St. John’s / Chatt Wine Daring Pairings Review ~ Written by Michelle Richards

Rajat Parr, one of the most famous sommeliers in the world, said, “I take wine and food pairings very, very seriously,  except  when  I  don’t.”

Pairing wine and food is probably one of my favorite parts about my job. I enjoy the technical side of pairing, but if you stress too much about it, it can diminish the enjoyment of the pairing. Recently, I did an event with Chatt  Wine  at  St.  John’s Restaurant called Daring Pairings-exploring obscure grape varieties from obscure regions  paired  with  Chef  Rebecca  Barron’s  adventurous  plates.  We  wanted  to have  people  step  out  of  their   comfort zones, but still have the pairings make sense.

It was probably one of the best tastings that I have ever done. I said this before the event even happened. The process of researching obscure wines that I never heard of before and trying them with small plates that were really out of the box was a lot of fun. “It excites me to think outside of the typical wine dinner, it gives me the opportunity to get a little weird with it,” said Chef Rebecca Barron.

First course

Hawaiian Ahi Tuna Sashimi with seaweed salad, jalapeño pepper, sycamore farm’s carrot & ginger

Wine: Durello Brut Dama Del Rovere NV Veneto, Italy

The Durello Brut is a wonderful sparkling wine made in the historical Soave Classico zone in the province of Verona. The name Dama del Rovere comes from the small statue of the Madonna, also known as the Virgin Mary, which lies in an oak-tree on their property. The Pra family has been producing wines in this region for a relatively short amount of time comparatively, however that does not take away from the artisanal wines they are producing.  Durello  sparkling  wines are produced exclusively  from  the  “durella”  grapes,  native  to Brenton, at an altitude of up to 500 meters above sea level with a volcanic soil.

This spumante wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks and secondary fermentation takes place for 90 days. Truthfully,  when  blind  tasting  this  wine,  it  is  hard  to  believe  that  it’s  not  champagne.  The  dominant  yeasty   notes blend with white pepper and apples on the nose show the true quality of this wine. The palate is dry with lively fruits, which was perfect with the Hawaiian Ahi Tuna Sashimi dish.

Second Course

Red Watercress & Arugula Salad with house cured antelope pastrami, garbanzo beans & harissa aioli

Wine: Red  Roditis/Viogner  “Foloi”  Mercouri  Estate  ‘10 Korakochori, Greece

The Mercouri Estate is located in the Western Peloponnese on the plateau of the Ichthis peninsula near the village  of  Korakochori  (“the  place  of  the  crow”).  The  estate  has  been  making  wines  since  1864,  with  four   generations of wine-makers. Brothers Vassilis and Christos Kanellakopoulos manage the estate now and have brought modern day wine practices to revitalize the estate and vineyards.

“Foloi”  is  the  main  white  wine  of  the  estate.  It  is  produced  using  (90%)  red  Roditis  from  high  elevation   vineyards and (10%) Viognier. The estate grows more than fifteen different grape varieties with most of them being from Greek origin but they do plant some French varieties.

The color is a clear yellow-green with a nose of intense perfumes of flowers. Also, there is dominant citrus fruits, green apples and peaches. I love the richness from the viognier grape but still balanced by the citrus fruits of the red rodiits. The richness of the antelope followed by the crispness of the salad really worked well with the characteristics of the wine.

Third Course

Smoked  Maple  Leaf  Farm’sDuck  Breast  with white sweet potatoes & cherry compote

Wine: Blaufrankish  “Blue  Franc”  Shooting Star ‘11  Horse  Heaven,  Washington

Blau  Frankisch,  literally  “blue  grape  from  France.”  Jed  Steele,  winemaker  for  Steele  wines,  went  to  Austria   and was impressed by the Lemberger grape, also known as Blaufrankish. Most of these wines are not exported out of Austria, but Washington recently has been producing quality wines from this grape. Blaufrankish is known  to  be  full  of  berry  fruit  flavors  with  a  dominant  “dusty”  quality  to  it.  This  wine  definitly  has  a  new   world spin on it, but I thought it pair perfectly with the delicate duck breast and cherry compote.

Fourth Course

Star Anise & Vanilla Panna Cotta with black walnut, kumquat & mint

Wine: Piedirosso/Aglianico  “Lacryma  Christi”  Feudi di San Gregorio ’10  Campania,  Italy

Lacryma Christi, or tears of Christ, is one of the most traditional wines from Campania. There are many legends that explain the name Lacryma Christi. One being that, Lacryma Christi has been produced since the Roman  Empire  and  as  the  monks  didn’t  have  any  filtering  equipment,  juice  was  instead  passed  through  a   canvas. As the wine fell drop-by-drop through the material, it was said to look like tears. Feudi di San Gregorio makes awesome wines out of the Campania region, around the great Mount Vesuvius in a volcanic soil. After both Chef Rebecca Barron and I tasted this wine, we  both  decided  that  we  wanted  to  do  an  “earthy”   dessert. We wanted to highlight all beautiful non-fruit flavors that this wine presented. So we decided to use ingredients such as star anise and black walnut to be vessels in showcasing this wine.

Originally the event was supposed to be at the Meeting place, but we had such a overwhelming response that we  had  to  move  the  event  into  our  Hunt  Room  at  St.  John’s  Restaurant.  I  encourage  you  to  try  a  daring  pairing   this weekend!

~ Michelle Richards, St. John’s Restaurant

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