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.
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.
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.
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.
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