Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Wine Dinner Thoughts

Wine dinners are interesting for me because I'm cynical about the whole "wine pairing" thing. Actually I'm cynical about wine in general. For me, I like what I like. I don't buy into the "hints of licorice or green pepper" and similar flavor profiles in wine. Maybe my palette is weak but I miss most of those subtle characteristics oenophiles talk about. Quite frankly I think most of my customers do as well. So I concentrate on the bigger flavor signatures when I pair my food with wine. Tannins, body, oak, butter, grass and other fairly obvious tasting notes. Admittedly I know a whole lot more about food than I do wine and I'm pretty skeptical when it comes to the wine/food relationship. Sure I believe wine compliments food and vice versa but I also think it's a little over done. So with that being said I decided to choose a wine region that I'm not that familiar with nor very fond of. I did that as much for my education as I did for my guests enjoyment. As a result it was difficult choosing the wine for this dinner. No big names, no obvious pairings, no big Cali cabs and chards I've come to rely on. I stepped out of my safety zone for this one and it seemed that the guests had no problem making the leap with me. Not that we did anything bizarre with the wine pairings but we did serve two pinots, one of which came after the cab. I also changed the order of courses at the last minute. I realized at the last minute I would have to serve the scallop on a round plate because of "plate logistics" so I changed the order. The scallop would have to come after the ravioli because I wasn't going to serve the scallop on a round plate. That in my opinion was more important than the wine progression which I planned. The riesling and pinot gris were close enough in the "big picture flavor profile" that I felt I could get away with it.

I wasn't aware going in that Washington State cabs were on the lighter side. I really wanted a big cab to go with the beef and bleu course. As a result I served the beef roasted (as opposed to grilled) and chose a big a pinot to match with it. I also threw in some wild huckleberries to bring some of that mystical "berry" profile out of the Rex Hill reserve pinot.

I'm familiar with Big fire pinot gris and already knew what it would go with. (More about that later)I also knew the scallop would need some heat to go with the off dry riesling. I got the impression from some pundits that that was a questionable pairing but it turned out to be a crowd favorite.

The dessert wine was a little disappointing. I prefer a more syrupy profile so I decided to do a pear tart with goat cheese rather than the peaches (sans cheese) I was planning on.

All in all it was an educational experience for me and what appeared to be a very successful dinner for our guests. Logistically speaking things went well and a few lessons were learned on the food side as well. I will post a my thoughts on the food and the team effort in my next post.

I would like to thank everyone who attended and hope you had a good time.