Posts Tagged ‘Wine and food matching’
Wednesday, June 12th, 2013 I attended a fun wine tasting for the Trade put on by Vibrant Rioja who were showcasing the wine region at a tasting put on at Ripple Restaurant in Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C. Aaron Gordon was representing Vibrant Rioja and let’s just say – he’s a character! The wine trade always has attracted the artsy and the intellectual, and maybe the slightly off-center – I would say this guy fits the bill! The other speaker was a more traditional sommelier.. well almost David Denton who was also at one time a punk rock guitar player – but now he works as the sommelier at Charlie Palmer Steak on Capital Hill. But the presentation was very good – well, actually I couldn’t see the tv screen presentation (was it a slideshow?), but the layout of the wine tasting was really excellent and easy to follow – numbered glasses, white in front of red.
So what did I gain from this Rioja tasting?
-Tempranillo can be white – yes, I had probably my first white Tempranillo – and it was very good! I would say it was a medium-bodied white and I think it had some oak, but it was also unusual in that it was slightly oxidized even though it was a young wine – so it had those sherry-like features/burnt almond that made it seem much older.
-there are many indigenous varietals I had never heard of and I tried one that made me pretty excited – Maturana Tinta – a gamey/blackberry fruit red grape that had quite a bit of life and a touch of gaminess! After tasting so many steady Cabernets and even Tempranillo’s in my wine tasting career, it’s always nice to find a red varietal that has life and potential – this wine (albeit this was a better-made more expensive version by Dinastia Vivanco (2009) shows how there is more great wine to explore even from well-known regions like Rioja.
-a red wine over 10 years old isn’t necessarily brickish in color or aged in taste – I’m still amazed at the vibrancy and purple color of the Bodegas Ontanon Reserva 1995 (Tempranillo and Garnacha) – my understanding is that this wine had been kept in the winemaker’s cellar until recently which may explain alot – the color suggested a relatively young wine and the fruit was still noticeable on the palate, although there was quite a bit of that aged cedar box you get from slightly older wines. I think more than anything, Tempranillo can age amazingly well, but proper treatment and storage of your wines can make a HUGE difference when you go to open something over a decade old – consider improving or maintaining quality wine storage!
Overall, the event was very nicely laid out and had a festive feel. I also like the fact that they chose a wine bar – Ripple – vs. a traditional fancy schmancy fine dining restaurant – it gave this a more festive air. Rioja is almost an exclamation point for Spanish wine – you can simply walk in to pretty much and decent restaurant and ask for a “Rioja” and the server will know that you mean a Tempranillo from the region. Tasting Graziano, Garnacha, Maturana and many other varietals opens up this traditional wine region to new experiences. Also, the traditional blending of Cabernet and Merlot with everything is a choice here – some traditionalists in Spain are trying to bring more local character to their wines by avoiding the overly oak, rich, modern style. One last point – traditionally, Rioja uses American oak barrels vs French for aging of wines – this also gives them a slight “coconut” aromatic that sets them apart from other European wines. Cheers to Rioja!
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler
Everything is Bigger in Texas, but their wines are actually pretty subtle..
Andrew Stover of Vino 50 Selections presented some really great wines from his Texas portfolio at the TasteDC 6-Course Texas Wine Dinner at Mayfair & Pine on Saturday, March 2nd, 2013. Andrew is a well-known Sommelier and wine broker in the Washington, D.C. area who has a passion for American wines. My first question to Andrew prior to the event is how could Texas make great wines when the grapes have to suffer through such high heat and desert conditions. His reply was that hot dry weather is actually perfect for grapes – in fact, the dryness also prevents pests and allows the winemaker to actually make more natural/organic style wines. As far as we know, this was the first Texas wine dinner in the history of Washington, D.C. and thus an introduction of McPherson wines and Duchman Family wines to the dining public.
<Note: We have an Upcoming Anchor Beer Dinner on March 27th, 2013 at Mayfair and Pine>
The Dinner was my second at Mayfair and Pine, the first being the Champagne Dinner I attended in December at the restaurant. Chef Emily Sprissler is a Top Chef alum from Season 2 and she knows how to handle the heat! This event was held on a Saturday night which had the restaurant bustling both upstairs and downstairs – a real challenge for the chef.
Here’s the menu, the dishes and some comments about the dishes and wine pairings – Enjoy!
Duchman Family Vermentino
I really enjoyed this pairing – I’m not a big white wine fan, but the acidity of the wine cut through the citrus butter beautifully and actually made the dish much lighter to enjoy more food!
McPherson ‘Tre Colore’ Mourvedre/Carignan/Viognier Blend
Anything wrapped in bacon is great, and these little oysters were nicely nestled in this crunchy chewy porky goodness. This wine was a classic Rhone varietal blend and the slight earthiness of the Mourvedre and Carignan is nicely balanced by the fruit and acidyt of the Viognier – this just goes to show you that America can produce French style wines that are just as good if not better than the originals – American wine ingenuity!
Halloumi Cheese & Radicchio Enchiladas
Duchman Family Sangiovese
Sangiovese is the grape of Chianti and so many spaghetti Italian dinners and it was a pleasant match in this wineries rendition. The slight spicyness of the sauce (almost like an Italian marinara) was tastefully offset by the roundness of the wine and created a nice marriage. Another fallacy is that traditional Mexican foods don’t go with wine (Cerveza!), but this again proved that wine is a great bedfellow with Mexican and authentic American cuisine.
Wild Boar Swedish Meatballs
McPherson ‘La Herencia’ Tempranillo
These were some spicy meatballs! The Tempranillo grape is grown in the dry hot regions of Spain, so this wine really shined..Probably my favorite wine of the night..well, except someone brought a 1o year old McPherson Syrah that was really Super!
Bacon Chocolate Pretzel S’mores
Coffee & Tea
It was overall a very nice meal and Texas wines will now be one of my Go-To staples – I’ve learned (over and over again!) that you should never assume with wine – just because you think a State is too hot, or cool, or whatever to produce wine, well then they’ll start producing wine, and you’ll be surprised. According to Andrew, Texas is the 6th largest producer of wine in the U.S. What other states are producing wine in the 7th to 50th positions? Who knows!?
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler
I attended a LivingSocial sponsored event “Wine + Cheese at Black’s Bar & Kitchen” (Bethesda, MD) on Saturday, November 17th, 2012 from 1 – 3 pm – actually, it was the first event I had attended through LivingSocial even though I had purchased many restaurant deals from them in the past. The event had 2 flights of cheeses, 12 cheeses in total and wines were paired with them, a total of 8 (See list of wines and cheeses with Photos below). It was a seated event and guided tasting with main presenter Chef Mallory Buford speaking about the cheeses and Black’s Sommelier Anderson Plunket discussing the wines. Chef Buford was very knowledgeable about cheese, but each cheese producer also had their own representative/distributor to talk about each cheese’s qualities. It was a nice combination of class and chance for people to talk amongst themselves – I would call it “lecture light” and more of a chance for people to try everything and make their own conclusions. This restaurant is really known for seafood so it’s kind of interesting that they decided to try a cheese and wine event – my understanding is that all of these cheeses are on their existing menu, so that makes sense..but don’t ask an Italian – they claim that seafood and cheese should never go together!
There were 12 cheeses and 8 wines:
1st Cheese Flight:
1)Cherry Glen Farms Monocacy Silver – Soft-Ripened Goat’s Milk
2)Cherry Glen Farms Monocacy Ash-Soft Ripened Goat’s Milk with Ash Rind
3)Vermont Butter & Cheese Bonne Bouche – Ash-Ripened Goat’s Milk
4)Vermont Butter & Cheese Coupole – Aged Goat Milk
5)Vermont Butter & Cheese Cremont – Aged Goat and Cow’s Milk
2nd Cheese Flight:
6)Jasper Hill Farm Weybridge – Organic Cow’s Milk
7)Jasper Hill Farm Cabot Clothbound Cheddar – English Style Cow’s Milk
8)Jasper Hill Farm Landaff – Semi-Firm Raw Cow’s Milk
9)Beehive Creamery Promontory – Irish Style Cow’s Milk
10)Beehive Creamery – Espresso and Lavendar Rubbed Cow’s Milk
11)Beehive Creamery – Cayenne Rubbed Cow’s Milk
12)Jasper Hill Farm – Raw Cow’s Milk Blue
1)Prosecco, Tenuta S. Anna, NV (Italy)
2)Sancerre, Paul Prieur 2010 (Loire, France)
3)Pinot Gris, Elk Cove 2011 (Williamette Valley, Oregon)
4)Chardonnay, Windracer 2007 (Anderson Valley, CA)
5)Pinot Noir, Domaine Carneros 2010 (Carneros, CA)
6)Merlot, Truchard 2008 (Carneros, CA)
7)Cabernet/Syrah Blend, Treana 2009 (Organic) (Paso Robles, CA)
8)Riesling, Poet’s Leap 2010 (Columbia Valley, WA)
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler
OK, it’s just a bunch of photos from past TasteDC events, but it kind of shows you where TasteDC comes from – it’s my imagination of how people really would like to eat and drink..a bit of a dream world, but food is so much more than nourishment..Just Enjoy!
Charlie Adler, Managing Editor
TasteDC Food and Drink Event Calendar
“Educate Your Palate”
I spent over 15 years organizing and attending wine dinners at TasteDC – it is definitely my favorite part of being in a unique business! Weird as it may seem, a “wine dinner” is conceptually as confusing as a wine tasting to most people – it’s a very foreign concept to many Americans – literally! A wine dinner is in essence a multi-course dinner served with several different wines – this is the simple explanation. A GOOD/GREAT wine dinner is when the various elements come together in a wonderful symphony of an event: wine, food, timing, pairing, educational component (this usually means a speaker), and impeccable service. It sounds very snooty, but that’s primarily because it’s based on the fine dining traditions of the Old World – particularly France and Italy. So what IS a wine dinner?
“A Wine Dinner Is a Meal Divided by Courses”
Most wine dinners include a menu of dishes served in three or more courses. For example, when you go out to eat at a fine dining restaurant, the menu is often broken down into Appetizers, Main Dishes, and Desserts. A Wine Dinner is a smart way for a restaurant to showcase both great wine and delicious dishes that showcase their chef’s talents. And yes, there is a formula: according to the traditional European format for a dinner (actually, any serious meal!) is begin with the lightest dishes, move on to richer dishes and finish with dessert – and yes, often there is a cheese course before dessert. A very simple multi-course dinner (with or without wine, but in the European tradition, food is pretty much always served with wine) would begin with some hors d’oeuvres, a seafood or pasta dish, a light meat dish (chicken or pork), a rich meat dish (beef or lamb) and dessert. Each course would be served with a different wine in a wine dinner and possibly even more than one wine per course. This would be called a 4-course dinner because hors d’oeuvres are usually not considered a dish, so don’t count in the number.
“Each Dish Should Be Paired with the Appropriate Wines”
I’ve been to wine dinners where there is only one wine paired with each dish, and that can be very satisfying! But I’ve also been to wine dinners where there are two, three, even four wines paired per dish (that’s a single dish!) and those can be very fun – albeit confusing at times. I want to touch upon the concept of pairing: pairing wine and food means there’s a synergy of flavor that is 1 + 1 is GREATER than 2. There are some classic examples of pairings: Sauvignon Blanc and goat cheese, Pinot Noir and salmon, and Cabernet Sauvignon and steak, etc. that work but I’ve had pairings that stretch the limits. The original old school formula for pairings was “white wine with fish and red wine with meat” but this is extremely outdated – creative chefs today don’t serve simply prepared dishes that are formulaic, they often prefer to add unique flavors and cooking techniques to their dishes that can be difficult to pair. To keep it simple (I wrote a whole chapter on pairing in “I Drink on the Job” entitled “A Meal Without Wine is Breakfast”). Just like with food, most wine dinners begin with lighter-style wines (like Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling) and move to heavier-bodied wines later in the meal – this makes sense – you wouldn’t want a Big Cab with your shrimp dish/course at the beginning of the meal, that would be way too heavy early in the meal (and a poor pairing!). Also, later in the meal, your palate needs richer and bolder flavors or you won’t notice a dish, so big wines and red meat (or dishes that are braised/slow cooked to increase the rich flavors of a meal) make sense.
A quick note on pairing/wine dinners – most have a theme like “Italian Wines” or “California Boutique Wines” that create the expectation of a special celebration of a wine region or theme. This is important because a wine dinner is a “showcase” event – a chance for a wine maker to show his/her best efforts in the vineyard or a display of a chef’s talents to create gourmet offerings. The point is that usually either the wine or the food is the main center of the wine dinner, one almost always overshadows the other. For example, I attended a wine dinner a few years ago with MacArthur/Addy Bassin’s Liquor where there were over 20 boutique California wines served – yes, the food was excellent at the Mandarin Oriental in Washington, D.C. (I think it was 7-Courses, but I forget!), but every wine was introduced before each course by either the wine maker or a representative who intimately knew the wines – educational and exhilarating!
“A Speaker Needs to Introduce the Wines at the Wine Dinner”
Not particularly profound, but someone needs to talk about the wines at a wine dinner and the more knowledgeable, the better. Normally, the wine maker or a representative from the wine community talks about the wines with each dish. Some speaker’s introduce the wines before each course, but this can be detrimental: it can add too much time to a dinner and it can get tedious for attendees! Most people don’t want to sit for more than three hours or so at a wine dinner (including breaks – hey, with all that wine, you may need to visit the bathroom!) so the length of an event is important. I always suggest that the wine professional speaker introduce their wines at the event, maybe speak once in the middle of the meal and then at the end of the meal. Most people at these events would rather talk privately to the speaker, so walking around and “schmoozing” with dinner attendees is a smart move.
Things I haven’t covered in this wine dinner discussion include the importance of speedy service, event duration, popular themes for wine dinners, and the myriad of service issues with this type of event. Staffing is VERY important – experience really makes a difference. One of the most impressive wine dinners I ever went to with the wines of Chateau Pontet-Canet at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. was because of one factor: the Sommelier Caterina Abbruzzetti decanted every one!
Of course, there aren’t only wine dinners: In 14 years at TasteDC, I’ve attended craft beer dinners, whiskey dinners, Tequila Dinners, Cocktail Dinners, Rum Dinners and innumerable conceptual “dinners”, often unique and unusual, but one thing they all had in common – the dishes and the beverage were paired in some way..Hope this all whets your appetite – Cheers!
Charlie Adler, Managing Editor
TasteDC Food and Drink Event Calendar
“Educate Your Palate”
This is Part 2 of organizing a wine tasting (Part 1 Here) – I get the phone call “we want to organize a wine tasting for a <birthday/celebration/housewarming/shower/corporate event/bachelorette party> can you help?” My first question…DO YOU HAVE A VENUE? Reply – total silence, I can literally hear crickets churping..then the mumbling and nervous reply “well, uhhh, no, uhhh (thinking to themselves “you mean I have to think of everything??”) and then often something like “somewhere in DC, Virginia or Maryland”..and now I’m at a loss of words..
Unless your people can teleport wine into their faces, you MUST FIND A VENUE! OK, but how? Couple thoughts..the most obvious venue is the place you work or hangout, maybe someone’s home. Before you make the phone call to a Professional Event Planner (that’s what wine speakers/professionals become from necessity – we have no choice!), ask a friend/co-worker if they know a nice place to hold a wine tasting. Most likely, a short brain-storming session will begin and potential spaces will be considered – someone’s new home, a great meeting place the group already frequents, a winery, etc..DO THIS BEFORE YOU MAKE THE CALL..OK, I have a confession..
Over HALF the phone calls I receive requesting a wine tasting are VENUE SEEKERS, ie. they could care less about a wine tasting, they just want to squeeze my brain for all the venues I know and just work directly with them..But that’s another Subject!
Back to your needs..hotels and restaurants should be your last choice – why? Because they charge many fees that raise the cost quickly and significantly: room/rental fees, food minimums, corkage fees for wine (a little more on this below..), plus taxes and surcharges on top of all that. Many restaurants and hotels don’t allow an outside vendor to bring wine into their facility – of course – they can sell their own wine to you for a 250-400% markup (this is a common cost multiplier – a $6 store bought wine being sold in a hotel for $21.50 to $30 a bottle ++)
Since cost is a major factor to over 90% of the people that call requesting a wine tasting, think cost first – a free venue is the best. What free venues are available to most people? A home comes to mind first, so contact friends who have a nice place, or who for whatever reason (Ego!) want to show-off their abode. What about an apartment complex – many have community rooms that are empty most of the time, and if you know someone who’s a tenant in the complex, that helps a bunch! Some other potential “free” or low-cost venues include office spaces, office building atriums, art galleries, and non-profit spaces. A note about art galleries and other public venue – they may have quite a few restrictions..well, that’s another article, Cheers!
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler – Check out my book NOW Available on Kindle or Soft-Cover – I Drink on the Job
I’ve organized or promoted over 1,000 wine tastings and wine classes in the Washington, D.C. area since 1997 through my organization TasteDC.com. A few times a week I get a phone call at headquarters (a room in my Georgetown townhouse with 2 computers, a color printer and a Fax..but it IS Ground Zero for DC wine tastings!) asking me to organize a wine tasting or class for a group of say maybe 15 people. What’s funny/unfortunate/amazing is that the call is almost always the same – THEY HAVE NO IDEA WHAT A WINE TASTING IS OR WHAT THEY’RE LOOKING FOR!
A wine tasting is an event from the TasteDC perspective – it has a beginning time, an ending time and a theme to fill the middle of the tasting. Say for example, a wine tasting of wine styles: rent a room, supply it with glassware (maybe a little food – cheese, crackers and bread would be nice!), a selection of wines with say three different “styles” (could be anything, but normally it might be light-bodied, medium-bodied and heavy-bodied wines) and put them at their own tables with volunteers pouring the wine..or people could pour their own wine – then we suggest you put out an information tasting sheet on each wine..
- Do you have a Date?
- Do you have a Venue?
- Do you have a wine “theme”?
There are literally thousands of ways to organize a wine tasting! I do want to make note – if you use the term “wine class” that most likely means a seated event with a speaker. Does a wine tasting necessarily need a speaker? No – the simple answer is sometimes (most of the time!) a speaker ads an unnecessary expense to a tasting – speakers charge for their services and the fees range significantly (I start at about $500 per event, but I have other ways to increase my profitability – hey, don’t attendees want a copy of my book “I Drink on the Job” ?
I’m going to write more about what to look for in a wine tasting – both for a private group and for a fun public form of entertainment – keep checking back – Cheers!
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler