Oenophilia – An obsessive disorder or just a way of life?

Swirl, Sniff, and Spit with your friend, Patrick

Archive for Dinner

Cute Little Bottle!

So here I am, minding my own business, looking through our wine closet for something to drink with dinner.  All of a sudden, it jumps out and grabs me!  This cute little innocuous bottle that was standing on a shelf (ignored for Bacchus-knows how long) demanded to be consumed. I have no idea from whence it came.  A 375 ml, dark green, bottle that could best be described a portly.

Turns out my little buddy is from Villa Sparina in Dolcetto d’Acqui, Gavi, Italy.  The 2000 <<Bric Maiolo>> was imported by Domaine Select Wine Estates, meaning it could have been a gift from my old friend Jeffrey Meisel who I met when he managed the Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant – Oh so many years ago.   Well in the end…Who cares where it came from? It’s open and in my glass now!

This Dolcetto is dark, blood red, just starting to show a little age on the edges.  Ripe plum, black olive, almond, and licorice all teased my nose really peaking my interest in what is to come. The mouth is just as interesting. Add other fruits like black cherry and red berries, and lavender to the mix with very soft chalky tannins rounding the mouth as the finish shows cedar and spice, a little tangerine peel and juicy acids that go long.

It paired nicely with my wife’s lovely Butternut Squash Risotto, but I could easily imagine it with Salumi or other savory meats.

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Wine in Context, Dinner in Context

I adore wine. I taste wine and share my opinions on particular wines with anyone who reads this blog. Nonetheless, to me the most important quality in a wine is how it tastes with and affects accompanying food. We don’t always eat elaborately well-planned meals that we have perfectly paired with a wine that was suggested by a Master Sommelier. Sometimes we just eat dinner. Inspired by the recent writings of Jill at Domaine 547, here’s a look at last night’s “It’s 6:30. What should have for dinner?”

I opened up the refrigerator door and found not much. I opened up the pantry and found not much. I opened the door to consider a trip to the grocery store and found much: a constant downpour that made me close the door and pray to the muse of culinary inspiration. Looks like a pasta night.

We are blessed here in this little town of Healdsburg in that I have many shopping alternatives in the SLO food movement – Sustainable, Local, and Organic. I try to stay away from chains and supermarkets and do as much of my shopping in locally-owned small businesses as possible. This keeps my little green conscience slightly assuaged from all the other ways in which my size 13 carbon footprint stomps on dear old Gaia. However, sometimes I do get pulled in by the glamour of Whole Foods and the bargain quirkiness of Trader Joe’s. So I reached for Trader Giotto’s (Joe’s, for those not up on the lingo) Italian Tomato Starter Sauce – basically Pasta alla Checca in a box. Pretty yummy on its own, but I felt a need to justify my existence in the kitchen so I added a pinch of Persian Allspice from Boulettes Larder in the S.F. Ferry Building Foodie Orgy Fest. This powdered blend of rosepetals, cinnamon, cardamon, and cumin have made me look oh, so much of a better cook than I am on many an occasion. The result was poured over some pasta (imported from Italy, so it could have have a carbon footprint of as much as 2000 lbs of CO2) and served up with some rock-hard Reggiano from the back of the cheese drawer. In the end, pretty yummy.

As a winemaker who often reviews wines, I have made a point of not reviewing any wines I have had a hand in making. However, since I am just telling you about my dinner, I will make an exception. We popped open a bottle of my wife’s Chateau Felice 2002 Zinfandel Reserve from her family’s Chalk Hill estate; we both worked at CF from its inception until October of 2006. This wine is a zin made in the elegant “claret” style – not big, jammy, sweet, or high in alcohol. It is, though, quite a mouthful that is packed with a broad range of fruit and spice and finishes with great acid.

Then we had it with the aforementioned Persian-spiced Tomato Checca. Disaster! The wine tasted hot, sharp, and way too acidic. Bummer. My wife sadly attributed it to the wine seeming to have passed its prime early. I defended her -“Good Husband! Good Boy!” – and immediately decided it was not the wine, but the pairing. Ta Da! This is a job for SUPER GEEK! I pulled one of my old tricks from my super utility belt and dashed a little balsamic vinegar and a little sea salt on the tomato sauce. Lo and behold…the zinfandel was tasting pretty darn good and we dined happily ever after. Well, at least until I had to endure the screams as I brushed my five year-old’s long curly hair before bed.

So what happened? My buddy’s gypsy-godmother’s trick of using the sweetness of balsamic with a little extra salt at the table adjusted how I perceived the acids in both wine and sauce and made them compatible. I’ve tried this trick with ratatouille, asparagus, and several other stereotypical pairing faux-pas and it has worked every time. The best result of this dining adventure? I did, in fact get to enjoy a yummy wine that otherwise would have gotten poured into the carboy we keep to make our own aromatic red wine vinegar.