Monday, April 19, 2010

Sauvignon Blancs From Around the World: First Wine/Food Pairing Event

The Objective:
I want to experiment over the next few months with home wine and food pairing events, so that I can try to develop a workable model for a marketable business involving food and wine pairings in the future.  Lucky for me, I have several wine loving friends who are enthusiastic about joining into my experiments!  I recently hosted my first such event, and here's the report.

The Format:

Four guests and I brought wine.  The only criteria were that the wine be a Sauvignon Blanc varietal, and be above a certain modest price.  Three guests and I prepared food we thought might pair well with Sauvignon Blanc.  There was a sea of glasses on the table, because the five wines were served in flights.  Guests were invited to take their time, first sampling each wine without food, and then trying each of the wines with the food offerings.  All were provided with charts on which to take notes if they wished.

The Wine Lineup:
  • 2007 Domaine Cordaillat Reuilly "Les Sables"  12.5% alcohol
  • 2007 Highfield Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand) 13.0% alcohol
  • 2008 Domaine Patrick Coulbois Pouilly-Fumé "Les Cocques"  12.5% alcohol
  • 2009 Guenoc Lillie's North Coast Sauvignon Blanc, California.  13.5% alcohol
  • 2009 Aresti Reserva Sauvignon Blanc D.O. Curico Valley, Chile.  13.0% alcohol

The Cuisine: 

A young goat cheese gouda with crackers
Grilled Shrimp with Citrus-Sambal-Oelek Dressing

Smoked Salmon with Crème Fraîche and Capers

And for dessert,

Marcia’s Zippy Lemon Bars (Recipe below)

The Votes:

There were wild and interesting variations in individual pairing preferences, which was a lot of fun.  However, here are some generalizations:  The Chilean wine got raves with the goat gouda.  The two chèvre appetizers got votes with the New Zealand wine, although they also got some votes paired with the two French wines.  The two vegetable dishes were favored with the Guenoc.  And there were several votes preferring the shrimp and salmon with the two French wines.   

A couple more personal pairing notes:  I thought the shrimp dish paired nicely with all of the wines, and was not surprised at that.  However I was somewhat surprised to find that Ialso enjoyed the Asparagus Salad with most of the wines - I expected that to be a tougher pairing.  My favorite wine to just sip was the Pouilly-Fumé ( a view not shared by all), but interestingly, the Guenoc and Chilean wines I thought were the best food wines overall, working with the largest number of the foods, even though they were the ones I enjoyed a bit less on their own.

Parting Thoughts: 

It is endlessly fascinating to me, observing the different taste notes people will pick out of  various wines and pairings, and the different preferences guests experience.  After the obvious pleasure of enjoying great wines with great food, this is the most exciting thing to me about wine and food pairing events: the subtle differences in people's palates, and the things I can learn from others as we discuss what we taste!  We all had a great deal of fun, and we're all looking forward to the next party!  Here is a final picture of a well used table!

Marcia's Zippy Lemon Bars

Prep time approx. 40 minutes.

2 c flour
½ c powdered sugar
1 c butter (softened)
Mix above and press into 9 x 13 pan. Bake 20 minutes @ 350 degrees. Let cool a little. Top should be slightly browned with a bit of lighter color showing thru. Watch the corners and edges for faster baking than the middle.

4 beaten eggs
2 c sugar
1 tsp baking powder
4 Tbsp flour
4 Tbsp lemon juice and a bit of rind

Mix well and pour over warm base. Bake 25-30 minutes longer until top is slightly browned. Cut while slightly warm. Sprinkle top with powdered sugar by hand or w/sifter when cooled. Top must brown before removal from oven. Custard topping may be quite runny if undercooked or cut while hot. Let it cool and settle before cutting. Seems to form a bubbled up thin, caramelized crust w/even browning.

NOTES: I stick to basic baking practices not outlined in the original recipe: I blend the butter and sugar first, add the flour in stages, etc. I use my fist and arm to spread out the base in the pan. Otherwise it is a bear to spread out with a spoon or scraper. I use a whisk on the eggs and remaining ingredients. Meyer lemons don’t have enough zing and acidity, use regular lemons. I don’t measure the amount of juice. I’ve used b/w 1-2 lemons in the past to no measurable difference in texture or flavor. Same with the rind. The more fresh rind, the better though. I use a Pyrex baking pan. Metal seems to induce more dry out in the baking process. I cover all with foil for keeping for a few days. I’ve heard it helps to dip a knife in hot water to aid in cutting, but I’ve no definite answers this works great. Just be gentle.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Weekly Winery Adventure: Gundlach Bundschu

Restless on a beautiful weekday afternoon, I decided to head over to Gundlach Bundschu for a tasting.  I’ve had their wines in the past, but had never visited the tasting room, even though it’s minutes from my home.  Well, it turns out it’s an interesting spot.  Their grounds are beautiful, and the winery hosts musical concerts and special events throughout the Summer and Fall.  Visitors with reservations can also take a tour of some of the vineyards and the Barrel Cave (seen below). 

Tito was my server for my tasting, and he had time to chat with me throughout because they weren’t very busy – this is one of the reasons I like tasting mid-week.  Gundlach’s vineyards enjoy cooler weather than that of many vineyards nearby, and I think it shows in all their wines.  Here’s what I tasted:
·    2008 Chardonnay – nicely balanced, pleasantly crisp, and not over-oaked notwithstanding that it is 100% barrel fermented.  I tasted toffee and a hint of tangerine.  I couldn’t get the classic Chardonnay-lobster pairing out of my mind.
·    2008 Tempranillo Rosé – 100% Tempranillo, very dry, and sort of smoky.  Notes of plum and kiwi.
·    2007 Pinot Noir – lovely nose, with hints of red cherry and blueberry.  I wanted a grilled salmon salad with it.
·    2006 Mountain Cuvée – A Bordeaux blend of 70% merlot, 29% cab and 1% petit verdot, with black cherry, spice and dark chocolate in the finish.  Lovely for the price; I bought one.
·    2007 Zinfandel – Tito brought this wine to me blind, and I didn’t guess it was a Zin because it’s not as huge and brash as many other Zins produced nearby, a pleasant contrast.  At first the nose was an explosion of strawberry jam, but in a minute or two, some interesting floral aromas emerged.  I tasted strawberry, black plum and white pepper, a hint of chocolate in the finish.  We discussed pairing it with lasagna or pasta with sausage, or something similar.
·    2007 Cabernet Franc – notes of black fruit, coffee, dark chocolate in the finish, nicely balanced.  I wanted a simple grilled steak.

I took the time to wander about the grounds a bit.  Lovely!  Quite pleasant wines, and a beautiful setting.  I suggest you visit!  Bring a picnic and enjoy the scenery!  And be sure to say hi to Tito!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Too Bad I Can't Photograph An Aroma!

Because this dish smelled insanely good while cooking!
I love Joanne Harris’ and Fran Warde’s cookbook, The French Market, which I bought a while back when our then-Supper Club was planning a French meal.  Since then, I’ve prepared a number of delightful dishes from it.  I had been eying their recipe for Lentilles du Puy, or Wine-Braised Puy Lentils, for quite some time, and I finally decided the time had come.  It’s easy, and I often have all the ingredients on hand.  I cut the recipe in half, but it calls for:

¼ c. olive oil
2 red onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups Puy lentils or brown lentils (I used brown)
2 cups hearty red wine (I used a simple, fruity Shiraz)
1 (14½-oz) can chopped tomatoes in juice
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs oregano (I didn’t have fresh oregano, used thyme sprigs from my garden instead)
2 sprigs rosemary (I used a bit of dried)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat the oven to 350, heat the oil in a Dutch oven or other oven-safe covered pan over medium heat.  Add the onions and garlic, cook for 5 min. Add all the remaining ingredients PLUS ¾ cup water, and bring to a boil.  Cover and bake for 30 min.  Stir, and continue baking till the lentils are tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 30 min. more.

The heady aroma of this dish while it baked was amazing, and I loved the hearty, rustic flavors.  I enjoyed the lentils with left-over pork roast and an arugula salad, with the same Shiraz I used in the dish.  The Shiraz was lovely with the lentils, not a perfect match for the pork but not at all bad.  A very satisfying meal, and I’m sure I will be making these lentils again and again.

Note:  They are even better the next day!