Food, Wine

Grape and Walnut Salad for Summer’s End

It hardly seems possible that summer is almost a wrap and the winegrape harvest is imminent. But at California’s sparkling wine houses, crews are lining up the picking bins and preparing for the moment when it’s time to bring in the first grapes. And whenever that moment comes, the state’s 2022 vintage will get underway. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for sparkling wine need to be picked earlier than grapes for still wine. Growers and vintners compare notes to decide when the crop is sufficiently ripe but still retains good acidity. As the grape sugar climbs, the acidity drops, so finding that perfect equilibrium takes skill and experience. Maybe a touch of luck, too.

little gem salad

Table grapes from California’s fertile inland valleys are harvested over many weeks, but August is prime time. Pick up a few bunches of seedless red grapes for easy snacking this month but save some for colorful salads. You probably already put grapes and toasted nuts on your cheese boards. Now toss them into your salad bowl with nuggets of blue cheese. Crisp Little Gem lettuces are ideal but use the freshest greens you can find — soft butter lettuce, crunchy hearts of romaine, escarole, arugula or a mix. As summer fades into fall, switch it up with sliced apples, pears, persimmons or figs. With a store-bought roast chicken and a bottle of California wine, dinner is done. 

drip irrigation


California’s winegrowers view responsible water use as more than a priority. It’s a bedrock principle. Using state-of-the-art technology, growers and vintners are reducing water use to levels prior generations would have never thought possible. Drip irrigation applies water exactly when and where it’s needed. Computerized weather stations inform those decisions, and soil moisture probes provide more real-time information. New technology allows growers to irrigate not just individual blocks but individual vines.

All of these conservation efforts not only dramatically save water; they also improve the wine. That’s a win for consumers, a win for vintners, and a win for the planet.

The Pour

You’ve probably noticed that rosé sales are booming. At long last! Consumers are finally taking this style of wine seriously and recognizing that it’s so often just the right pour — especially with salads, summer meals and the plant-forward cooking that’s trending now. California wineries make delicious rosés with just about every red wine-grape variety, from Barbera to Zinfandel. A retailer can steer you to a style that suits you, depending on whether you like a steely rosé or a softer one. Riesling is another great choice for summer salads with fruit. This aromatic, high-acid variety thrives in the state’s cooler growing regions, like Anderson Valley, Mendocino and Monterey.

Little Gem Salad with Red Grapes, Blue Cheese and Walnuts

Little Gem lettuces are a romaine relative, but they are smaller, more tender and sweeter for your salad. If you can’t find Little Gems, hearts of butter lettuce or Bibb lettuce make a good alternative. Add juicy grapes, crunchy walnuts and tangy blue cheese for a meal you’re sure to put on repeat. To switch it up, replace the grapes with pears, figs or Fuyu persimmons. Pair with California rosé or California Riesling.

Little Gem Salad with Red Grapes, Blue Cheese and Walnuts


For the Vinaigrette: 

  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar, plus more if needed 
  • 1 small shallot, finely minced 
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) extra virgin olive oil 
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • ½ pound (225 g) Little Gem lettuces or hearts of butter lettuce 
  • ¾ cup (125 g) halved seedless red or black grapes 
  • ½ cup (60 g) chopped toasted walnuts 
  • 2 ounces (about ½ cup/60 g) coarsely crumbled blue cheese 



  • Make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, combine the vinegar and shallot. Whisk in the olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 
  • Put the lettuces in a salad bowl, tearing them into bite-size pieces or leaving whole if you prefer. Add the grapes, walnuts and blue cheese. Add enough vinaigrette to coat the leaves lightly — you may not need it all — and toss gently. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more vinegar or salt if needed. Serve immediately. 

Recommended Pairings

California rosé or California Riesling

Continue Reading

paso robles california vineyardYour Guide to Paso Robles Wine Country

Paso Robles, once considered the wild, wild west of California wine country, has polished up its boots over t...

Read the Article
california wineries sustainabilityRaise a Glass to Sustainability: California Wineries in Focus

April is Down to Earth Month, an ideal time to explore California wines grown and made with sustainable pract...

Read the Article
spring vineyard bud breakVineyard Awakening: A Glimpse into Spring Bud Break

Spring is coming and we couldn't be more ready. Learn more about what happens in California vineyards during ...

Read the Article
California wine and chocolateA Perfect Date with California Wine and Chocolate

Nothings says "love" like a California wine and chocolate pairing.

Read the Article
San Francisco SourdoughWhy San Francisco Sourdough Reigns Supreme

This month’s recipe turns a sourdough loaf into the most delicious Cheesy Garlic Pull Apart Bread. And it�...

Read the Article
wine cocktailA Sparkling Wine Cocktail for Your Holiday Parties

Celebrate the holidays with a California sparkling wine cocktail that's perfect for all your holiday parties.

Read the Article
wine guide thanksgivingA Wine Lovers’ Guide to Thanksgiving

Welcome to our guide to the ultimate Thanksgiving table with California wines. Read on for festive recipe ide...

Read the Article
wine with burritosWhich Wine Goes Best with Burritos?

Yes, you can pair wine with burritos. And yes, we think it's a delicious combo.

Read the Article
Become a Wine Insider

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.