Can you share your most exciting food-and-wine pairing discovery of the summer? Please describe the dish, name the wine, and offer your explanation for why the combination is so successful. (Feel free to mention more than one of these transcendent pairings.)
Chuck Furuya, Master Sommelier, DK Restaurants (Honolulu). Every six weeks or so, we look to do a BYOB dinner at our Vino restaurant in Honolulu. We typically come up with a menu (three dishes plus a dessert) with specific wine profiles in mind. In our weekly newsletter, we publicize the dinner with recommended wine profiles for each course. We take reservations for two tables of ten. Each customer will then bring their own wines to pair. Each participant will have an opportunity to try ten different wines with the dinner and it is quite the hoot. From our perspective, it provides yet another learning experience for all.
In the past, the menus have been largely geared to Mediterranean-style wines, which is the theme of Vino and its menu, but we have also done courses for wines from Burgundy, Bordeaux, the Loire Valley, Champagne and California too. For our last BYOB dinner, however, we decided to really mix it up a bit by featuring an Asian-inspired dish. Vino Chef Keith Endo tossed his home-made linguine with a Korean-inspired Sumida Farms watercress pesto, topped with mahi-mahi jun, garnished with Asian-styled marinated watercress and pea sprouts (sesame oil, soy sauce, chili pepper water and hondashi).
The attendees brought an interesting array of white wines, which included 2007 Champalou Vouvray Fondraux, 1992 Zilliken Saarburger Rausch Spätlese, 2002 J. J. Prüm Auslese Wehlener Sonnenuhr, 2009 Zilliken “Butterfly” Medium Dry and the 2009 Rudolf Furst Müller-Thurgau Dry. Although each of these wines was truly stellar on its own, they only partly worked with the dish for a variety of reasons. For some the alcohol was too high, or the pairing brought out a bitterness, or the wine was just too sweet for the preparation. This dish really provided quite the challenge.
As it turned out, the best pairing of the night proved to be a 2001 Dr. F. Weins-Prüm Graacher Domprobst Kabinett. In simple terms it countered the salty-sweet-slightly spicy Asian components, cooled and soothed the palate between bites, and had just the right amount of acidity to keep the palate refreshed between bites. It really was a synergistic pairing!
For those looking for a more technical understanding of the hows and whys of the pairing, here is some more information. First of all, Dr. F. Weins-Prüm typically produces amazingly light and ethereal rieslings by deftly combining the use of stainless steel a oak fuders in the winemaking. With challenging dishes like this, I often find that rieslings grown at super-low yields, or that use declassified spätlese or auslese grapes, or are made in a more “vin de garde,” reductive way, have a hard time fitting in.
Second, owner Bert Selbach is a descendant of the Prüm family and therefore has quite a stable of incredible vineyard holdings, especially in the villages of Wehlen and Graach, both of which really excelled in 2001. His resulting 2001 wines therefore have wonderful pedigree and filigree; uplifting, buoyant minerality AND super-high levels of tartaric (ripe) acidity, which is perceived a much rounder on the palate than malic.
Third, because this wine was a 2001 (11 years of bottle age), the apparent sweetness of its youth has partially changed into a more tactile, creamy mouthfeel, which also aided in soothing the palate.
Finally, this wine was in the 8% to 8.5% range of alcohol content. With some of the other wines, even an alcohol level of 10.8% became quite glaring with this dish.
Yes, the evening really was quite the learning experience.
Jeremy Quinn, Sommelier, Telegraph, Webster’s Wine Bar, The Bluebird (Chicago). My favorite pairing of the summer thus far isn’t technically summery, but it sure was brilliant: I paired the Radikon 2009 Slatnik (chardonnay/tocai) from Venezia-Giulia with my Telegraph chef John Anderes’ Seared Foie Gras with Grilled Pineapple, Powdered Coconut and Caraway/Pumpernickel Crisps.
After three weeks of maceration with the skins and one year of aging in barrel, the Radikon wine shows a beautiful reddish/garnet (i.e., “orange”) hue in the glass, and some flavorful tannins/salinity on the palate. Pineapple and coconut are not the traditional accoutrements with foie gras, but the former really picked up a latent tropicality in the wine, while the latter matched the slight toastiness of the oak nicely. The salty/fatty character of the foie gras harmonized with the tannins to bring a surprising succulence together, while the caraway brought out some spice and cast the wine’s fruit qualities into relief.
On the whole, this succeeded for me because each element of the dish complemented the wine and brought out its otherwise more hidden delights.
Elise Loehr, Proprietor/Wine Director, F. Scott’s Restaurant & Jazz Bar (Nashville, TN). Wine of the day (mid-August): 2011 Pascal Janvier Cuvée de Rosier Coteaux du Loir–Pineau d’Aunis from Jasnières in the Loire Valley. What a brilliant food wine for the summer! Immensely funky and pungent, with chalky, grassy, herbaceous aromas, then an intense crushed pink and white peppercorn attack on the palate followed by a surprisingly delicate silky, soft texture.
I simply can’t decide what it accompanies best on our summer menus:
Shrimp and Grits Tostada with House-Made Crispy Corn Tortilla, Jalapeño and Cilantro Cheese Grits, Avocado and Local Tomatoes, or
Wild Boar Bacon “BMW”: House-Cured Wild Boar Bacon, Roasted Poblano Pepper Mayo, Watermelon, Bibb Lettuce, Ciabatta Bread, Crispy Pickle Chips
Of course, it is phenomenal with many things, so if you’re in the mood for a more classic dish go for roasted beets with goat’s cheese and peppery greens such as arugula and endive.