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Archive for the ‘Wine and food pairing’ Category

Anatomy of a wine dinner: part 3

Posted by fromagebob on April 5, 2011

Peter Figge

On April 12th, Società Dante Alighieri of Miami  will present what should be a stellar evening of wine and food pairing at Por Fin Restaurant in Coral Gables. Stellar, because unlike many wine dinners, Steve Stein, the wine director of the Dante, along with several willing volunteers (including this writer) gathered at Por Fin to taste the wines with the planned menu. It was a worthy exercise that resulted in a number of excellent combinations.

The wine chosen for the evening is made by Peter Figge, of Figge Cellars, in Monterey, California. Figge makes five wines: two Chardonnay, two Pinot Noir, and one Syrah. The Chardonnay is closer is style to Burgundy than California, while the other two varietals are more true to their terroir.

In my favorite pairing guide, What to Eat with What You Drink, the following are suggested pairings for these wines:

For Chardonnay, the suggestions cover a rather broad range – as do Chardonnays. Some of the suggestions include chicken in any form (baked, grilled, etc.), crab, white fish, lobster, salmon, scallops, shrimp, veal, and vegetables. Rich dishes, such as those with cream sauce, or buttery sauces, fare better with typical oaky California chards. Dishes that are more flavorful, especially grilled foods like salmon, scallops, and chicken, do better with a Burgundian style.

Pinot Noir is more appropriate for protein-based dishes, such as cheeses, beef, chicken, duck, mushroom dishes, pork, salmon, lamb, and tuna.

Syrah (one of my favorite wines) is a robust wine, and needs robust dishes, like barbecue, aged cheeses, grilled meats, mushrooms, sausages, and so on.

For the wine dinner menu, Chef Quant suggested the following:

  • An appetizer course of Fried Quail Eggs with Serrano ham and Truffle Oil, to be paired with a Prosecco Valdiviano, and passed to diners as they arrive.
  • A second course of Grilled Octopus atop Squid ink, Arborio rice, sautéed squid, sofrito, and green pea puree, paired with a Chardonnay
  • The third course of Irish organic salmon, potato crisps, tomato confit, Kalamata olive drizzle and crispy leeks, paired with a Pinot Noir.
  • A fourth course of Braised Short Ribs with Mahon Cheese Crust and Red Wine Sauce, paired with the Syrah.
  • A dessert course of a simple tropical fruit sorbet.

We started by trying the wines. Figge’s Chardonnays come from two vineyards: one from the Peilo vineyard, the other from the La Reina vineyard. The Pelio shows pineapple, light mineral, a hint of petrol, some mango, and tropical fruits on the nose, and was citrusy, flinty, and bright on the palate. It had a medium-long finish that was juicy and pleasant. The La Reina had a nose of light talc, vanilla, flint, pineapple, with a light floral note; on the tongue, we found orange peel, grapefruit, flint, white peaches and pears in a medium-long finish. Both wines had a good balance with nice acidity. Of the two Chardonnays, our favorite was the Pelio. More and more, wines are being regarded for their “cocktail” potential as much as for their food pairing potential, and quite often, the decision as to which wine to use with food comes from the cocktail, not the pairing, perspective.

Then came our first course: the grilled octopus. We started with the Pelio; it did not work well with the octopus. The food took on a bitter, slightly metallic flavor that was not pleasant at all. It turned out that the La Reina didn’t work well, either, but it paired nicely with the rice/sofrito/pea puree. In fact, the green pea puree was very good on it’s own with the La Reina; with the dish, it acted as a catalyst, pulling the ingredients together and creating a great compliment for the wine. A suggestion was made to substitute a grilled scallop for the octopus. The chef complied, and a pairing was made. The result was that our favorite of the two wines – the Pelio – was great on its own, but did not work in the pairing. La Reina became our choice.

We next tried the two pinots, one from Paraiso vineyard, the other from the Pelio vineyard. The Paraiso  showed cherry, smoke, a little earth, and some cardamom. On the palate, it gave cherries, tobacco, menthol, dark fruits, and some dried cherries. It had a medium finish, good acidity, and mild tannins. The Pelio was more towards the earthy side: smoke, forest floor, chocolate, and faintly herbal on the nose, with dried cherries, pepper, strawberries, and a hint of licorice in a medium-long finish.

Of the two we liked the Pelio best, and it turned out to pair best with the Salmon. The Paraiso went very well with the Potato Crisps, but the winner of the pairing was the Pelio. We expected there to be some clash with the olive drizzle, but that addition turned out to add a very nice note to the flavor profile of the pairing. Grilled salmon is a classic Pinot Noir pairing, and it certainly lived up to that billing in this combination.

Our final dish was the short ribs. Our task was slightly easier, given that there was only one Syrah, but we forged ahead: The Syrah is from the Sycamore Flat vineyard, and showed chocolate, dark berries, a hint of tobacco, and some slight herbal notes on the nose, with black raspberries, cherries, and plums on the palate. The body was light, with a good mouthfeel. Syrahs can have a fairly wide flavor profile, and an equally varied body. I felt that this body of this wine was on the lighter side.

The short ribs were delicious, but the initial presentation of a manchego cheese crust did not really compliment the wine; the suggestion was made to try a Cabrales blue cheese sauce, but that turned out to be a bit strong. The final combination that won us over was when the chef altered the sauce a bit, combining honey with the Cabrales; that toned down the sharpness of the cheese, and brought the dish into harmony with the wine.

It turned out that the fact that the Syrah had a ligher body fit in well with the fattiness of the short ribs, and the richness of the sauce. Blue cheese is one of the recommended pairings for Syrahs, and the combination of the honey and the cabrales (which tends to be a fairly strong blue) worked quite well.

The final menu became:

  • Tataki de Atun: Seared tuna, charred scallion, romesco sauce, paired with a Prosecco Valdiviano
  • Arroz Negro con Vieras: Squid ink, Arborio rice, sautéed squid, sofrito, and green pea puree served with a seared scallop, paired with 2009 La Reina Chardonnay
  • Salmon con patatas, tomate y kalamata: Irish organic salmon, potato crisps, tomato confit, Kalamata olive drizzle and crispy leeks, paired with 2009 Pelio Vineyard Pinot Noir
  • Costillas De Res: Por Fin’s famous short ribs served with carrot puree, sweet potato crisps, honey cabrales and red wine sauces, paired with 2006 Sycamore Flat Syrah
  • Sorbet de Coco con Espuma de Maracuya: Coconut sorbet served with passion fruit foam and mint granita

The next step will be the dinner! On April 12th, at Por Fin in Coral Gables. If you’re in town and you’d like to render your own opinion about our pairing prowess, please contact the restaurant at 305.441.0107, and join us! Otherwise, check back here later that week for what our diners thought of our efforts.

Read part 1…..

Read part 2…


Posted in California Wines, Wine, Wine and food pairing, Wine dinners | 1 Comment »

Anatomy of a wine dinner, part 2

Posted by fromagebob on March 28, 2011

Wine dinners are usually focused on a particular winery or winemaker’s wines. The idea is to showcase the food of a chef or restaurant in conjunction with the wine in a series of pairings that join a course with a wine. As with any pairing endeavor, the goal is to bring these two elements together, and create an experience that either transcends the original, or takes one of the components to new heights.

The basis for the pairings of wine and food often grow from a conceptual foundation; there are “rules” of pairings that guide the decision as to the foods to prepare, that – when combined with the specifics of a particular wine – present a probable dish that can be created to achieve the desired results.

In many wine dinners, though, the chef doesn’t have access to the wine itself, but only to the winemaker or the winemaker’s notes, or (at the very least) the pairings that are usual for the wine. The logistics and costs involved in supplying wines are often difficult to overcome, and the chefs often lack the time (or inclination) to go through the exercise of deciding how to modify their dish to match the wine. Ultimately, it’s the dish that has to give in, and that’s not always an achievable result.

In the case of the Figge wine dinner, it was possible to sit with several tasters, try the proposed pairings, and make suggestions back to the kitchen as to what adjustments might “adjust” the food to the wine, without sacrificing the quality of the food or compromising the chef’s vision. We also had the option of several different iterations of the wines; same vintage, but different vineyards, to further tune the experience.

The proof, as they say, will be in the “pudding…”

Read the previous entry…

Read the next entry…

Click over to our wine dinner page to check out the menu, or (better yet) to make reservations to join us!

Posted in California Wines, Wine and food pairing, Wine dinners | 2 Comments »

Anatomy of a wine dinner: part 1

Posted by fromagebob on March 21, 2011

Figge Cellars

Wine dinners are designed to give a winemaker the opportunity to showcase their wines paired with dishes prepared by a chef who wishes to showcase his or her talents. It’s not always an easy task; in many cases, the chef does not have the opportunity to try the wines in order to “tune” the dishes, relying instead on the particular style of the wine, the wine’s profile, and feedback from the winemaker as to the intended dishes.

The results are almost always interesting, sometimes with good results … and sometimes not.

The Societá Dante Alighieri of Miami, in conjunction with Por Fin restaurant and winemaker Peter Figge, are hosting a wine dinner at Por Fin restaurant on April 12th, 2011. I have had the unique opportunity to be one of the tasters, working with the wines and the chef to create pairings that really highlight the wine and the food. I’d like to share that experience with you!

Peter Figge is what I call an “accidental winemaker.” Trained as a viticulturist, Figge’s life was centered around helping growers in the Central Coast region of California grow great grapes. As with many sourcing vineyards, the families that Figge worked with had high hopes. But one of the difficulties of becoming a source for grapes is that without a track record, it’s hard to command attention, much less premium prices.

One of the vineyards asked Figge to make wines from their grapes, in order to “put them on the map” of premium vineyards. His first reaction was caution; his métier was growing the best grapes for others to use, but after some pressure from the family, he decided to give it a shot, and in 2004, using begged, borrowed, and rented equipment, started making wines. He’s still a grower at hard, but as you will see when you taste his wines, his artistry has encompassed a whole new dimension!

Read the 2nd part…

Click over to our wine dinner page to check out the menu, or (better yet) to make reservations to join us!



Posted in California Wines, Wine, Wine and food pairing, Wine dinners | 2 Comments »