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John David Finley: Herbed Couscous with a chilled Sauvignon Blanc

John David Finley: Herbed Couscous with a chilled Sauvignon Blanc

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Have you ever visited a tasting room and it was hot and the wine was… well, lukewarm?

In these challenging times, our local wine tasting rooms have had to move outside in order to serve their patrons. This can present a challenge in terms of how the wines are perceived and enjoyed, because the serving temperature can make a big difference in what we think of a wine. This can also happen when ordering wine in a restaurant or even more likely, doing it to ourselves at home. Yikes!

Here are some suggested serving temperatures for several popular white and red wines:

Champagne: 44-45F

Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc: 50-55F

Chardonnay: 55-60F

Pinot Noir: 58-60F

Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot: 62-65F

You’ve probably heard that red wines should be served at room temperature. However, the term "room temperature" may refer to rooms in Europe way back when, and they were around 60F, not the 70F-75F we find in most American homes. The slightly colder temperature slows the evaporation of alcohol, thus improving the aroma and flavor, and making the wine smoother.

Here’s a delightful dish that can be complimented with a Sauvignon Blanc chilled to 50-55F.

Herbed Couscous with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts

1Tbl olive oil

1c uncooked couscous

2Tbl freshly squeezed lemon juice

2Tbl olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4c chopped fresh parsley

1/4c golden raisins

1/3c toasted pine nuts

In a medium saucepan, bring 1 1/2 cups water and olive the oil to a boil. Sir in the couscous. Cover and remove from the heat. Let stand for 3 minutes. Uncover and fluff with a fork.

Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil and some salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the couscous and toss with the parsley, raisins, and pine nuts. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Pair this dish with Grassini’s 2019 Happy Canyon Sauvignon Blanc. This wine opens with aromas of fresh honeydew melon, white spring flowers, and a touch of hibiscus. Hints of papaya and freshly cut grass are balanced by a wonderfully bright minerality, with notes of flint and wet stone.

Flavors of nectarine and apricot greet the palate, along with whispers of peach and kiwi. This wine is light, polished and very approachable, but with a long and somewhat creamy finish. Just one sip transports you to a tropical paradise. Wine Enthusiast 93 points.

Or try Margerum’s 2019 Sybarite Sauvignon Blanc. Almost clear, with green hinged hues and splashes of gold, this wine displays stone fruit, granite, white flower blossoms, toast, creamy lemon and some plantain, layered with a slight hint of gunflint and fruity Sauvignon. Mainly stainless steel fermented with a small about of barrel fermented lots blended in Bâtonnage (stirring of the lees) leads to savory notes. Thanks, Doug! Enjoy!

John David Finley is a free-lance writer and author of the cookbook, Sacred Meals from our Family Table, which features Santa Barbara County wines. He can be reached at


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