Lafond’s 2015 Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay

Lafond’s 2015 SRH (Sta. Rita Hills) Chardonnay.

lafondwinery.com

’Whether one associates macaroni and cheese with “kiddie food” or Ruth’s Chris Steak House, few people will turn down this favorite, and often come back for seconds, especially when served with a great chardonnay.

Mac 'n' cheese is basically elbow macaroni served in a Mornay sauce. Show off your culinary skills with this scratch recipe (that could easily be doubled) that goes into the oven for 20 minutes with a breadcrumb topping.

Macaroni and Cheese

8-oz. pkg. elbow macaroni

¼ c. butter (½ stick)

¼ c. all-purpose flour

2 c. half-and-half or whole milk, hot

1 c. (4 oz.) shredded Gruyere cheese

1 c. (4 oz.) white cheddar cheese

½ tsp. salt

⅛ tsp. ground nutmeg

⅛ tsp. cayenne pepper

Freshly ground pepper to taste

½ c. breadcrumbs, buttered

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cook and drain macaroni according to package directions; set aside.

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Meanwhile, prepare Mornay sauce (béchamel sauce with the addition of shredded or grated cheese). Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat. Add flour and cook slowly for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. The mixture should get foamy or frothy but not brown. Add the hot milk and whisk vigorously until smooth. Add the seasonings and return to the heat and boil for about 1 minute over medium-high heat. Remove from heat, add cheeses and stir until incorporated completely. Add cayenne.

Add macaroni to the saucepan and toss to coat with the Mornay sauce. If it seems too sticky or dry, add ½ cup hot water to loosen. Transfer macaroni to a buttered 9-by-11-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Bake 20 minutes until the top is golden brown.

Pair this dish with Lafond’s 2015 SRH (Sta. Rita Hills) Chardonnay. The Santa Rita Hills is a small appellation at the western end of the Santa Ynez Valley that has gained national recognition for its pinot noir and chardonnay.

The Valley runs west to east, opening a gap in the coastal range, allowing the late afternoon ocean fog to roll in, where it lingers until early morning. The surrounding hills trap the fog before it is dissipated in the wider Santa Ynez Valley. The fog cools the vines from the day's summer heat and it is this combination of warm days and cool nights that gives the wine its complexity as well as providing acidity to give it structure.

A small crop compared to the large crop in 2014, the vines are showing the effect of the continuing drought -- very concentrated flavors with great fruit intensity.

Harvested from the Lafond (82%) and Hilltop Ranch (18%) Vineyards, this wine was 100% barrel fermented, with 100% malolactic fermentation, and eight months sur lie. It has been honored as Best of Class at the 2017 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, with 90 points from the 2017 Wine Enthusiast.

Enjoy!

John David Finley is a freelance writer and author of the cookbook "Sacred Meals from our Family Table," which features Santa Barbara County wines. He can be reached at sacredmeals@comcast.net.

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