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WINE AND FOOD WEDNESDAY
03/02/2011
Wine and Food Wednesday
More than One Wine

By Stephen Eliot

The idea that there is somehow a singularly “perfect” wine for each and every plate of food is a notion so silly that none who write about wine would embrace it, and, I would argue, that even making a case that one varietal can or will outshine all others as a foil for a given dish is similarly the stuff of folly. When we talk of food-and-wine complementarities, we talk of possibilities, not absolutes. It is easy enough to say this or that tastes good together, and it is of use to place a detour sign or two around matches that are proven pitfalls, but the possibilities for pleasure when pairing food and wine are next to infinite.

No, this is no wholesale embrace of culinary anarchy on my part, and, as I have written in the past, I do hold that there are some broadly defined lines it might be best to stay within (e.g. no Dover Sole with Syrah; no lamb shanks with Muscadet, thanks very much), but beyond the constraints necessarily imposed by high tannin, shrill acids, overt sugars or flaring alcohol, there is no question that there are a great many wines and wine styles that will afford delicious drinking with a particular dish. The joy of discovery in finding new food-and-wine affinities, is after all the real fun of what we do. I would not want to drink the same First-growth claret or Grand Cru Burgundy with the same dish night after night after night.

The point was driven home once again last Sunday night when I felt the need for a rich bowl of pasta, and, wanting something other than tomatoes, I remembered an Umbrian recipe based on porcini and sausage that had once pleased immensely. My own modest version of Julia Della Croce’s utterly delicious Spaghetti alla Norcina, which can be found in her splendid little volume Umbria: Regional Recipes from the Heartland of Italy published by Chronicle Books, combines lots of reconstituted dried Italian porcini, sautéed onions, sweet sausage, a bit of ground fennel, a bare pinch of red pepper and a good cup or more of heavy cream. It proved to be the perfect Sunday-night supper, but more memorable was the way in which the dish so effortlessly worked with a downright disparate bunch of wines.

In rounding up the usual suspects, Zinfandel was the first in the line-up, and the 2007 OAKVILLE Napa Valley was a predictable hit. Next-up, a just opened bottle of Adam Lee’s outstanding new 2009 SIDURI Keefer Ranch Pinot Noir made its way to the table, and, though Pinot had not been what I was thinking when combining porcini and sausage, the deep and oh-so-juicy, ripe-cherry fruit of this one was a marvelous mate to the Spaghetti’s savory richness. Around the time when a second bowl seemed appropriate, I noticed a 2004 IO Santa Barbara Syrah left corked on the sideboard from the evening before. Why not, I thought; never say never and all that. It turned out to be the big surprise of the evening, and whereas the pasta had provided bottom, a kind of basso support to the soaring, high-toned fruit of the Siduri Pinot, IO’s Syrah in turn did the same for the spaghetti, and the combination, beyond being marvelous, found the dish shape-shifting a bit.

It is not at all uncommon that we talk of how a wine changes as it opens and is influenced by various foods, but here was an instance where the food itself showed different facets and faces depending on just what was in the glass. Each of the wines showed exceptional balance. I do not know their alcohol levels and did not bother to look, but none were in any way overdone, and none could be simply described as being “sweet” or “savory”. They were all different and they all spoke with an individual voice, yet they were all perfect partners to the dish, and I would be in all truth be hard pressed to pick a favorite. The remembered dish is now tagged staple in my kitchen repertoire, and I am already wondering at the three or four bottles that might their make their ways to the table the next time it is served. This is going to be fun.

Comments

Siduri Keefer Ranch
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:3/11/2011 8:54:52 AM

Worth noting that this is the very wine that caused the great PN Kerfluffle at the World of Pinot Noir event last week.

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