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Wine and Food Wednesday
Monday Was Labor Day

By Stephen Eliot

Monday was Labor day, and it seemed downright un-American not to fire up the grill and cook outside. As I have been on the road a good deal these last couple of weeks, I opted to let my kids choose the menu. Hamburgers, potato salad and corn-on-the-cob were the unanimous choices. Something cold, foamy and hoppy would have no doubt been a good beverage choice, but I was in the mood for something vinous, and since the kitchen counter was lined with a fair number of Pinots from recent CGCW tastings, Pinot Noir was elected pretty much by default.

Admittedly, sweet corn, catsup, pickles, etc., are not the first things I think of when planning a menu to show off Pinot at its best, but, more than simply being a handy choice, Pinot did seem a good candidate for dinner drinking as its rather temperate tannins make it a fine foil to foods that intimate a bit of sweetness. I have long found the more tannic reds to be made uncomfortably gruff and astringent when teamed with anything that smacked in the least of sweetness, and, truth be told, the few Pinots we tried did a dandy job in washing down the holiday meal. The fuller and fruitier ones such as the luscious August West Russian River Valley 2009 fared the best, but even those favoring structure such as the Mount Eden Vineyards Santa Cruz Mountains 2008 were tasty and surprisingly complementary guests at the table.

Now, Pinot has always struck me as one of the more accommodating red wines around, but I was surprised at just how well it worked with grilled corn in its husk that had been finished in a light lime aioli and rolled in ancho chile powder and a bit of crumbled Cotija cheese. Any number of fruity, low-tannin reds from Dolcetto to Grenache to lighter Zinfandel should also do the trick, and, given how well the corn tasted when washed down with a splash of Chandon’s Unoaked Pinot Noir Rose Carneros 2007, I suspect that most anything pink would be welcome as well.

This particular dish was inspired by classic Mexican street fare and is a simple, easy-to-prepare recipe we had been tinkering with hereabouts over the last several days. In all modestly, Monday’s version turned out to be so downright delicious that we plan on reprise service this weekend, and I thought I would share it here. Buen apetito!

  • 4 ears of fresh, unhusked sweet corn
  • 3 Tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic granules
  • 1 Tablespoon ancho chile powder (or aleppo pepper, chile urfa, chile maresh, etc.)
  • ¼ pound finely crumbled Cotija cheese
  • Mix mayonnaise, lime juice and garlic together and let sit while the corn is grilled.
  • Pull back but do not remove the husks from each year of corn. Remove all cork silk and rewrap each ear as tightly as possible. Grill over moderate heat turning until barely cooked, four to eight minutes depending on how sweet and tender your particular corn is.
  • When the corn is finished, simply spread one Tablespoon of sauce on each ear, roll lightly in the Cotija cheese and sprinkle with a pinch or two of ancho chile. Salt and pepper to taste.


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