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I’ve had the good fortune of not having to travel for the last two weeks which means a lot of grilling and dinners out on the deck.   Here in Southern, VA we grill just about anything… fish, yard birds, Twinkies, pizzas, game animals my father-in-law shot and my favorite… cheese toast.

Grilled cheese toast and wine on the deck is a staple at our house during the warm weather months.  Couple my love of cheese toast with an addiction to reading wine blogs to see what others are drinking and writing about, I learned some time ago that Fredric Koeppel at Bigger Than Your Head also appears to be a fan of cheese toast.

One example of the great content Fredric provides at Bigger Than Your Head are various recipes, a few of which are for cheese toast.  Last week he posted his Cheese Toast Extreme Makeover recipe, and last night I attempted to duplicate Fredric’s version of extreme cheese toast that includes olive tapenade, fresh arugula, tomatoes, three types of cheese and something called Turkish Urfa pepper (no one at Fresh Market had ever heard of the stuff so I went with plain black pepper).  Other than using regular American cracked black pepper, the only other deviation from the recipe was using our charcoal grill for the toasting vice an oven broiler.

Cheese Bread

Amazing – even with my limited cooking skills – made a perfect pre-dinner snack on the deck on a nice evening. 

I paired the toast with a Zin we’ve had sitting around for a while that I picked up at a wine home sales party.  Some time ago, one of my wife’s friends had a get together at her house that turned out to be a Traveling Vineyards wine home sales party (similar to a Mary Kay or Pampered Chef type of thing).  We tasted a handful of wines at the party that night, none of which threw my hair back, but I bought this particular bottle because I wasn’t too familiar with wines from Amador County

Black Shadow 2005 Clockspring Vineyard Zinfandel

This appears to be a private labeling for the Traveling Vineyard Company, made from Clockspring Vineyard fruit which is an organic vineyard located in Amador County.  For the geographically challenged, Amador County is situated in the heart of California’s Sierra Foothills, 45 minutes east of Sacramento and two hours east of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Overall, the cheese toast was the star of the evening.  This wine was a simple, straight-forward effort for ~$15.  A reasonable 13.8% alcohol.  Juicy.  The nose was dominated by grape candy aromas – very similar to a grape fruit roll up or grape fruit gushers (which are very tasting) – along with raspberry and cherry on the nose.   Light tannins.  In the mouth I got that same juicy grape candy flavor along with spice and pepper.

A big ‘ol hat tip to Fredric Koeppel for the Extreme Cheese Toast recipe, and a regular hat tip to my wife for slicing the tomatoes ‘paper thin’ as prescribed by Fredric’s recipe.  If you haven’t checked out Bigger Than Your Head – be sure to book mark the site.  Fredric provides great content and is one of the ‘real’ writers out here in the blogosphere.