Saturday, December 22, 2012

Winter Solstice Wine Tasting - 2012

What better way to celebrate the longest night than feasting with friends. I love planning these annual wine tastings and usually learn something new as a result of the research and preparation that goes into hosting. Then I get to discover even more when people bring fantastic new wines to my table with such delicious food pairings. This year was outstanding for new insights.

The theme was Progressive Wine Pairings, built around concepts presented by Jerry Comfort's Progressive Food Pairing Seminar I attended in November.

Before we got started with the meal, we played with the 5 tastes on a plate to see how food altered the taste of the wine. A taste of a sweet apple changed the character of the wine for the worse. Sour lemon enhanced the flavour. Bitter radicchio made a nice contrast.  What happened with umami mushroom was interesting - a lovely match at first with an aftertaste of bitter.  Throwing salt into the mix balanced the different tastes - it took the bitter edge off the umami, it added new dimension to the sour lemon.

Direct demonstration of some newly discovered pairing fundamentals: avoid serving food sweeter than wine; sour food is wine-friendly; a little bit of salt works magic; 'balanced' food will complement just about any wine.

I chose the Beringer wines for the 'five tastes' pairing because Comfort is their rep. These wonderful wines are less than $20 a bottle:

  • Beringer, Founder's Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, 2010
  • Beringer, Founder's Estate, Chardonnay, California, 2010

Off-dry and Light Styles of Wine 
Fontella, Chianti, Italy, 2011
Leon Beyer, Gewurtztraminer, Alsace, 2010

Caroline made a delicious, spicy shrimp Thai dish (recipe in comments below).  The Gewurtztraminer was fantastic pairing.  Chianti worked okay, but I suspect a Zinfandel would have been even more pleasing.

Crisp, Light Intensity Wines 
Louis Jadot, Bourgogne, Chardonnay, France, 2010
Monte Antica, Toscana, Red Wine, Italy 2008

Nicki paired artichoke dip with the chardonnay and Grace paired smoked salmon and trout with the chianti. Both matches were delicious, and they worked equally well with either the white or the red.

Strong-Intensity Whites/Light-to-Medium-Intensity Reds
Kim Crawford, Marlborough, Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand, 2012
Santa Digna, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile, 2011

Wendy chose cream cheese and salmon, Annika had pita chips with feta lemon dip. True to the theory, both red and white matched well with either of the foods.  At least one red wine drinker was being won over by the whites.

Leira, Albarino, Spain, 2011
Liberty School, Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, California, 2009

Kaarina chose spicy Thai shrimp with mint raita for the white and Louise had an amazing platter of cheeses, bread and olives. All so good!

Strong Tannin Red 
Terre del Barolo, Barolo, Italy, 2006

At the seminar, Comfort made the point that strong tannin reds demand a thoughtful pairing.  The wrong choice can destroy the taste of the wine.  Liz brought a perfect food companion:  thinly shaved beef on a slice of baguette, spread with dijon and horseradish; topped with carmelized onion and a dollop of aioli.  Amazing!

Dessert Wines 
Royal DeMaria, Vidal Icewine, Ontario, Canada, 1998
Torres Floralis Moscatel Oro, Spanish

Virginia paired ice wine with a delicious baked apple and cranberry fruit crisp (recipe in the comments section below) and Nicolette had chocolate with moscatel.

A perfect finish to our solstice feast!


Carô said...

Great fun on Friday night! Thanks for the lovely experience! Here is the recipe:

Note: I used small bamboo skewers instead of the sugar cane twizzler sticks.

Vietnamese-Style Jumbo Shrimp on Sugarcane

TOTAL TIME: 1 HR 10 MIN plus 2 hr marinating


4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons sugar
2 large shallots, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup Asian fish sauce
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 stalks of fresh lemongrass, tender inner white bulbs only, thinly sliced crosswise
1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus more for brushing
24 jumbo shrimp, shelled and deveined
12 sugarcane swizzle sticks (see Note)
3 tablespoons chopped peanuts
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro
Vietnamese Dipping Sauce, for serving

In a food processor, combine the garlic, sugar, shallots, fish sauce, lime juice and pepper. Add the lemongrass and the 1/4 cup of vegetable oil; process to a puree. Arrange the shrimp in a large, shallow glass dish in a single layer and pour the marinade on top; turn the shrimp to coat thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Light a grill. Cut each sugarcane stick in half on a sharp diagonal so each piece has a sharp point. Scrape off most of the marinade. Working with the shrimp's natural curl, use a small, sharp knife to make 2 slits—one near the tail end and one near the head. Thread a sugarcane stick through the slits; the shrimp should lie flat. Repeat with the remaining shrimp.
Grill the shrimp over a hot fire, brushing them once or twice with oil, until lightly charred and just cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the shrimp to a platter and sprinkle the peanuts and cilantro on top. Serve the shrimp with the Vietnamese Dipping Sauce.

Make Ahead The lemongrass marinade can be refrigerated overnight. Notes Sugarcane swizzle sticks are available in the fruit department of many large supermarkets. Alternatively, look for canned sugarcane in syrup at Asian markets; you'll have to drain the sugarcane and cut it into lengthwise sticks with a sharp knife.
Suggested Pairing

These sweet-salty shrimp go perfectly with a white wine full of tropical fruit and a touch of spice—which is what winemakers create by blending Gewürztraminer and Riesling. Look for one from South Australia.

Vietnamese-Style Jumbo Shrimp on Sugarcane
© Tina Rupp
Vietnamese-Style Jumbo Shrimp on Sugarcane
Contributed by Steven Raichlen

Vietnamese Dipping Sauce

One 2-inch piece of carrot
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup warm water
1/4 cup Asian fish sauce
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 red Thai chile, thinly sliced

Slice the carrot lengthwise with a sturdy vegetable peeler. Stack the slices and cut lengthwise into very fine julienne strips.
In a bowl, mash the garlic with the sugar. Add the water, fish sauce, lime juice, vinegar, Thai chile and carrots and stir well.

Diane said...

Apple-Cranberry Crisp with Warm Toffee Sauce
1. For toffee sauce, measure water into a heavy­ bottomed medium saucepan. Add sugar and butter; do not stirl Measure out whipping cream, set near the stove along with vanilla.
2. Place saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil without stirring. Let bubble briskly for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the sugar begins to change colour. Swirl pan gently on the unit until the colour becomes deeply golden. Avert your face (as hot steam rapidly rises) and near the side of the pan, pour in whipping cream. Stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Slide pan off heat; stir in vanilla. Cool until lukewarm before pouring into a container; sauce thickens as it cools. (Once cooled, sauce can be covered and refrigerated for up to a week.) Warm sauce in a small saucepan or briefly in the microwave before serving.
3. For crisp, evenly spread fruit in a 9 x 13 inch (3 L) baking dish or pan. Stir brown sugar with flour and cinnamon; mix in oats. Pour in butter; stir until crumbs form and topping is evenly moistened. Spread over fruit. Bake in preheated 350°F (180°C) oven for 40 minutes, or until fruit is soft when tested with a skewer. Crisp is delicious warm or at room temperature. (If made ahead, cool, cover and refrigerate for up
to 2 days. Warm, uncovered, in a 350°F (180°C) oven for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.) To serve, pour about 1tbsp (15 mL) of toffee syrup
onto each serving plate, cover with a portion of the crisp and drizzle a bit more sauce overtop.

Serve with Colio Late Harvest Vidal VQA
Rich toffee sauce adds lavishness to this tart autumn-fruit crisp. While nicely gooey, the slightly bitter undertone of "burnt sugar" makes
the toffee sauce subtly, not overly, sweet.

Toffee Sauce
y., cup (50 mL) water
1cup (250 m~ granulated sugar
1tbsp (15 mL') butter