I felt like a mail carrier last Sunday. “Neither snow nor tropical storm nor heat nor gloom of night stays these Gulpers from the sweet completion of their appointed courses.” Twenty plus devoted club members braved the bluster and rain of Tropical Storm Isaac to enjoy South African wines paired with traditional South African fare. Due to the inclement weather Cook’s Studio very kindly opened their doors to us at the last minute so we could be out of the rain. We missed you Bx, Sally and Corey!! Thank goodness the Tiki didn’t suffer any problems in the storm.
This event is one Coreen has long been wanting to do because she visited South Africa several years ago and fell in love with the country, the people and the wine. At the top of the afternoon she shared a couple of videos from the trip with her brother and I can see why she fell in love. The scenery was breathtaking and the “walk like an Egyptian” dancing with her brother was pretty cool too!
Onto the pairings!
The first course was a lovely set of appetizers. One was a small phyllo tart filled with caramelized onions, bleu cheese, and bacon crumbles. It was served just warm. The cheese was soft, the onions sweet and the bacon was well, bacon-y! The pastry cup gave a nice crunch to the small bite. It was delicious. The partner on the plate was a sweet potato haystack. This was a trifecta of goodness. Coreen mixed shredded potato, sweet potato and Chinese sweet potato then added a little beaten egg to make them stick and baked them off in muffin tins. The result was a crispy on the outside, soft on the inside nugget of potato. I could tell the potato flavor versus the sweet potato but it was my tablemate Ashley that mentioned the flavor of the Chinese potato. It was earthy sweet; kind of like a rutabaga. I love rutabagas! These savory bites were paired with a Raats Origin Chenin Blanc. This light bodied wine hails from the coastal regions outside Capetown South Africa. Raat’s Chenin Blanc is made entirely of the chenin blanc grape. It is fruity with a background note of mineral. There is also a light buttery quality to this wine which I found delightful.
Lebeau shared an interesting fun fact. This wine is aged in stainless steel tanks so there should be an absence of the creaminess but these wines get an extra aging step. For six months the wine sits on the “lees” or yeast and allowed to age. This process is called sur-lees. From Wine Wisdom, “Even when those little gods of wine, the yeast, have done their fermentation job, they still do good work on wine, adding flavour, aroma, body, structure texture, weight, complexity, even petillance (that’s a faint sparkle, not a petulant little wine), and both protein and tartrate stability.” Thanks to the lees the wine gets that lovely touch of creamy. The pairing was wonderful. The bleu cheese tart really balanced the wine. The sweetness lessened while the dryness increased. The bacon brought out the apple in the wine. The potato haystacks actually brought out the light mineral in the wine to the forefront and increased the sweetness in the potatoes. This pairing, for me, was new and interesting. I liked it a lot.
The second course was a LeBeau family specialty called Jollof Rice. It was filled with savory spices like turmeric, thyme and curry. Then he added chicken, onion, perppers, green beans, carrots which makes this a main course dish in my house. We got a little insight into Lebeau the boy as he shared with us the memory of his dad making this for him. That tidbit made the dish all the more tasty for me. When he brought the bowl to the table, for family style serving, my mouth watered from the amazing scent wafting from the bowl. Tasting was pure pleasure. The rice was creamy, the spice was more herbal and comforting rather than hot. It was paired with Jam Jar Moscato. Hailing from the Western Cape area this winery is known for its sweet wines. This moscato lives up to that reputation. It is filled with ripe stone fruit flavors like peach and apricot. For all its sweetness it is light enough to be enjoyed on its own. Now, I have to say while I love fruity wines I am not the biggest fan of very sweet wines. They remind me too much of one bad teenage experience with Annie Green Springs….enough said. I can say this pairing worked because the savory flavors of the rice dish tempered the sweet of the wine and I actually could taste the fruit and a light grassy note. The wine added a lovely sweet note to the dish and added a touch of moisture to the chicken which I appreciated. Jim didn’t think they wouldn’t work together until he tasted it and said it surprisingly really tasted great together. Kristina said, “It’s like having sweet tea; a bit of refreshing with the heartiness of the rice dish.”
The third course was another tasty example of South African foodie goodness. Bobotie is a casserole dish. It is made in two layers and each one, as delicious as it is on its own, makes the next one even better. The first layer is a meatloaf mixture made with ground beef, milk soaked bread, apricots, raisins, and spices. It is cooked together and then about 25 minutes before it is finished a custard mixture is poured over the top and it bakes until golden brown. It is the strangest, most delicious bread pudding I have ever eaten in my life! It was savory. It was creamy. It was sweet. It was eggy. My mouth felt warm from the curry and pepper. It had more going on than, a bunch of Gulpers on a trip to Sonoma! It was paired with a Fleur du Cap Pinotage. This dark red wine had notes of cloves and dark fruits like plums on the nose. The flavor was acidic with lots of tannin and smoke. The food made the wine taste peppery to me. This pairing didn’t really work for me. Actually, I think the Chenin Blanc would have been better.
The fourth and final course was a lot of fun. We did a blind tasting with this course’s wine. I led with what it looked like: scarlet in color, a defined meniscus and not much legs. The nose was smoke, ash, dark fruit like cherries or plums, a touch of mineral and vanilla. The flavor followed the nose with the dark cherry notes. It was acidic and tannic. It was more dry than sweet with a bit of mineral in it. I thought Old World but because it comes from South Africa it is actually considered New World. The finish was moderate to long with the tannin and vanilla lingering at the end. Have you guessed it? If you guessed Guardian Peak Merlot you are either brilliant or you knew already! Yep, it was a Merlot. We celebrated our amazing palates with a fondue of chocolate. Bananas, marshmallows, strawberries, pretzels, pineapple, and let’s not forget the bacon all got the chocolate love and I loved every bite. The pairing was ok. I like a bigger red like a shiraz or cab to got with chocolate but, I cannot lie, I didn’t push the glass or the plate away.
So there you have it! Another educational and entertaining day of food and wine with some of the best darn wine drinkers around. Don’t forget we head to Sonoma this month on the 26th. For those who aren’t able to travel this month Coreen and LeBeau are putting together a very special tasting on September 16th. The topic will be “Understanding Wine Labels.” It will be held at BxBeerDepot.