I thought it a bit funny that Cline Cellars chose to label their new Pinot Noir series “cool climate.”
After all, we’ve come to expect that Pinot won’t be found growing leaf-to-leaf with Merlot in hot regions like the Alexander Valley. That’s the whole story of Pinot’s success in Sonoma County. It’s like saying, we’ve got refrigerated beer! Yes, please.
But we’ll give the good folks at Cline a break on that. It’s just become a habit after their successful “cool climate” Syrah program. And that really makes a difference, too. Remember Shiraz? The wave of inexpensive, critter-labeled wines from Australia?
While some California wines co-opted this synonym for Syrah, it seem to have fallen out of favor. Producers went casting about for alternate terms to differentiate a style of Syrah more akin to its home turf, the northern Rhône Valley. Cline hit on “cool climate,” which is like saying “northern Rhône style” while keeping the focus on the unique climate of their windswept Petaluma Gap vineyards.
Cline takes advantage of the extensive estate vineyards that they farm to offer wine for truly everyday prices. This Syrah hails from west of the home winery, where visitors can sign up to their wine club for even better prices, picnic alongside spring-fed ponds full of ravenous koi (25 cents at the fish food vending machine gets the fun going), and tour a collection of exotic birds. With the California Missions Museum onsite, it’s an ideal wine destination for families.
The 2010 Cool Climate, Sonoma Coast Syrah ($18) is a pleasing addition to the line. Less tannic than the 2009, without the wild, racy aromas of the 2007, it’s got pure aromas of fresh-picked blackberry off the vine, violets, and just a hint of leather and smoke. If you love the wild brambleberry aromas of Zinfandel, you’ll appreciate this wine, which finishes with a typical cool climate Syrah rush of smooth, sweet blueberry jam.
Flank steak with hot peanut sauce
- 1/3 cup chopped green onions
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 2 teaspoons canola oil
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 (1-pound) flank steak, trimmed and cut diagonally into thin slices
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tablespoon crunchy peanut butter
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
Do ahead (up to 12 hours): Combine first 8 ingredients in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Place steak and 1/4 cup onion mixture in a large zip-top plastic bag and seal. Marinate in refrigerator at least 2 hours or overnight, turning bag occasionally.
Getting started: When marinating is complete, and you’re ready to start cooking, open a bottle of 2008 Carneros Syrah. Pour wine in glass. Set aside. But not too far aside.
Next, combine remaining 1/4 cup marinade, 1/2 cup water, peanut butter, and cornstarch in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Cook 1 minute stirring frequently, then remove from heat and keep warm.
Tip: The kitchen smells pretty good by now, right? So does the Syrah in your glass. Time to swirl, sniff, and sip.
Now remove steak from bag, discarding marinade. Heat your barbeque or a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook beef 2 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness.
Refill wine glass. Serve steak with sauce. Share with friends. This is the life.
Yields 4 servings (serving size: 3 ounces steak and about 1/4 cup sauce).