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WINE AND FOOD WEDNESDAY
09/29/2010
Wine And Food Wednesday
On A Desert Island

By Stephen Eliot

When not tasting and writing CGCW, I spend much of my time at the front of a classroom teaching wine appreciation to student chefs at San Francisco’s California Culinary Academy, and one of the most-often asked questions thrown my way is “what is your favorite wine”.Desert Island--pass the Pinot Now, my usual reply is simply that I have no favorite; that everything depends on the mood, the meal and the moment. Not long ago, however, one of my charges rephrased the query in a way that I could not escape through my tried-and-true equivocation. The question went something like this: “if you were on a desert island and could have a steady supply of only one wine for the rest of your life, what would that wine be?” Now that was actually something to think about, and, when the thought had run its course, my answer turned out to be West Coast Pinot Noir. Mind you that Riesling was a real contender, but, assuming that my meals were not limited to island fare such as coconuts, bananas and such, Pinot would win out both for its inherent stand-alone beauty and its remarkable versatility at the table. There are few varieties that are as comfortable with such a wide range of recipes ranging from flavorful meat entrees to poultry to meaty fishes to a host of vegetarian preparations, even some dishes employing tomatoes. And fine Pinot is compulsively drinkable even when not accompanied by food.

It has been called among other names, the “heartbreak grape” and the “nightmare grape”, and it has been called the “perfect grape” as well, and experience teaches that it can and has earned every epithet aimed its way. One its principal appeals is that it can succeed in a number of styles from firm and light-bodied to full and downright opulent, but even its biggest and boldest versions are free of the tannic astringency that limits so many rich reds to service with hearty, tannin-taming meat dishes. “Great” matches may take a bit of fine tuning (Oregon versions with salmon and tuna, those from Carneros and the Russian River Valley with duck and pork, lamb and juicy cuts of beef as a foil to the fuller renditions from the Santa Lucia Highlands for example), but “good” matches come as easy as pulling a cork, and when you start asking chefs and wine lovers to pick to their favorite matches, the menu seems nothing less than endless. I will never tire of great Cabernet Sauvignon with the perfectly grilled steak nor forego complex Chardonnay with lobster in sauce or Sauvignon Blanc with a platter of oysters, but if I had to select a single bottle not knowing what the meal was to be, there is no safer, more-likely-to-please pick for my palate than fine Pinot Noir.

Comments

which for dinner
by ThomasPellechia
Posted on:9/29/2010 6:18:02 AM

Whenever i am out to dinner with a group of non-wine geeks and I am asked to pick the wine, I often select a Pinot Noir and a Riesling

I figure that those who like white will be happy, those who like red will be happy, and those who like pairing wine with food will be happy.

It Took A Long Time
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:9/29/2010 7:53:11 AM

It took CA a long time to finally get it right with Pinot Noir. Thankfully, folks did not give up, and years of dull, heavy Pinots--admittedly with a few fine wines from the folks at Hanzell, Chalone, Joe Swan, and earlier on from Martin Ray and Andre Tchelistcheff--to be replaced by the groundswell of plantings in such suitable locations as Carneros, the Russian River Valley and Santa Barbara County.

Finally, in 1990, in a cool year that produced wines with acidity and fruit, we saw an across the board shift that continues to today and has made Pinot into a major player.

desert island wine
by Steve Heimoff
Posted on:9/29/2010 8:10:54 AM

I think a desert island would be too hot for Pinot. My choice: Champagne! (But I'd need someplace to chill it.)

chilling it
by ThomasPellechia
Posted on:9/29/2010 10:15:42 AM

Steve,

 

It's an island--water all around you for chilling...

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