Oakridge Chardonnay from Yarra Valley and an Orzo Salad Transformation (#WorldWineTravel)

A Mediterranean-style orzo salad gets a simple leftover makeover incorporating shrimp and bacon to match a Chardonnay from Australia's Yarra Valley.


Sometimes, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel in order to get a delightful pairing. 

I recently opened this bottle of Oakridge Henk Vineyard Chardonnay 2019 and tasted it in order to create a pairing, but quickly discovered that there was a good one already sitting in my fridge. I’d made an orzo salad for a dinner party a couple of days before and it occurred to me to have a bite while I was tasting the wine and quite liked the match – I particularly enjoyed the way the wine picked up the flavors of the Parmesan cheese. 


I decided to run with the match, but made some additions in order to both tie the wine and the food more closely together and to switch things up to and reinvigorate the leftovers. Roasted shrimp with bacon pieces made for an excellent leftover makeover that came together quickly and turned this side into a main dish. To grab every last bit of bacony flavor, I also quickly tossed a couple of large handfuls of greens in the rendered bacon fat and incorporated them into the salad as well.


Oakridge Henk Vineyard Chardonnay 2019

Established in 1978, Oakridge is located in Australia's Yarra Valley. I wish I could’ve found more on the history of the winery, but they farm sustainably making use of cover crops, compost teas,  and they have an insectarium, all of which help to minimize the use of synthetic inputs and improve the health and biodiversity of the vineyards. They have 10 hectares (about 25 acres) of vineyards and also source grapes from carefully selected sites.

The Henk Vineyard Chardonnay comes from a north-facing site comprised of the red volcanic soils in the town of Woori Yallock. The wine was made in a traditional style. Grapes were whole-bunch pressed directly into 500-liter French oak puncheons where it was naturally fermented and then spent 10 months maturing on the lees for texture. Find more information on the 2020 vintage of this wine here.



I found this to be a lively and classic Chardonnay at a reasonable price. (I purchased this bottle at K&L in SF for $25. ) Notes of lemon cream, baked apples, and stone greeted me on the nose. Similar notes returned on the palate, although the apples were leaner, crisper, and less baked,  with notes of green pears and light herbs joining in. The lees added creamy texture and body to the crisp fruit notes elevated by lots of acidity. 

As I mentioned up at the top, the wine loved the Parmesan cheese, and the combination of seafood and bacon each spoke to different aspects of the wine’s textures and flavors. I think it resonated particularly well with the bacon’s smoky notes. A white pepper note in the wine also came out when sipped alongside the food. Having a few extra lemon wedges on hand to squeeze on top of the food while eating is also not a bad idea. I added avocado to a third iteration of the salad using up the last bit of leftovers, and I also think this would’ve worked quite well with the wine. 


Yarra Valley

Map borrowed from WineFolly.com


The Yarra Valley is located about an hour northeast of Melbourne, making it a  convenient side trip if you’re ever visiting the city. It’s one of Australia’s oldest winemaking regions, with the first vineyards in the area having been planted in 1838. However, the wines go against the grain of the general image we might have of Australian wines. It’s generally cooler than most of Australia’s wine regions, so it’s better known for cool-climate-loving Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and increasingly Riesling. However, the region features a lot of variation in terms of altitude, site exposures, and soils, which makes it conducive to different grapes and styles, so you will also find Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon grown there as well, but they’re often made in leaner, elegant style.


Other Pairing Possibilities

After I initially tasted the wine, I enjoyed the last remnants in my glass with a turkey sandwich with a red chermoula spread and tomato soup and that was a solid match too. 


I also tend to love Chardonnays that are lightly oaked and/or have lees contact with roasted chicken, and I think this would certainly be a good candidate. Seafood topped with butter should also be delicious. 

*****

Mediterranean-style Orzo Salad with Optional Shrimp and Bacon 


This is really a non-recipe. I’m sharing the approximate quantities I used here, but you can adjust everything to your taste. You can make all of the components of this salad at once, or add the shrimp and bacon, and/or avocado in later iterations for a leftover makeover. Most recently, I made the salad as a side for a dinner party, then added shrimp, bacon, and extra greens to switch things up for a second meal, and then added avocado and more greens to extend the last bit for a third round. Happily, this salad keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days.


INGREDIENTS 


8 oz orzo 

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

½ of a large or 1 medium cucumber, diced

½ of a large red onion, diced

1-2.25 oz can of sliced black olives

Juice of 1 lemon

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, or to taste

½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese, or to taste

½ cup chopped fresh herbs, parsley and basil used here

Salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste


Shrimp and Bacon Add-On 


3 to 4 strips of bacon

1 lb of shrimp

1 to 2 cups of greens like arugula, baby spinach, or kale (optional)

Avocado (optional)



INSTRUCTIONS


  1. Bring a large pot or saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add orzo and cook until al dente (tender but still firm), about 6 to 8 minutes, or follow package instructions. Drain.


  1. While the orzo is cooking, combine the cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, and black olives. Add in the orzo once drained, then sprinkle with lemon juice, olive oil, and Parmesan and toss to combine. Add in the herbs, and season with salt and pepper. Lightly toss, taste, and adjust seasoning. 


For the Shrimp and Bacon


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. 

  2. Lay out the strips of bacon on a baking sheet. Roast the bacon in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy, flipping halfway through. Transfer bacon to paper towels and set aside. 

  3. Place the shrimp on the baking sheet that should now be greased with rendered baking fat, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss. Place the baking sheet back in the oven and roast for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the shrimp are pink and opaque, and cooked through. 

  4. Tear the bacon up into pieces then toss the pieces and the shrimp with the orzo salad. 

  5. (optional) Toss greens in the rendered bacon fat, then toss in the salad. Add in avocado as well, if using.


*****



The rest of the World Wine Travel (#WorldWineTravel) blogging group is exploring white wines from Victoria this month. Be sure to check out the rest of their posts:



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7 comments

  1. I love leftover makeovers and this salad sounds perfect with the Chard.

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  2. Mmmmm this sounds so good together! I have to try more salads in the summer and this pairing sounds amazing.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks -- this one was nice in that it definitely felt satisfying

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  3. I love leftover pairings! This Chardonnay sounds great - oak aged but neutral oak

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  4. I love the multiple iterations fo the food with this wine! Such a great way to re-experience the wine with different plot twists. I had seen this wine for sale and wondered what it tasted like. Fantastic tasting notes!

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