Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Great Tasting – Tapas and Wine Pairing

I would like to take a break from the winemaking this week to tell you about a wonderful wine and food program I did for Iron Gate Winery on the last Saturday of January.   There is a lot to be learned about the interaction of wine with food and how they change each other.  One couple emailed after the event saying that they never realized how much they could like other types of wine than the ones they had always drunk until this wine and food pairing opened their eyes.  The wine was made by Debbie Stikeleather, winemaker and co-owner of Iron Gate Winery in Mebane, NC.  The food was catered by Marg Cobb of Sonny’s Catering in Graham, NC – an awesome chef and wonderful to work with.  My job was to match the right wine with the complementary food and provide some wine-related education.

The evening featured tapas – literally, “small dishes” – very popular in Spain and gaining popularity in the United States as an excellent way to have several small tastes of food, or appetizers, as your meal.  The program consisted of the following:

Appetizers: Chick pea hummus and flatbread, freshly made by Marg, along with cheese and fruit.  We had the 2006 barrel fermented Chardonnay with this course.  It was a superb introductory wine for the evening, having very nicely balanced buttery oak character and some Granny Smith apple flavors often found in Chardonnay, along with some vanilla in the finish.

First Course:  Zesty Shrimp with Chipotle Aioli:  This awesome dish was created by coating fresh shrimp with salt, pepper, cayenne and flour and frying them in oil (no breading).  They were then served with an orange marmalade, mango, chipotle pepper, adobo sauce combination.  It had just enough heat.  We tried two wines with this one.  Usually something with a little sweetness is very good with food that has some spicy heat.  The first wine was Country Blooming, which is a Riesling having about 2% residual sugar and the second wine was the Pack House Red, which is a blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Chambourcin with 1% residual sugar.  While many people liked the Riesling, the Pack House Red with this dish was a marriage made in heaven.  It had just enough sweetness to compliment the food.

Second Course:  White Bean Olive Salad with Citrus Dressing.  I chose the Brightleaf White for this course.  It is a blend of Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, and Seyval blanc.  This is a dry but soft wine with some apricot and mango flavors that went very well with the citrus in the salad.

Third Course:  Potatoes Bravas.   These potatoes were cut into wedges and well coated with paprika, chili powder, and cumin and cooked with some olive oil.  They were served with a balsamic reduction sour cream dipping sauce.  The choice of wine with this was Merlot.  The Merlot worked well because it is not a really heavy duty red wine…medium body with nice hints of vanilla and cherry.  It did not overwhelm the potatoes but had enough character to stand up to the sauce.

Fourth Course:  Beef Empanadas Pico.  Empanadas look like little fried pies or baked pierogi, depending what part of the country you live in.  The dough is flaky and the filling in this case was a spicy ground beef.  These were served with a mixture of chopped onion, cilantro, and tomato, with salt and pepper, in olive oil.  Our wine selection was the Cabernet Sauvignon, which actually has a little Merlot blended in to make it more complex.  This wine has good body with aromas of black cherry, chocolate and tobacco.  It is a very smooth, rich wine that complimented the beef very nicely.

Dessert:  Carmel Flan with Crumbled Pistachios.  This was such a delightful finish…..delicious, smooth, just enough sweetness and not too heavy.  We served it with the newest wine at the winery called Once in a Carolina Blue Moon.  The name fits perfectly because there is a possibility it will not be possible to be duplicate it.  2007 was a very serious drought year in North Carolina and there was what is now dubbed the “Easter Freeze” which consisted of four nights of weather in the low twenties and high teens, effectively killing many buds on the grapevines.  This cut the crop drastically all over the state.  Therefore, Debbie blended together what she had of her various white grapes and made it 10% residual sugar to come up with a glorious dessert wine.  The pairing with the flan was perfect as neither the dessert nor the wine overwhelmed each other.  The rich, tropical fruit character of the wine and the caramel from the flan went beautifully together.

You can see pictures of the dishes from this dinner on the Iron Gate Winery website.  If you live anywhere near this area and want a marvelous caterer, Marg can be reached at 336-227-2105.  And, of course, please visit Iron Gate Winery, experience their wonderful hospitality, and taste these well made wines for yourself.

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