Friday, August 27, 2010

Bold Food with Bold Wines: Main Dish Salads

For the August 10 show, Jane wanted to cover Main Dish Salads, which is yet another challenge for the Southwestern Wine Guy. Salads can be a complex food and wine pairing choice. Many salad dressings have enough vinegar in their ingredients to clash with most wines. A vinaigrette dressing is a prime example. So the first rule is: do not drown your salad!

If making your own salad dressing, substitute balsamic for part of the vinegar component. Choose rice wine vinegar for a mellower flavor. Alternately, substitute fruit juices such as lemon or lime. When you do use wine vinegar, mix it with that bottle of red wine chilling in your fridge. At the bare minimum, let the dressing settle for a few hours before using. Jane disagrees with some of this so make sure to check out the show for her take on things.

The type of oil can also help or hinder. Fruity olive oils or oils derived from nuts will pair better. Spanish olive oil is one of Jane’s favorites, and I agree, it’s loaded with flavor.

Jane wants the salad to be bold and bright. Well that fits us to a “t” and in so doing she offers up various taco salads. Bold and bright also applies to the salad greens. Spicy greens dress up a salad and give it a nice zing. That also works with many wines, including dry Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, which pair with their citrusy notes. The wine should always have good acidity, of course so look for New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Alsace Riesling.

Here are some salad additions and types of wine that will pair well with them. Mushrooms add an earthy, woodsy note that works with many wines including earthy, leathery French reds from Bordeaux and Loire Valley. Grilled Portobello mushrooms are meat in flavor and texture, so reds that work with steak can pair here also.

Adding meat, be it chicken, beef, or fish will be a focal point for wines that typically go with those meats. Wines with herbal notes will work better with similar herbs added to the salad.

Croutons or crispy tacos will also add buttery components that are at home with an OB (oaky-buttery) Chardonnay. In fact, throw out the salad and just suck on the croutons. Alternately, try a Viognier or French-style Chardonnay and leave the salad alone.

Fruits can also help, fresh or dried. Anything from mandarin orange slices for citrus-based wines such as Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, to dried cranberries for a Pinot Noir or Beaujolais, can wake up the salad and the wine. Nuts, such as walnuts also add a nice earthy hit to a salad.

Grilled chicken in a salad, particularly with added spices expand the wine pairing palate to embrace red and white wines. The reds should not be overly tannic or heavily-bodied. Many Italian wines work well with chicken as it is a prime ingredient in many dishes.

Jim’s Wine Recommendations: Italian Reds from Piedmont

Barolo/ Barbaresco: These towns in Italy’s most northwestern province are home to the Nebbiolo grape, which makes very age-worthy wines. Sadly, these are often pricey. Dolcetto and Barbera grapes are also used in many Piedmont wines.

Produttori del Barbaresco Nebbiolo delle Langhe 2008 ($20-25): Medium bodied, with nice spice notes of white pepper, anise and violet. Perfect with sausages, ham and salami, pizzas and pasta with simple sauces, spicy food. A good entry into the world of Nebbiolo without breaking the bank.

Michele Chiarlo Barbera d'Asti 2007 ($16): This one uses the Barbera grape – not to be confused with Barbaresco, which does not. In this case the name of the grape precedes that of the town of Asti. Barbera is one of the premium red wine grapes for food-pairing.

Jane then reviewed another chicken salad; this one Chicken Rice Salad with Jalapeno Lime Crème Dressing. I knew I should have eaten before the show, yum!

Jim’s Wine Recommendations: White Wines

Let us all now sing the praises of this food-friendly grape. It seldom is paired with other grapes, or aged in oak, certainly not new oak. It has great acidity to handle many types of food; Asian Fusion should adopt this grape as its own. The lack of manipulation means the terroir of the grape will shine through. German, Alsace, Washington or New Mexico states all produce excellent versions.

Sauvignon Blanc: Another food-friendly grape that rises to the task when not bludgeoned with oak. The grassy, citrusy, herbal notes work with many types of salads. New Zealand varieties use no oak and have razor sharp acidity. Sancerre has mineral qualities that work with many salad ingredients. Pouilly Fume has just a kiss of French oak to go with its smoky quality and will harmonize with grilled veggies.

Joseph Drouhin Puligny-Montrachet 2005 ($48): The central part of the Côte de Beaune comprises an area predestined to produce great white wines, and Puligny-Montrachet is certainly one of its most glorious examples. A Montrachet can age up to 12-15 years. I know, a bit pricey, but once you’ve tried a good Montrachet there’s no turning back.

For Jane’s Terrific Scallop Salad, I suggested Muscadet, a wonderful seafood wine and Pouilly Fume, both from the Loire Valley. Finally, try New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Oregon Pinot Gris a fuller, richer wine than the Italian Pinot Grigio versions.

Jane’s Grilled Vegetable Salad with Warm Herb Oil Dressing would be at home with French Chablis. Also, Murphy-Goode Sauvignon Blanc, which is labeled “The Fume” to emphasize its crisp, smoky quality, which is a very dependable, reasonably-priced wine.

For Jane’s Summer Vegetable and Quinoa Salad, the nuttiness of the quinoa can work with Viognier or an earthy Pinot Noir, such as a Russian River Pinot. Enjoy cooking Jane’s delicious recipes and try some of my wine recommendations for a meal greater than the sum of its parts. Salut!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Bold Commentaries: Beefing it UP!

This is the second in my Bold Commentaries series of the show that ran July 27. Unfortunately, I wasn’t there, but in Urgent Care for a serious infection. Yuch! None the less, I had already done all the research and can guess what Jane Butel was going to cover.

Jane talked about meals to beat the summer heat. Even though we in New Mexico had a reprieve caused by monsoon-driven rain this is very good advice. She suggested doing an overnight roast on Thursday night for a whole weekend’s worth of meals—providing of course that everyone likes beef. Then she asked – I’m guessing here, of course -if there are any exceptions to red wine and beef.

There are always exceptions for those that love white, sparkling or rose wines. But in each case it is hard to justify from a food pairing standpoint. Those that have health issues with red wine can try Old World-styled Rose. The lack of tannins may work, and the flavor, if not the mouthfeel will match better than white or sparkling wines.

Red Wine Allergies
However, those that have health issues with red wine, tannins or sulfites in particular, might give organic wines a try. Many I’ve sampled are excellent. Mendocino County has a large number of organic wineries, more than the rest of the state combined. Those suffering from headaches – and not from over-consumption – may find they have an allergy to the many herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides of mass-produced wines.

Asthmatics will react to the sulfides present in most red wine. A low sulfite or neutral sulfite wine may be just the trick. The two classes of organic wines are labeled “made with organic grapes” which do add sulfites and “organic wine” meaning none is added.

Red Wine Suggestions
For the rest of us, what better excuse to open up the Burgundy, Bordeaux or Rhone wines we’ve been saving for the right moment. Napa Cabs, Central Coast Syrah and Zinfandel, Russian River Pinot Noir, all relish a good hunk of beef to pair with. “Beef and Cab, it’s what’s for dinner” Didn’t beefy actor Robert Mitchum say that? Or maybe it was his son, James.

This is where all those high tannin, big red wines can come to play. In a restaurant, when someone asks for “your driest red”, they must also mean, with your juiciest steak, because otherwise your mouth will stay puckered long after the kiss of a Cab. In fact you may even talk funny for a while. One rule of thumb, if you do select a very dry red, make sure your roast stays nice and juicy, or has lots of gravy to leaven the tannins curling your tongue.

Preparing the Roast
Download the MP3 file of the July 27 show to hear Jane explain how to roast an 8 to 10 pound brisket—with rub—overnight at a low temperature. She goes on to explain that Friday night dinner could be Roast Brisket with barbecue sauce if desired and stewed pinto beans, rice and pickled cole slaw. My response would have been as follows.

First off, let’s give that BBQ sauce the once over. Use a red wine base, if possible, and stay away from the commercial ones that often add too much sugar to hide an uninspired sauce. You can do much better in the kitchen, even if it’s your first attempt. I like a mix of chipotle and other chili seasoning myself and avoid the onion almost all BBQ sauces contain. That happens to be my allergy, and the reason I do so much cooking, because most prepared food and sauces contain onion.

This Week’s Wine Region: Lodi Zinfandel
If you favor Zinfandel, there are many inexpensive ones coming from Lodi, California. This AVA was made official in 1986 and contains seven defined sub-regions. Located between Stockton and Sacramento and bordering on Amador and Calaveras counties, Lodi is blessed with many rivers that spring from the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta.

Lodi supplies 44% of the state’s Zinfandel, and many of the oldest vines. Can you say, “Old Vine Zin”? This is where you’ll find many. The Old Ghost vineyard has 90-year old vines producing just ½ ton per acre, which is why many in the state are ripped out or replanted to get yields up much higher. The head-pruned Zinfandel vines sink their roots deep into the sandy soil, providing rich, but soft wines that go perfectly with any beef. Zinfandel is California's grape, and in Lodi Zinfandel is the king.

Nestled between the Sierra Foothills and the San Francisco Bay Delta, Lodi offers the ideal climate for producing ripe full-flavored Zins. The Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta’s distinctive bay delta breezes cool the region in the afternoon and evenings creating the characteristic Lodi Zinfandel - ripe forward fruit with soft polished tannins. Two examples from the Michael David Winery are listed below.

7 Deadly Zins 2007 Zinfandel Michael David Winery, Lodi ($17.99): Plumy and pepper nose yields blueberry, raspberry, black pepper and spices on the palate. It will cozy up to that Texas brisket like symbiotic twins. A blend of grapes from each of the sub-regions this is one of my favorite under $25 Zinfandels.

2007 Earthquake Zinfandel Michael David Winery, Lodi ($28): Which earthquake? The 1906 San Francisco quake, which ripped through northern California the year these Zinfandel vines were planted. “Over the top and shattering to the veins” is how they describe this limited release reserve wine. Sounds scary, but I’d give it a try. Also check out Earthquake 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and Syrah, all $28.

Saturday Night Dinner
Jane has good ideas for that Saturday night dinner—a hot weather special with cold sliced brisket with salsa, warm flour tortillas or crusty bread and corn on the cob.

The type of salsa will influence the wine, but lots of spicy red wines work including Rioja, Tempranillo, and Sicilian Nero d’Avola, and a good Lodi Zinfandel as they work the spice and black pepper into many of their wines. For the faint of heart, an oaky, buttery California Chardonnay will rock with the corn on the cob and crusty bread slathered in butter. There are many New Mexico wines that fill in admirable here as well.

Milagro 2007 Chardonnay ($20): This is an easy recommendation as the Hobsons have been crafting great wines for many years. This wine won a gold medal at the SF Chronicle wine competition, the largest in the US. Check here for my article in It is not an oaky, buttery Chard, however, but more like a French Chabis, and that’s loads better.

Luna Rossa 2007 Montepulciano: This wine crafted by Paolo D’Andrea is just now making it to stores in New Mexico. We gave this one a gold medal at the NM State Fair wine competition. It also won gold at Jerry Mead’s New World International Wine Competition. It sounds like word of great NM wines is getting out.

Sunday Brunch
Talk about leverage, we now go to brunch on Sunday for the last of that roast begun on Thursday night. Jane provides ideas for that brunch with guacamole, beef tacos and Green Chile Cheese Rice Casserole with sherbet and sorbet floats for dessert. Jane asks about sparkling wines and mixed wine drinks, such as Sangria and Mimosa.

Sparkling wines go with Sunday Brunch so often, particularly with Mimosa sparklers I always thought it was required by law in California. A question for y’all: How much does Orange juice cost compared to sparkling wines? If you say your orange juice is more expensive I hope it also overpowers the wine, which must be truly mediocre. Otherwise, make you own and offer guests their choice; straight or Mimosa. How hard is this, after all?

The same is true of Sangria. Choose your own cheap wine and fruit it up rather than paying extra for pre-mixed. Besides, most of us have one or two cheap wines we secretly love so why not hide it in a fun Sangria. Ole!