Sunday was one of my favorite kind of Gulp pairings. It was not only full of great food and wine, it was full of great information which makes me a better Gulper. LeBeau presented a mini-class on reading wine labels. We learned the terms for dryness…or not. We learned quality insignias from different countries. We learned what an appellation is. We learned a lot! Thank you LeBeau for the great class! It amazes me how much I have learned since you joined our motley crew.
While this event was about the labels I just want to pause a moment and give some credit to my friend and the founder of this amazing group, Coreen. In the early years we all brought food and then slowly Coreen began to take on those duties. It is the core evolution of this group and I just need to say, “Coreen, you have become a chef. Every single month you create interesting, new and flavorful dishes to pair and most of the time improve the wines we are drinking. Your food has confidence and fun and I have never been disappointed. Thank you!”
Enough of the sappy stuff. Onto the Event!
The 1st course was a sexy little bite of a pancetta cup filled with pear, gorgonzola, thyme and local honey. It was paired with a Domaine Ste. Michelle Blanc de Blanc from Washington State. The pancetta cup was crispy, salty, sweet with just a touch of tartness from the pear. The wine was lightly sweet and effervescent with a tropical nose. The flavor was crisp and dry with green apple flavors. At $9.99 a bottle from Total Wine I’d say this was a great option for any toast. As Jim said, “It’s a mouthful of awesome!” It was a really good pairing. As Tracy pointed out, “The dryness of wine cuts the oil of the bacon.” The pear and honey popped after a drink of the wine. Lebeau took the opportunity with this wine to talk about terms often found on sparkling wine labels. From driest to sweetest they are:
- Brut: dry, less than 1.5% sugar
- Extra Sec: extra dry, 1.2 to 2% sugar
- Sec: medium sweet, 1.7 to 3.5% sugar
- Demi-Sec: sweet, 3.3 to 5% sugar (dessert champagne)
- Doux: very sweet, over 5% sugar (dessert champagne)
I will let Lebeau explain more.
The 2nd course was a cilantro lime chicken with a drizzle of garlic lime cilantro sour cream. It all sat on top of a melange of leeks, peppers and corn. The chicken was smoky with cumin and beautifully grilled. The cream was tangy, tart and slightly herbaceous. I know what you are thinking and you need to wipe the drool off your mouth. It really was that good. The wine pairing for this course was a Donhoff Riesling 2011. This light colored wine was very drinkable. The nose was floral with hints of honey and slightly medicinal. The flavor was light, off dry with apple, honey and I know this will sound a little strange, or not, but I tasted mint too. It worked with the food brilliantly but could easily be enjoyed on its own. At $20.00 a bottle I would reserve it for company. It will impress them. The riesling gave a sweetness to the whole dish that made it feel almost comforting to me. I would say this was my favorite course but then we had the 3rd course and I liked it even better.
But before we get to it LeBeau explained the value the German’s have placed on their labeling. There is a lot that goes into a wine label and those Germans like to be specific, (I can say that because of my dad), and they don’t skimp just because a wine label is small. As the Von Trapp children asked Maria”What does it all mean?” I will use pictures pages to explain.
The 3rd course was delicious. Coreen made a cider glazed pork with LeBeau’s cole slaw, (I WANT that recipe!), and an apple cranberry tart. Can you say Fall Harvest!? It was paired with a Georges DeBeuf Boujelais. I have to preface this course commentary with I am not a fan of boujelais and this tasting did not improve my opinion. The food was off the charts. The pork was nicely cooked and I was expecting some tartness from the cider but I think it just infused a deeper sweetness to the meat that made me want more. The coleslaw was crunchy, bright and light and was a wonderful offset to the tender pork. The tart finished the course up with more lightness and crunch. This was my favorite food course. The wine was scarlet in color and smelled like raspberries. The flavor was red berries and very acidic. Deb felt the food made it even drier. Bryan liked this course the best while Tracy felt the pairing was “just ok”. I felt neither enhanced or diminished the other. It was kind of flat as pairings go. For those who love beaujolais this one is very reasonable at $7-8.00 a bottle.
In between this course and the next Chris Pawloski from Palm Beach Organics gave us a mini-class on the history of organic labeling. Take it away Chris!
The 4th course was classic, classic, classic… Spaghetti and meatballs with garlic toast and chianti. While I enjoy Coreen’s style of plate presentation I have to say this one gave me a tickle. The sweet haystack of pasta with the sauce on top and the meatball next to it with the garlic toast put me in mind of one of my mom’s favorite restaurants in St. Louis called Rich and Charlie’s. They served the best spaghetti and meatballs and they stacked the pasta just like Coreen did only it was a MUCH bigger stack. They also did an amazing antipasto salad that made us feel like we were from the “old country”. Back to this meal…. The chianti was from Ducarusso. It was rust color and smelled like raisins and cedar. The flavor was light bodied with tanin and acid as well as the raisins and cedar. The bottle itself was the coolest with Italian Artwork. Who knows the work? Anyone? Anyone? Paired with the tangy tomato sauce of the spaghetti the tannin and acid were reduced and the fruit was brought to the forefront. The food transformed the wine and for this reason it was my favorite course of the day!
The final course was a palate cleanser and a fun little treat. Coreen took white grapes, dipped them in caramel and rolled the end in nuts. She then froze them. Holy frozen treats Batman! These were awesome! I am sad to report I was so busy scarfing them up I forgot to take a picture. You will just have to take my word for their sweet deliciousness.
That does it for this tasting my friends. We head to Sonoma on September 26th for a wine vacation! I will be diligently taking notes and pictures. I will have one hell of a recap when we return! Until next time, read those labels and eat as close to home as possible!