Meat Lovers Pizza, it is like peanut butter and jelly, it just goes so well together. Rustic and fruity, this Pinot Meunier delivers a burst of dark red fruit flavors, led by cherry and raspberry. It is a hearty and rich wine with notes of tobacco and coffee as well as soft hints of vanilla and anise spice. If I had to choose I would say that it had to be my favorite pairing.
“I love my pizza so much, in fact, that I have come to believe in my delirium that my pizza might actually love me, in return. I am having a relationship with this pizza, almost an affair.” -Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
Situated on nearly 500 acres in the middle of the Willamette Valley, family owned and operated Left Coast Estate has been taking a sustainable approach to their winemaking process since their inaugural 2004 vintage was released. With 2020 proving to be along with so many others, their most challenging year, I recently asked CEO of Left Coast Estate Taylor Pfaff if he could share how Left Coast has been adapting their business to work around regulations put into effect in Oregon due to the Pandemic.
Left Coast Proprietors, Robert and Suzanne Pfaff, Emily and her husband, CEO of Left Coast Estate, Taylor Pfaff
When asked how well Left Coast has been able to navigate the difficulties caused by Covid-19 in regard to closures and social distancing regulations in the tasting room, Taylor shared that it has been challenging.
“The threat of Covid-19 goes well beyond closures and protocols. It’s always a balancing act of doing everything we can to create a safe place for our staff and guests while still conducting our business operations. I feel like we’ve done a good job at adapting new measures to reduce the risk posed by Covid-19. We have a lot of great outdoor space and our customers embraced that and were able to explore the property to a greater extent than they used to. Guests were able to walk our hiking trail and spread out across the oak savanna to relax for an afternoon, which I’ve always thought was the best way to enjoy our property.”
Not being able to visit the winery for tasting hasn’t stop people from buying the wines that they want to enjoy at home and Taylor told me that the pandemic has definitely led to an increase in pick-up and online ordering. He added; “As winter sets in and risk heightens, we hope that people will utilize these methods to drink great wines and help support family owned wineries like ours. We have a lot of cool wines on our website that aren’t available in national distribution like our Queen Bee Bubbly with an estate honey dosage.”
Challenges will continue during the winter months with the ongoing Covid crisis for wineries in Oregon and other parts of the country, but Left Coast is doing everything possible to make the tasting room a safe place to visit. “We will still have outside seating available, but Oregon is cold and wet for a couple months each winter so I can’t imagine it will be very popular option,” Taylor told me. He went on to say, “We will have 5 tables in our Tasting Room with great distancing between them and we’ve recently done some work on our Wine Library to be able to have an additional 5 table available for weekends. We’ve added Aerus Air Scrubbers to each of our hospitality spaces and they help remove airborne contaminants like Covid-19.”
Switching to another subject that many wineries in Oregon had to face this year, I inquired about the wildfires that devastated the state and asked Taylor if he could fill me in on any problems or effects that Left Coast has encountered because of the wildfires, such as smoke taint. Here’s what he told me,
“The entire Willamette Valley was affected by some degree of smoke taint and Left Coast was no exception. We are fortunate to be located very close to the Van Duzer Corridor, which was able to allow some airflow into the valley and help us escape the worst of the smoke. Most of the vintners who I’ve talked to are optimistic about the 2020 vintage and smoke impacts seem to minimal for those who weren’t directly next to the fire zones in the Cascades. We let our grapes hang for several weeks after the smoke cleared to continue to ripen and mature. With winemaking we ran faster fermentations and targeted lighter extractions to try to minimize the about of smoke phenols that could seep into the wine. Thus far we are feeling good about our wines and their potential.”
Winemaker J. Wright (pictured fourth from the right) and a few of the Left Coast family. (Photo supplied by Left Coast)
The challenges of this year are not stopping the Left Coast family from continuing to work on new projects, on the Estate, in the vineyards and in the winery, they have been as busy as ever. Taylor told me that they always have a few new projects in the works, but this year they were very excited to make their first Blanc de Blanc méthode traditionelle sparkling wine. Other projects- “It was the first growing season for our newest vineyard block, which is planted to Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. We also continued our forest restoration efforts and have over 100 acres of old growth oak forest under various conservation programs. For 2021 we are going to redo our road paving, which isn’t very sexy but was much needed and we are excited about it. We are looking at creating some new and exciting outdoor tasting experiences for next summer, which will be unveiled throughout the winter.”
When asked about new wines being released in 2021, Taylor revealed: “We partnered with our Winemaker, Joe Wright on his personal wine brand J Wright Vintner. He will be releasing a new Blanc de Noir sparkling wine that spent nearly 5 years on triage and is delicious. For Left Coast we have a lot of vintage changes coming up for existing wines that we are excited to share with our customers. The 2017 vintage designates are great representations of classic cool climate Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, very elegant and complex wines.”
J. Wright (Photo supplied by Left Coast)
Taylor like all of us is hopeful that 2021 will bring a return to normalcy. He said, “2020 was a hard year for so many. Through the challenges a lot of lessons were learned. We believe that Left Coast can use this experience to better prepare for the future to create authentic wines for our consumers, gracious hospitality for our guests, and equitable working conditions for our staff. We are excited for the 2021 vintage and the prospects of the New Year.”
Wood Fired pizzas are popular item at Left Coast and Taylor’s Dad Bob is the one who brought this delicious addition to the winery. “My dad always wanted a wood fired oven ever since he got into cooking in the 1990s. He got the oven and we owe a big thank you to the guys over at the Breadboard in Falls City for being kind enough to teach us their basics. Recently retired Greg Pramuk was another great contributor to our pizzas. It’s been a team effort and they are delicious. You should try them.” I definitely will try one of their pizzas on my next trip to the Willamette Valley and that will most likely be their most popular pizza and wine pairing, Margarita and Right Bank Pinot Noir.
What are some of the Left Coast’s family favorite pairings? Tasting Room Manager Lisa Fahrner enjoys their garlic cream sauce pizza, with roasted pear, goat cheese and prosciutto paired with a glass of 2014 Blanc de Noir. While Mitch Graham, Wine Club & Logistics Manager, loves the butchers block pizza which has house made roasted tomato sauce, bacon, salami, and sausage with parmesan on top paired with the Right Bank Pinot Noir.
I also want to share an exciting Virtual Pizza and Left Coast Wine Pairing that Lisa and I will be streaming live on Instagram this Saturday, December 12th at 5PM, PST. It would be wonderful if you could join us as we talk about our favorite pairing and Lisa will be sharing some exciting things that Left Coast is doing this holiday season.
Cheers everyone and Happy Holidays!
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