Serving scintillating complements to the season
As the seasons quickly change and cool, severe clear skies replace the hot summer sun, I can’t help thinking about fall. Autumn is my favorite season of all not only because of the multi-colored leaves and the crisp breeze in the air, but because of the fall harvests of food and of wine. Harvest time deserves celebration in the form of unique, eclectic food and wine pairings for some of my favorite fall recipes. Lately I’ve been dreaming of pairings that I’m enthusiastic to try out in the very near future.
Apple-Nut Stuffing with Colpetrone 2003 Sagrantino di Montefalco: This thick, savory, slightly sweet stuffing needs a dry, nutty, aromatic wine full of dark plums and spice. Sagrantino is one of my go-to wines whenever possible, and it makes the perfect companion for this dish.
Stuffed Zucchini alla Melanzana with Grosjean 2006 Torrette Superieur Vigne Rovetta: I love sinking my teeth into the light, buttery goodness of a freshly baked zucchini stuffed with breadcrumbs and eggplant. When I create this dish from scratch and pair it with the lighter bodied, distinctly aromatic Grosjean Torrette, it will be well worth the wait.
Mushroom and Herb Macaroni and Cheese with Poggio di Sotto 2006 Rosso di Montalcino: Although this wine isn’t currently in stock at IWM, it’s my first choice for a gourmet version of mac and cheese with gruyere, wild mushrooms and herbs. The complexity and smoothness of this Rosso makes you think it’s a Brunello; the 2007 should be just as perfect.
Classic Roast Turkey with Bodega Chacra 2008 Pinot Noir Rio Negro Treinta y Dos: Pinot Noir is a classic pairing for roasted turkey, and nothing could pair better than Bodega Chacra’s ultimate expression of Pinot Noir, Treinta y Dos.
Spicy Cranberry Chutney and Rye Toast Points with Masciarelli 2009 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Rosato: Cranberries are one of the most difficult foods to pair with, but I think the Masciarelli Montepulciano Rosé has just the right amount of sweetness and acidity to complement this chutney.
Sweet Potato Casserole with Hofstatter 2000 Yngram: The density and smoothness of the Yngram holds tons of currant and raspberry jam notes, which pairs perfectly with the thickness and sweetness of this wonderful baked sweet potato dish.
Salted Caramel Apples with Castello di Cacchiano 2001 Vin Santo: Nothing sounds better to me than a salted caramel apple paired with one of my most beloved choices in wine, Vin Santo. The salt in the caramel brings out the complexity and sweetness of the caramel itself, and it complements the savory nuttiness of the Vin Santo perfectly. If you’re interested in a more adult version of this classic, try a Parisian Apple Tartlet with Salted Caramel Sauce.
Pumpkin Pie with Quintarelli 1990 Amabile: Beyond indulging in as much pumpkin pie as I desire, I love the idea of pairing it with Quintarelli’s infamous Amabile dessert wine. Mixing the silky, spiced pumpkin dessert and fresh cream topping with the Amabile’s buttery notes of burnt sugar, orange rinds, toffee and caramel makes for a truly seductive, decadent dessert.
Put down that beer and grab a glass of vino
I enjoy reading other wine blogs and seeing what the blogging public has to say about wine, food, and how they go together. One of my favorite blogs is Dr. Vino and in particular the section titled “food and wine.” As a wine retailer and Sommelier at heart, I strongly believe wine’s most important purpose is to accompany food. In this section of the blog, Tyler Colman, also known as Dr. Vino, asks the public for their opinions on what wines to pair with non-traditional wine foods (if there is such a thing). No matter how good, bad or truly awful I find the suggestions, I enjoy the challenge of difficult food and wine pairings and reading about other people’s ideas. In this week’s section, Dr. Vino queries his readership about the appropriate wine to serve with one of the most emblematic foods of armchair quarterbacks —the Seven-Layer Dip:
For those of you who haven’t enjoyed the dish, imagine a layer of refried beans imbued with chiles or other seasoning, then slather on a couple of ripe avocados (or guacamole), smother that in an inch of sour cream, then add an inch of salsa, some lettuce, cheese and possibly olives. Scoop it out with tortilla chips. Although it may sound gross to the uninitiated, it has an amazingly magnetic effect on those in the room.
So what would you pair with Seven-Layer Dip–or is it impossible?!?
This post got me thinking about food and wine pairing and how to pair an iconic snack like this with an Italian wine. It’s common practice for sommeliers to pair native wines with the food’s country of origin that the food. For example, a natural pairing would be Wild Boar Ragu with a Tuscan Sangiovese. I’m always a big fan of traditional pairings and agree that they should be utilized 99% of the time. However, when you’ve got a dish that’s as big a polyglot as Seven-Layer Dip, you’ve got a challenge on your hands—and an opportunity for me to play sommelier, to think outside of the cardboard box and to pair a dish that usually calls for beer with wine.
Initially, that makes this challenge difficult is that there are so many ingredients that scream for attention. The guacamole needs something creamy to accompany it. The chilies need something sweet to balance them. The entire dip as a whole needs something crisp and clean to refresh the palate. After considering a host of options, I settled on Hofstätter Bianco Barthenau Vigna S. Michele 2004 because of the blend of grapes used to make this white. Pinot Bianco comprises the majority of the wine and lends it a nice peachy fruitiness. Small amounts of Chardonnay and a limited amount of barrel aging add creaminess to compliment the avocado. And a small amount of Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc will complement the zing and the heat of the chilies as well as add a level of acidity to cleanse the palate. Finally, the whole package will provide sophistication to seven-layer snackatude.
I suggest you put your beer on ice and give the Hofstätter a spot on your coffee table when you watch this year’s Super Bowl in Miami. Or give the combo a try-out during the divisional championships—if it’s not to your liking, no harm, no foul.