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Wine And Food Wednesday
When Simple Dishes are Best

By Steven Eliot

We are deep into tasting new, very young Cabernet Sauvignons for the December issue of CGCW, and we have the stained teeth and tannin-numbed tongues to prove it. A couple of nights back, I felt the need for relief even though Cabernet is still very much on my mind and went rummaging through the cellar for something a little more temperate and friendly. I settled on a bottle of the 1992 Livingston Cabernet Sauvignon from the Moffett Vineyard and grilled up a quick rib-eye steak. Now, I just wanted to drink something a little less bold and blustery than our daily fare of late, and I did not make that particular choice with any eye to didactic discovery, but the evening meal was not only pleasant, it was a compelling reminder of one of what, for me, has always been a cardinal rule in food and wine pairing, and that is it is best to keep the food simple when pouring a very complex wine.

When Cabernet Sauvignon is well made and from a good site in a good vintage, it is easily among the more complex wines to be had, and, when patiently allowed to slowly grow into full maturity, it has few peers as far as layering and nuance and subtle detail are concerned. All that and more was confirmed with the savory backdrop of a simple, well-marbled piece of beef, and I cannot imagine that the addition of involved sauces or spices could have made the pairing in any way better.  The wine was supple and rounded and revealed flavors within flavors, and it seemed to offer more interest as a sip led to a bite led to a sip. The wine did not overpower, but it did take the lead if never by so much that my rib-eye became irrelevant. There was simply no competition but rather real affinity and remarkable concordance between what was on the plate and in the glass.

It was that moment of memorable matches when the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and, before long, as great wines can do, this one had me contemplating places and people and what the last eighteen years have seen.

There is history in older bottles, to be sure, and a perhaps a bit of veritas for those willing to listen to what such a wine has to say. I would not have its voice diminished or drowned out by an accompanying course. Perhaps my profession has marked me indelibly with a wine-first mentality, or perhaps I was simply too tired to think of too many things at once, but that night, at least, I was not thinking of structure or acid or alcohol levels more than I was wondering at just how sublime a wine could be.


by Samantha Dugan
Posted on:10/20/2010 7:45:41 AM

Steven, I was at a tasting on Monday, 89 grower Champagnes and I stood there thinking what a profoundly beautiful moment it be tasting such amazingly complex and elegant wines, which ones i should buy for the store, which ones I will buy for the next girl's weekend, I was stopped in my tracks by a couple young hipster type "wine professionals". "Tastes like Skittles" or "Too much red fruit" and "Just kinda hmmm, know what I mean?" and I wanted to shake them by their obnoxious little shoulders...that or beat them about the head. They were there looking for flaws and trying to impress one another with long lists of "what's not in this glass" so NOT what wine should be about. This, this piece of your is what I love about wine and the people that truly love it as well. I thought this was a lovely reminder and it helped wash those nit picking douchenozzles right off my palate so thank you for that.

Re: Bravo
by Stephen Eliot
Posted on:10/20/2010 9:09:40 PM

Thanks for the kind words Samantha. When one is in the business, as we both are, it is easy to lose sight of fact that there is some real beauty in all of this stuff. I would like to say that I do not, but after tasting, rating and writing day after day, yeah, I can sometimes do with a shake of the shoulders myself. The bottle that brought on my reveries was far from the "best" Cabernet I have had, but, for the moment, I could not remember better. I am pleased in my part in washing the nit-picking douchenozzles from your palate. 

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