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This story originally appeared in the Napa Valley Register. What do you think about drinking when you eat sushi? Beer, sake or a crisp white wine such as riesling, gruner veltliner or sauvignon blanc? What if I said cabernet sauvignon? Yes, a red wine with sushi. After a recent dining experience, I have been convinced that it can work. But, it takes a unique kind of sushi and the right wines.
The sushi is called Edomae, which means the “style” or “the way” of Edo, the former name of Tokyo). It is a type of sushi that was popular in Tokyo in the 1800s. During this time, there was no refrigeration system to preserve the fish, so chefs marinated and seasoned the fish to preserve it safely. The fish, shellfish and conger eel would be caught and lightly processed with vinegar, salt and soy sauce and then laid on vinegar rice. During this preservation of the fish, the water is extracted, as well as the fishiness. The result is sushi that emphasizes umami flavors, and this is what pairs with wine. Edomae was how fish was eaten for 350 years in Japan. But with modern refrigeration and transportation over the last 50 years, the style has changed now we eat the fish fresh.
Happy Canyon AVA, located on the eastern edge of Santa Ynez Valley, is filled with horse farms, cattle ranches and six vineyards (Cimarone, Grassini, Happy Canyon Vineyard, McGinley, Star Lane and Vogelzang Vineyards). A recent visit to Santa Ynez took me to Grassini Vineyards, located in the heart of Happy Canyon. I was there in the early morning, and because Happy Canyon is the warmest microclimate in Santa Ynez and benefits from warm days and cool marine influences, I was able to watch the fog roll-in in the morning and then quickly disappear, giving way to the sun. Grassini Vineyards Morning Fog