Classic pairings are classic for a reason

The temptation sometimes is to stray from what over time has been proven to be tried-and-true. It’s only natural to explore, to expand one’s boundaries, to try something new. I love exploring, taking chances, risking convention with the promise of discovering something new and exciting, maybe even profound.

Such was not the case when I promised to be the “wine guy” for a dinner party thrown by our friends, Steve and Jeanne Aguilar, last weekend at their home. I knew our hostess was going to bust her butt to prepare a memorable meal, as only she can. And her menu was scrumptious: the starter was assorted cheeses, including cheddar, brie, bleu and havarti with salami and prosciutto, along with artichoke dip; the entree was roasted pork tenderloin with stone-ground mustard sauce served on a bed of arugula, with grilled asparagus and hollandaise sauce, and hasselback potatoes; and for dessert, tartlet shells filled with chocolate mousse and berries, and cream puffs.

 The challenge for the “wine guy” was guessing to the best of my ability the wine preferences of  those in the dinner party and pairing the wines to match those preferences. Knowing many in the group had not had much exposure to wine, I believed playing it “safe” would be best.

So, for the appetizers, I picked the Chandon Blanc de Noirs, a sparkling wine with crispness that cut through the fat of the cheeses and artichoke dip, with enough red-fruit background to stand up to the charcuterie. I thought it worked well.

With the entree, I went the classic route: pork with pinot noir. I selected the 2011 Chateau St. Jean Russian River Valley La Petite Etoile Vineyard that had the classic red-fruit character, soft tannins and juicy structure that went beautifully with the pork. I also selected the 2010 Chateau St. Jean Cold Creek Ranch Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, which I hoped the non-red drinkers would like with the pork against the pepperiness of the arugula, the richness of the hollandaise sauce and the butteriness of the potatoes. I had a glass of both and thought they worked.

With dessert, I went with the Harney Lane Old Vine Zinfandel Dessert Wine. Just a classic pairing — a voluptuous, grand, fortified late harvest zin with sweet desserts, especially chocolate. Some in our party had not tried a Port or dessert wine like this and were blown away.

I guess the lesson is know your audience, know yourself and have fun!! We sure did.  

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      Bob Highfill

      Record Sports Editor Bob Highfill is a wine enthusiast and has earned Level 3 certification with the Wine and Spirit Education Trust of London through the Napa Valley Wine Academy. Bob will share some of his experiences from his travels to Lodi and other prime wine locales in his blog and welcomes your suggestions, reviews and wine speak.
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