Corks+Forks: Steelhead Diner’s Caviar Pie and Vinho Verde

So many colors, so many flavors and plenty of time in the sun to enjoy them both this spring.

The thermostat rises above 60 degrees and this ardent wine consumer is cracking open some Vinho Verde. If you’re not familiar with the green wine of Portugal, you should get acquainted. It’s cheap (usually around $8 retail), it’s spritzy (just a enough fizz to tickle your tongue) and it’s loaded up at your local retailers by the case stacks, rearing and ready for your sunny day purchase and last minute party contribution.

Hailing from the Minho region in northwest Portugal, Vinho Verde translates roughly as “young, green wine,” both in reference to its hue in the glass and freshness in age when consumed.

When your Corona bucket gets empty and stale, Vinho Verde is a quintessential summer alternative for sun-soaked daytime imbibing. Although Portugal claims its wine fame from their esteemed after-dinner drink of port, the country’s wineries have been producing Vinho Verde since the 10th century, thanks to ancient Greek vineyard roots. Even Pliny the Elder, the iconic Roman philosopher, recited prose about the vines of the crisp archaic white wine.

Vinho Verde, which is the name of the region and of the wine, is Portugal’s largest wine area, stretching its length from down to the south of Oporto up to the Spanish border in the north. Granite-enriched soils give a mineral component to the flavors of the region’s wines and the gently sloping vineyards allow just enough sun for the easily-ripened grape.

The wine’s calling card, other than its color, is the fizz. This is the effervescence left in the wine from the release of carbon dioxide in the process of fermentation where the gruff malic acid turns into softer lactic acid.

Vinho Verde, although the name of the wine, is not a grape variety. It is typically comprised of Alvarinho, Arinto, Avcesso, Azal, Batoca, Loureiro and Trajadura, among a few other indigenous Portuguese grape varieties. Try saying those three times fast. Usually led by Alvarinho, the wines are light, effervescent, low-budget and low-alcohol. Vinho Verde is the perfect companion for a day without rain and a restaurant with seafood.

The Restaurant: Steelhead Diner — Husband and wife team Kevin and Terresa Davis opened up this Pike Place Market seafood delicacy in 2006 after extensive restaurant backgrounds with Kevin heading up several kitchens in the Seattle area (Sazerac, The Oceanaire) and Terresa running the books and management at a few other high profile names (Tom Douglas Restaurants, Wild Ginger). Striving to offer the vibe of a local hangout with a stellar view and standout seafood, Steelhead Diner provides eaters with brunch, lunch and dinner, a rocking patio and signature cocktails/local brews/regional wine to toast to.

The Dish: Slice of Caviar Pie ($15) — This is a commitment. Not only to the tangy, salty flavors of the sea and a massive portion cream cheese wedged on a plate, but to the overall idea that you are chomping down fish eggs that are most certainly not cooked. Decadent and hedonistic, the richness is balanced by the briney tartness of the multiple varieties of caviar placed like colors of a rainbow across the mound of cream cheese. The plate is dotted with onion, capers and diced boiled egg to carry on the piquant theme of the dish.

Why It Works: Vinho Verde shines its brightest when put next to a kindred spirit of something tangy and tart. The opulence of the dish is contrasted by the wine with its bright and lively acid and fizz, yet the citrus fruit profile matches the sour pang of the sharp caviar, sour cheese and salty capers.

The Recommended Match: Broadbent 2011 Vinho Verde ($8) — Zesty and lively with white flowers on the nose, the wine is full of refreshing citrus and melon, finishing with the signature fizz and tart acidity. A total porch-pounder, this summer-must ranges from a meager 8-11% alcohol per volume, so you’re looking at knocking back a bottle without a problem nor (maybe) a hangover.

Steelhead Diner | 95 Pine Street,  Seattle | (206) 625-0129