Pinot and Guacamole- A Laid-Back Pairing From the Central Coast
Hailing from California’s Central Coast has its advantages, one of which is whenever I go visit friends and family back home in Carpinteria, a sleepy beach town near Santa Barbara, I always am sent back north to Napa with a box full of buttery avocados.
The same conditions that make the Central Coast so fabulous for Pinot Noir production, namely the cool ocean influence, mild winters and warm days also mean that avocados thrive on the fog-draped slopes and canyons near the sea.
Avocados have a reputation for being a difficult food and wine match, supposedly because of the “green” notes that can sometimes appear; think artichokes or asparagus, two other notoriously troublesome wine partners.
I, however, take what is perhaps a very Central Coastian “laid back” approach. First of all I always make sure I have a perfectly ripe avocado. Give it a gentle squeeze (no fingertips here, try to use the palms of your hands to avoid bruising). If it is uniformly and softly yielding, it’s a good bet it’ll be much lighter on the “green” components sometimes exhibited by hard and mealy supermarket hand-grenades.
Secondly, I take a cue from the rest of the meal. If I’m making a scallop and avocado ceviche with lime and cilantro, a chilled, acidic Albariño or even a lightly-oaked Chardonnay can work. If the meal is a little bit more robust, like a grilled Santa Maria-style tri-tip topped with buttery avocado slices, I will always reach for a fruity Pinot Noir like my 2011 Garnet Monterey Pinot. I love the smokiness of the meat with the Pinot Noir and find the acidity of the wine is enough of a match for the fat in the silky avocados.
Carpinteria is home to the world famous Avocado Festival and many of our best friends are long-time local avocado ranchers. My parents’ home is ringed by many decades-old trees and my grandparents also raise quite a few of the nubbly green fruits just south of us in Ventura County.
We always make sure to eat our fill while we are visiting (B.L.A.T. anyone?) but continue to enjoy the increasingly softer fruit in our kitchen in Napa. When the last ones get very ripe and we know they won’t last another day, we make a batch of guacamole and pop a glass of Garnet Monterey Pinot to remember our vacation and savor the flavors of California’s Central coast.
Alison’s Central Coast Guacamole
3 Hass avocados
1 lime, juiced
1 lemon, juiced
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp freshly ground sea salt
With a sturdy, large chef’s knife, cut avocados lengthwise around the pit, take between your two hands and twist gently to separate the halves. Cradling the half with the pit still in it in a kitchen towel (for protection) in your hand, give the pit a smart whack with the blade of the knife, embedding the blade firmly in the pit. Give the knife a twist and remove the pit. Scoop out flesh with a spoon into a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mash roughly (or finely, your preference) with a fork or whisk. Serve immediately. If you need to store it any length of time before serving, sprinkle surface with lemon juice and press plastic wrap down onto the surface of the guacamole to avoid browning. It never lasts that long at our house!
I often will just keep my guacamole simple (and citrusy!) but to further enhance the flavor profile or better match it to the rest of your menu, feel free to add the following as well:
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
½ tsp ground cumin
1 small tomato, seeded and chopped
½ tsp ground cayenne pepper