Saturday, November 14, 2009

Jambalaya and Wine Pairing

Phew, nothing done here for quite a while, huh? Amazing what being back to work full time in the wholesale business can do. Sorry. Time has flashed by, but I intend to find some time to keep up with this again. I have some concerns about either hyping or denigrating wines in my own portfolio. At the same time it makes little sense to spend much effort building up the competition. So, where does this go?
I plan to focus on wines that are outstanding in my portfolio as well as others that truly shine, even if it is the competition. There will also be a focus on pairing wine and food. Lots of people talk about it and mention it in reviews, but rarely are articles written focusing on that alone.

Making some classic New Orleans dishes and testing them out with a number of wines to see what works will be a regular feature here as well. I will discuss the dish, and the wines, and then how/if they worked. This was done a while ago, and shopped as a feature article to no success, so some of the wines are a bit out of date, but the matching is still applicable. I will present the results of the Jambalaya tasting here in two parts, enjoy.
The Jambalaya was a cross of brown and tomato based. Some dark roux was present, but tomatoes were as well. Chicken and sausage (green onion) were included. The dish was flavorful but not particularly spicy. I tasted the wines on their own, then with the jambalaya and then with jambalaya and Crystal hot sauce (simply the best around - heat, but not overwhelming and lots of flavor). I attempted to find solid, representational bottles in each category at reasonable prices. The goal was to find a style of wine that would work, rather than one 'magic' vintage and producer.

Theo Minges Riesling 2006, Pfalz (Liter bottle) - Importer: terry Theise, Michael Skurnik. retail $16-$18. Always a good bargain in German Riesling, the wine shows some of the exotic notes of Pfalz but the grounding of Mosel. There is pear and green apple with good viscosity. It feels sweet, but finishes clean with texture and acid that reminded me of kiwi. I chose this wine because it is a good example of German Riesling and many people gravitate to Riesling with spiced/spicy dishes. With the food I found the wine's presence persevered, finishing limey even with a bite of sausage. The pairing was solid enough, but there was no synergy, no boost to both the food and the wine by marrying them together. It handled the inherent spice of the dish well, but once hot sauce was added it was completely overwhelmed. It did not clash at all, just got lost. There was no reason to seek out this pairing again, but I would not avoid putting a decent Riesling in my glass at a party where jambalaya was served.

Dry Creek Fume Blanc 2007, Sonoma County- retail $12-$15. I have always found this style to bridge the gap between the extremes of France (in minerality and raciness) and New Zealand (in bodacious bouquet and flavor). It does not reflect the fatter, riper, sometimes oaked, California style too much. I find it reliable, and well priced. There is juicy stone fruit, almost the grapefruit of New Zealand, but with more unctuous palate feel. It is fun to drink. Kiwi and lemon/lime are subtle on the back end, almost a touch of clove there as well. The acidity is a bit tingly, but not aggressive. As it warmed up a bit, more fig notes (classic California) came through, especially on the nose. On its own it worked but the intense fruit actually overwhelmed the dish a bit and added nothing. It held its own with spice, but again, there was no reason to seek Sauvignon Blanc out to have with jambalaya. I could see it working better with chicken and shrimp, but so would other wines. Overall, safe, decent, nothing to make a hard and fast rule about one way or the other. I could NOT see a typical Fume Blanc (i.e. Ferrari-Carano) with big wood showing, working at all.

Domaine de Fontsainte Gris de Gris Rose 2007, Corbieres - Importer: Kermit Lynch. retail $12-$15. The classic, slight orange (copper, salmon) color of southern French Roses - I always know I will love them. The nose is very shy, perhaps the bottle started too cold? Floral notes began to appear with air and the palate shows good texture. There is a subtle berry note, especially strawberries on the finish, which shows good dryness while staying juicy and refreshing. The jambalaya overwhelmed the delicate fruit and the wine showed too much dryness to pair well before hot sauce was added. With hot sauce, surprisingly, it worked better. The pairing actually worked well. It was the first wine that made me really sit up and take notice of the wine and the food. Bravo, another win for Roses! (I confess to loving Rose wines and their ability to pair with so many dishes.)

Hahn Chardonnay 2006, Monterey - retail $10-$13. This is a classic California Chard with the oaky, toasty thing going on, but it also reflects the new style of keeping the acids lively for balance. It is reasonably priced and has some acidity to balance the richness. I found round, soft oak with a creamy texture and some toast on the back end, not quite to the extreme of butter; dare I say while it was not butter, it was close enough, perhaps margariney? Will you let me get away with that? The finish is long and toasty. I found the toast of tha oak dominated the food, perhaps if the meats had been smoked first? The addition of hot sauce only further muddied the waters. I see no reason to pour a glass of Chardonnay with jambalaya, I might even go get a beer, or soda (Barq's please) if faced with the choice.