Food & Wine Challenges: what with what?

When a wine blogger comes to visit, it’s an occasion to pull out all the stops–and the corks–and open lots of wine!

And since we don’t live by wine alone, it’s also a great opportunity to enjoy some fine food!

Such has been the case with the recent visit by David Rodriguez of Puerto Rico who I met at the first Wine Bloggers Conference in 2008. He needed someone in country who could sign for wine and store it for him since it couldn’t be sent to Puerto Rico. With my mom’s consent, he started sending wine to the cellar (my cellar!) at her house, the house my grandfather built and moved into in 1961. (Read more about my grandfather’s cellar here.)

We started a few weeks ago with a salmon dinner up at the cellar where David was taking inventory and figuring out what to do with his wine collection. With the salmon, we enjoyed a Vincent pinot noir (from Portland Oregon) and a few other wines as well. A few days later, two of David’s friends from Los Angeles joined David and I for an amazing meal at Lou’s on Vine.

Then we had lunch at Paradise Pantry and went through the featured tasting (notes to come) and finally last night several of us gathered at my grandfather’s one more time. We started with some crackers and cheeses and opened up two white wines –Le Cigare Volant, a white blend of Roussanne and grenache blanc by Bonny Doon Vineyard and Wine Cast, a blend of roussanne and marsanne. David made his infamous “California ceasar” with smoked salmon, capers, avocado and more mixed with arugula while I seared ahi tuna and placed it on a bed of field greens, white stilton and apricots with a citrus champagne vinagrette and sesame oil.

The chemistry between wine and food never ceases to amaze me. I’ve tasted several Bonny Doon wines, including this one, but it did nothing for the tuna while the Wine Cast just made the food and the wine sing. When we tasted the wines with the salad David made, the Wine Cast was dull while the Bonny Doon shined bright.

Our next two courses were a pesto I made with arugula, rosemary and basil, and a bolognese sauce from Ferraros Restaurant to which I added  mushrooms and wine. The Bonny Doon was better with the pesto but probably not my first choice (I love NZ sauvigon blancs with pesto, especially ones with herbs like rosemary in them! I’ve been enjoying Brancott’s but I bet Wild Rock’s Infamous Goose would be great too!)  We tried two reds, Inkling Syrah and a Biali. These were both fabulous with both pasta dishes but especially with the meat sauce. (And somewhere I have more extensive tasting notes which I plan to add to this blog post!)

As my palate develops, I have come to appreciate the chemistry between wine and food. I am no longer willing to have a wine that doesn’t work with a meal. When the flavors combine, it’s big magic. When they don’t, it can be a big disappointment.

These days, when a wine doesn’t work well with what we’ve made for dinner, I open something else and then figure out a meal the next night that will go better with the wine.  I urge you to do the same: keep a number of wines around so that if one doesn’t work, another will.

So don’t blame the wine!

PS As I mentioned, I have a few more details plus photos to add to this post…but I am finding I have quite the backlog of wine blog posts so at this point I want to just get some of them–like this one– out there even though I know there’s more I’d like to do here…sigh! A wealth of wine–could be worse!

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