On Grill: Salmon, Squash, Stone Fruit; In Glass: Square Peg Pinot Noir for #WinePW

Grilled veggies, grilled stone fruit smoked trout salad, grilled Copper River Salmon paired with Square Peg Pinot Noir

I don’t know about you but there’s something on our grill almost every night– and something in a glass to go with it!

So this month for Wine Pairing Weekend aka #WinePW, when Culinary Cam prompts us to talk about what’s on our grill and in our glass.  it made it really hard to decide what to write about and while I didn’t have sleepless nights, it was the subject of many conversations between Sue and I. We had planned on doing Grilled Ahi Tuna Tacos with Stuffed with Grilled Stone Fruit Salad Rose; we even bought a whole tuna last month and squirreled some of it away in the freezer for this purpose!

But then I saw Copper River Salmon in the grocery store and started salivating and thinking about salmon and the Square Peg Pinot noir and all of the yummy summer grillables… and when I got my husband to spring for a pound of salmon, that’s the direction we happily went!

Not to mention that grilled fresh in season salmon is a great meal to celebrate dads and grads — along with a pair of Square Peg Pinot Noir to go with the wine or as a gift for the cellar.

For the Dad or Grad who’s a Pinot Noir or wine geek   — or a wanna be!– these two Pinot Noir from Square Peg can be some serious fun as well as educational because they are from the same dry farmed vineyard but from two different blocks!

Square Peg’s dry farmed Pinot Noir 2/28/17 photo by Jo Diaz

For many people, Pinot noir isn’t just something you drink, but an experience. If you are in that Pinot state of mind, these wines are ethereal, contemplative, smooth, subtle, elegant, sexy: think of another adjective that excites you, these wines are that adjective!

This is a Pinot pair for Pinot geeks. Quite an education in wine to have them side by side to pick up on subtle differences. The label is very classy and interesting; as a pair it would make a beautiful gift for a Pinot affectionate to enjoy.

Both wines were very similar in profile with just subtle differences that were fun to experience and explore as the evening continued. Conversation and contemplation revolved around the topic of what were the subtle differences in these wines? The front of the bottles are exactly the same, it is only when looking at the back that you see the differences, they are twins.

Even when you get to know identical  twins, you are able to distinguish differences.

What makes them so special? How are you able to distinguish them? Dry-farming!

What sets Square Peg apart — what makes them a square peg in a round hole as it were— is that Square Peg wines are DRY-FARMED. I know I mentioned that above (twice now!) but I bring it up again because it is that important. Not only is it a very “green’ and sustainable way to farm but it allows that is grown to really reflect the soil, the terroir, in fascinating, unexpected, and complex ways.

And dry farming? It’s water-wise but it’s not just because of the drought.

I first discovered the dry-farm difference when I lived in Santa Cruz and I bought tomatoes at the Farmer’s Market. I always went with the Molino Dry Farmed tomatoes because they had a more intense and interesting flavor and the best texture too. And I was willing to pay a bit extra for them.

When a plant is irrigated, the water comes to the plant, and it stays in the upper part of the soil. But dry-farmed means the plant spends more energy in its root systems to go deep and find the moisture that is present sometimes 20 or more feet below the surface! Given enough time, dry farmed zinfandels routinely go to depths of 40 feet!

Roots are covered in tiny “hairs” — the hairs collect minuscule amounts of moisture that also cary elements of the minerals in the various soils that the roots travel through; the moisture is then sucked into the roots and up into the plant where it puts the juice in the fruit! Dry farmed fruit is smaller and much more intense– it packs more punch in a smaller unit.

The other difference between the two blocks is the clones used: block 1 is 100% Calera clones while Block 8 is 20% Calera and 80% 828.

The  vineyard is located off Graton Road in Green Valley of Russian River Valley at an elevation of 800 feet on Stoetz Lane. Only eight miles from the Pacific Ocean, cool breezes bless the grapes that are made into wine by William Knuttel, Square Peg’s winemaker.

These two wines are all this winery is doing– and I’m sorry to tell you, they are all allocated! So get on the wait-list! 

These wines played so well tonight with everything that we threw at them — we’d love to pair them again with another food pairing like duck roasted on a rotisserie on the grill served with cherry or blueberry sauce… sigh!



Rustic Cheese plate: brie, pâté, assorted olives, sliced ciabatta

Salad: from the grill, nectarines and apricots, plus white Stilton with dried apricots, spiced pecans from Great Basin Bakery, field greens with smoked trout (in a can from Trader Joe’s — we went fishing the previous weekend but no luck in catching anything to grill ourselves!) We drizzled EVOO and champagne citrus vinaigrette.

The salad with the wines were lovely, the rosemary herbs in the nuts (Great Basin Bakery) Bishop Ca. The nuts bring out almost a bacon pleasure. Brings out a smokiness in the wine. Especially with the grilled trout. Yum! The salad was like a yummy savory dessert. 

Main: Grilled Copper River Salmon with rice pilaf and grilled eggplant and squash. Oysters Rockefeller would go beautifully with this meal.

2014 – Pinot Noir – Russian River Valley – Sonoma County – Block 8 – 170 cases – 14.5% alcohol – $55

According to each sheets provided by the winery, “The 2014 SP-SL Block 8 is a blend of 80% 828 and 20% Calera clones. Made in the true Burgundian style, the fruit, strongly reminiscent of red cherry and ripe strawberry, is restrained yet a bit more forward than her sister Pinot Noir made from Block 1 in our Estate Vineyard.  Medium ruby color belies the intensity, grace and balanced acidity found only in quintessential Green Valley Pinot’s.  Absolutely enjoyable now but, as is true of most remarkable Pinot Noirs, if you have enough restraint of your own to cellar for a few more years, you will be handsomely rewarded.” Winner: Double Gold 2017 American Fine Wine Invitational Competition.

This wine distinguished itself between the two by being slightly fruit forward.

Color – mulberry a little lighter than the Block 1 – Throws a bit of sediment after opening because it is unfixed and unfiltered.

Nose – Cranberry and carnation or rose, sarsaparilla, root beer, cherry cola, Dr Pepper, vanilla at the very top. Like a vanilla bean. Not like an oakey vanilla.

Palate – cranberry, some of the sweeter vanilla, fresh plum and mulberry, there is a hint of that wild strawberry that is more characteristic of pinots. It is brisker on the palate, possibly a bit more acidity. I would like to see how this wine develops as it lays down for a few years. There is a richness that  comes out when paired with the food. The pâté and brie brought out some lovely fruity qualities in the wine. The strawberry and acidity were on the forefront, which lead to a lovely finish. We thought about brie and fig, like a fig marmalade over a herb de Provence crusted pork loin. The briny olives brought out a lovely sweetness in this wine.

2014 – Pinot Noir – Russian River Valley – Sonoma County – Block 1 – 190 cases – 14.5% alcohol – $55

About this wine, Square Peg tech sheets say, “The 2014 SP-SL Estate Vineyard Block 1 is rich, layered, soft and velvety. While it exhibits subtle fruit as well as the acidic backbone found in only the finest Russian River Valley/Sonoma Coast Pinot Noirs, it shows incredible balance and restraint. The wine is elegant and complex, releasing aromas of blackberries and dark cherries with hints of chocolate, tobacco and earth that softly make their way to a long finish. ” This wine was awarded 92 points from Wine Enthusiast in April 2017 and received a Gold Medal at the 2017 American Fine Wine Invitational Competition.

This Pinot was a bit more flavors of mineral and Earth. Slightly more cases made. Was this because block 1 produced more fruit? When first opened, this wine presented itself as being a bit closed.

Color – mulberry plum, a little darker than Block 8. Are they filtered and fined? Tech sheets say yes but they are not cloudy, but beautifully clear.

Earthy notes to the color, some rust and coral

Nose – steel and violet, red currant, with a bit of licorice, like black vines licorice, possibly even red licorice once you start fixating  on the licorice. Herbs de Provence, and a bit of mustard spice.

Palate –  the black vines makes its appearance front to mid palette. nice mineral finish on this wine, has a great lingering mouthfeel, It went so well with our pâté, brie, and oil cured olives. We imagined this going beautifully with a simple Fathers Day grill of high end gourmet sausages on a bun with grilled onions and garlic and specialty whole grain mustard.

Square Peg Co-owner Brad Alper shares the dry farm gospel and pours at World Of Pinot Noir March 2017. He’s a former commercial, international pilot who runs Square Peg with his artist wife Alanna Roth, and their son Alex Alper.

These wines were samples from Diaz Communications for my review consideration. Thank you!!

For more ideas for the grill and the glass, join us at 8am PST for a twitter chat. Please check out my #WinePW colleagues:

Thanks Camilla for hosting!

PS If you think that these two vineyards were an interesting experiment, stayed tuned for when we compare and contrast wines made from two vineyards Rombauer, Atlas Peak and Stice Lane, or, for the Pinot-philes, when we compare different blocks of Kessler-Haak made by different winemakers!

10 thoughts on “On Grill: Salmon, Squash, Stone Fruit; In Glass: Square Peg Pinot Noir for #WinePW

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  4. I know salmon is one of the flagship pairings for Pinot Noir, but I’ve never been impressed with the combination. I know I’m an outlier, glad it works for you! I love salmon, though and yours looks great!


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