I have done many different wine events here in town, ranging from progressive dinners, pairing dinners and art-wine events. One of my favorites among all of them was my daring pairing wine dinner. This summer, I showed you many different types of pairings for food and wine; however, they were defined as "perfect pairings." Daring pairings are meant for your audience to step out of their comfort zones. The goal for me in a dinner like this is for guests to not know at least one of the grape varieties, regions or producers that is used for the dinner and for guests to taste a wine with a dish that they wouldn’t typically think to put together.
It is my job as a sommelier to introduce my guests to wines that they have not heard of before. Evan Goldstein says in his book "Daring Pairings," "The practical reality is that most of us do not experiment with reckless abandon at home as we are afraid to bomb in front of the people we care about or want to impress. We save our experimentation for dining out." So what better way to introduce new wines to guests than with a wine dinner?
For our first course, we started with a citrus cured salmon with crème fraîche, smoked beets and rye. The salmon was rich with flavor because it had been cured for a day. I knew that I needed a wine that was going to be light because it was the first course, and I didn’t want it to overpower the dish. I decided on a grenache blanc/vermentino/ugni blanc blend called La Ciboise by M. Chapoutier 2010 from Luberon, France. This grenache blanc blend is unlike any other. M. Chapoutier uses not only French grape varieties but Italian grape varieties such as vermentino. The color is pale with greenish and yellow hues. The nose is filled with white blossoms, lemons and exotic fruits like grapefruit. This wine is incredibly refreshing and is perfect with light, seafood-based dishes.
The second course was probably the best dish, in my opinion. All of them were incredible, but this one was daring. We did a roasted pork belly with a cauliflower puree, spiced kale and apple relish. I knew that the pork belly was also going to have rich flavor because it was slowly roasted. However, the spiced kale was the deciding factor for my wine selection. I chose a gewurztraminer by Nussbaumer, Tramin 2010 from Alto Adige, Italy. Gewurztraminer means "spiced traminer" and is known for being powerfully scented, full-bodied in nature and complex. The color of this wine has intense lemon-yellow and golden hues. The nose is rich with pineapple, rose petals and lychees. The palate exudes the same qualities, as well as white pepper and nutmeg.
The third course took me a long time to come to a decision for the pairings. Essentially, I had too many options. Reflecting back on my main goal, all I wanted to do was introduce my guests to wines that they haven’t had before. So I decided on bobal by 11 Pinos 2011 from Manchuela, Spain. It was paired with a confit of Dazi Acres Farm chicken with charred poblano peppers and beluga lentils. Bobal is an obscure grape variety coming from the region of Manchuela. Bobal is often only used for blending purposes. Also, bobal is known for being high in acidity, which serves a nice balance between the typical "Spanish tannic monsters." This dark, ruby-colored wine has a fruit-forward nose and is filled with boysenberries, currants and raspberries. The palate is dry, chalky and has great minerality.
It is common among wine dinners to have a typical sweet dessert. Don’t get me wrong, I love sweets. However, I wanted to do something different, daring. We decided to do a cheese course. We used Sequatchie Cove Cumberland cheese with a huckleberry compote and brioche. I paired this course with a Bordeaux blend by Chateau Fleur de Rigaud 2009 from Bordeaux, France. Five grape varieties that typically inhabit Bordeaux are cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot and malbec. Carmenere is also allowed to grow in Bordeaux; however, it is less common. Notes of green bell pepper and mushrooms are dominant. The palate has notes of blackberries, black cherries and plums. It was a great, "untraditional" way to end the evening. I enjoyed hearing guests discuss the subtle nuances of the wines, as well as the comparisons to wines that they have tried before.
This event took place at Meeting Place Bar, and the food was paired by chef Daniel Lindley from St. John's Restaurant, Meeting Place and Alleia. I hope to do more wine events like this in the future. The more I step out of my comfort zone, the more I learn. I can only hope that other wine consumers do the same. It’s worth it!
Michelle Richards is a certified sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers. Along with hosting wine tastings for local organizations, she serves up wine goodness at St. John’s Restaurant. Your can contact her by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.
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