Chicken with Lavender and Red Wine Butter Sauce / JillHough.com

Lavender-Scented Dreams

A few weeks ago, I had the good fortune to spend the day with Michaela Baltasar, Senior PR Manager of Jackson Family Wines. It was one of the goodies that came with winning a fellowship to the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers and included a tasting with Ted Edwards, director of winemaking at Freemark Abbey Winery; a garden tour and food and wine pairing lunch, care of chef Matthew Lowe and executive chef Justin Wangler, at the Kendall-Jackson Wine Center; and a tasting with winemaker Marcia Monahan-Torres at Matanzas Creek Winery. I know – life is rough.

Even though it was March, we were having a heat wave – just the kind of day that makes you want to play hooky. Which is exactly what it felt like I was doing. I tasted a lot of great wine – highlights included Freemark Abbey’s 2009 Napa Valley Viognier, a beautifully elegant wine, and Matanzas Creek’s 2010 Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc, heady with tropical aromas. And I ate a lot of great food – the Kendall-Jackson culinary team put together a seven-course tasting menu, each dish paired with a different wine. It was a lovely day, full of lovely people, lovely wine, and lovely food. I had a very hard time going back to work the next day.

And yet, almost a month later, what sticks with me is – lavender.

It’s probably because Matanzas Creek, our last stop, nestled in the achingly lovely Bennett Valley, has a relaxed, Sunset-magazine vibe and sports an equally zen-like lavender garden. Mounds and mounds of lavender. Tufts upon tufts hither and yon. And if that’s not enough, it’s all over the gift shop and tasting room. It’s in the air, whether you’re inside or out. To visit Mantanzas Creek is to be bathed in lavender!

(Perhaps not surprisingly, they do several lavender-themed events, including their 15th annual Days of Wine and Lavender on June 25th.)

I left craving all things lavender-infused and, luckily, Michaela sent me home with some culinary lavender to play with. I finally used some this past weekend to make lavender butter cookies (click for the recipe). But I’ve also had lavender roasted chicken on the brain. And I’ve been thinking about a few lavender-laden recipes from my cookbooks – Orzo with Spring Vegetables and Lavender, Marinated Chicken with Lavender and Arugula, and Skillet-Roasted Chicken Breasts with Lavender Red Wine-Butter Sauce (pictured here, photo by Lucy Schaeffer).

It’s kind of an odd thing – to spend a day wine tasting and come home thinking about lavender, but there you go. If you can get to Freemark Abbey, the Kendall-Jackson Wine Center (especially for their reserve food and wine pairing), or Matanzas Creek, I recommend it. If not, buy a bottle of one of their wines, cook up something lavender-licious, and dream.

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