Archive for June, 2013

Wine and Food Pairing – Part 3

In Part 1 and 2 of my “5 Part series on Wine/Food Pairing” we discussed Rule #1 – Balance and Rule #2 – Dominant Flavor. Next we will examine Rule #3 – Think Your Senses. There are 3 top sensations you should be aware of when you pair food and wine. They are acidity, tannins and sugar.

Acidity is present in both food and wine. In food, the best way to describe acidity is to think tomatoes…we all know that taste sensation. Acidity is also found in wine, primarily white wines. This is the crisp, refreshing feeling in your mouth, and what makes your mouth salivate. When pairing a wine with tomatoes, your wine should “stand up” to the acidity, and red wines are the number 1 choice for this pairing. Full-bodied reds such as Barbera, Sangiovese, Merlot or even a Zinfandel are excellent choices. If your wine does not “stand up” to the acidity level, it will feel bland or flabby in your mouth. For white wines, Sauvignon Blanc, a dry Riesling or a Chenin Blanc make excellent choices.

So we’ve all heard about tannins, but what are they really? Tannins are naturally found in the skins and seeds (pips) of grapes. Because red grapes are fermented with their skins, tannins appear in red wines. The winemaker also has a hand in how much/how little tannin will finally occur in the wine based on the length of time the grapes are fermented with their skins as well as the type of grape(s) the winemaker is using. Example – Cabernet Sauvignon grapes have thick skins, therefore naturally the wine will have more tannins. Pinot Noir grapes have thin skins, therefore providing less natural tannins.

While acidity makes our mouth water, it is the tannins that make our mouth pucker or feel dry. A high tannin wine can be an excellent choice when pairing it with a food that contains protein (red meat as an example), fats or salt. Who hasn’t heard the pairing of a Cabernet Sauvignon with a steak?? For something different, try a Cabernet Franc (one of Colorado’s signature grapes) with your next red meat dish!

Have you ever had Champagne with chocolate and wondered why it didn’t pair well?? The answer lies in the sugar, both in the wine and in the food.  Most Americans drink a dry, brut Champagne and are missing the understanding of  Rule #3 and sugar, which is….”your wine should always be as sweet as your dessert.”  Keeping that rule in mind, a late-harvest wine, fruit wine, ice wine or port pair very well with dessert.

Colorado makes great late-harvest wines because the growers can keep the grapes on the vines longer to increase the brix (sugar content) in the grapes. Colorado also makes excellent fruit wines (wine made from fruit such as cherries, peaches, strawberries instead of grapes). Ice wine is very popular where I grew up in Niagara Falls, NY. Across the border in the Niagara Peninsula, they are famous for their ice wine, where the grapes actually have to be picked frozen to be called a true ice wine. BTW, commercial freezers work well when you can’t freeze them on the vines! And don’t forget one of my favorites…port-style wines (only wine from Portugal can be called a “Port”), as nothing says “dessert” like something chocolate with a port!

So think your senses and enjoy wine/food pairings following rule #3!

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Winery Visit – Mesa Winds Farm & Winery

As we enjoy a glass of wine most of us never think about what came before and the process involved to take a grape and turn it into wine.  Not so for owner and winemaker Philip “Wink” Davis and his wife, Maxine “Max” Eisele of Mesa Winds Farm & Winery. For them they “believe delicious wine starts in the soil, and with good soil you have healthy plants, which produce exceptionally good grapes.” They also practice the philosophy of “letting the grapes express themselves in the wine and use minimal intervention throughout the vintage process.” Mesa Winds’ fruit production is certified organic and they practice biodynamic farming. Only the grapes they grow are used to produce their wines.

Moving from Colorado Springs 8 years ago Max and Wink obtained a farm in Hotchkiss, which had 1 acre of Pinot Noir grapes planted. Due to a virus with those vines, they removed them and planted 6 acres of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Pinot Meunier. FYI – these are the grapes of the Champagne and Burgundy regions of France. In fact, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay are the 3 grapes that are used to produce a “true Champagne” from Champagne. Mesa Winds uses Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chambourcin to create their Rosé wine, a light-bodied, dry wine with fruity essence.

In addition to their Rosé wine, they are also selling their 2011 Pinot Meunier and Pinot Gris, which is from their first vintage. Their 2012 Peach wine comes from their peach orchard, and is a great wine to serve as an aperitif  or as a dessert wine.

Being a “new kid on the block” their distribution is limited, so my suggestion is to stop by their tasting room between mid-May and mid-October. They are open every Saturday and Sunday between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. You can also purchase their wines at Delicious Orchards in Paonia and Coal Train Liquors in Colorado Springs. Wink is just about to bottle his 2012 Pinot Gris, so stop on by the winery for a sampling of Mesa Winds delicious wines.

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Wine and Food Pairing – Part 2

Part 1 of my “5 part series on Wine and Food Pairing” discussed Balance. The next item to consider in pairing wine and food is Rule #2 – What is the Dominant Flavor?  When preparing a dish and deciding on what wine to match with it, you need to keep in mind what is the most outstanding flavor or ingredient in the dish, and pair the wine to that.

Let’s take chicken….that universal of all meats. How many dishes can be made with chicken?? Thousands I would imagine, and obviously not 1 wine/grape variety will work with all those dishes. Here are a few thoughts when matching a chicken dish to a wine….

  • Are you using a cream or cheese sauce?
  • Is the dish spicy?
  • Does the recipe include tomatoes?
  • What is the main spice used in the dish?
  • How is the chicken cooked?

All these factor into what wine to pair with your chicken.

A chicken recipe that contains cream or cheese generally makes the dish rich. Therefore, you want your wine to be as rich. A buttery, oaked Chardonnay pairs well here as both complement each other’s “richness.” If the dish is spicy, you will want a sweeter wine to off-set the spiciness of the food. Good matches here would be a sweet or off-dry Gewurztraminer or Riesling, or a Rosé. If your recipe calls for tomatoes, you will want a red wine that can stand up to the acidity found in tomatoes. Sangiovese (remember Chianti is the region, not the grape), Barbera and numerous red blends are good pairings.

Think of all the spices/herbs that can be added to a chicken recipe. Ask yourself what is the main spice…curry, garlic, ginger, lemon, asian, or tropical, just to name a few, and then pair your wine to that ingredient. The way chicken is cooked also affects what wine you might match with it. Are you BBQing?? Usually BBQ sauces contain tomatoes, sugar and vinegar, and wines that pairs well with those ingredients include Syrah and Zinfandel. If you are frying or sauteing your chicken, you need a wine that “cuts the grease,” such as Sauvignon Blanc, a dry Riesling or a Grenache. If you are roasting a chicken, an oaked or unoaked Chardonnay works well, or a Pinot Noir if you are using any type of fruit sauce.

Remember that you can always add the same wine to your dish as you are serving with it. And of course, its always best to sample the wine prior to serving!! haha


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