Planning a meal with a wine pairing shouldn't be daunting. Generally, unless you are a wino like me, you choose the food and then you choose the wine. Pick out what you are hankering for or in the case of the Test Kitchen, add some variety to the menu. (I really shouldn't make chicken EVERY weekend)
Choose a wine that will enhance the meal, either a varietal/blend that you already like or try something new. The internet is full of wine advice (just searching "lamb,wine" will get you over 50,000,000 results) or just ask at your local wine shop.
I like wine shops, usually the staff are friendly and they like wine. Let them know what you're cooking, what your budget is and what you like: red or white? dry or sweet? That's all a professional needs be able to recommend a wine, and before you know it, you'll have a wine guy/gal and they'll have a happy customer. (Never be afraid to set a budget. I've ranted for years about when I was timid and let a man sell me two $21.00 bottles of wine for making sangria, I refuse to go back to the shop, and it's been over six years and 400 bottles since the infamous sangria ripoff.)
When I thought of lamb, I thought Merlot and when I thought about what I had in the wine rack, I picked a bottle of `06 Mudd, a juicy and complex, predominantly Merlot red blend from Channing Daughters in Bridgehampton. A win/win pairing in my book.
I first discovered Channing Daughter's Mudd at a Winery Library Tasting. If you are lucky enough to live near a vineyard, it's a great opportunity to check out the tasting room, try wines by the glass and decide on what you like. If you don't live near any vineyards, a lot of Wine Shops have tastings too, but remember, wine and food work together, they bring out the best in each other. To quote my favorite romantic winemaker Robin Pfeiffer "Wine and food want to be married". After one class with Robin and his wife Danuta, I became a romantic convert. There have been quite a few wines that I have sipped and thought "meh", but then I've had them with a good meal, and my socks have been blown off. (or my buttons undone... it all depends on how much wine)
The `06 Mudd in my wine rack hadn't traveled very far since it was bottled. Channing Daughter's Mudd Red Blend was grown, hand picked, stomped, aged, blended and bottled less than 30 miles away from the Test Kitchen. The only thing I needed to do was buy groceries.
A lot has been written about buying fresh from the farm and seasonal, but I'm writing this in the dead of winter, the streets are piled high with salt & pepper snow and the trees are glazed in ice. For the next couple of months, I'll be buying my ingredients at the grocery store. En route to the Test Kitchen, I stopped at Fairway Market in Douglaston, Queens to shop.
I'm a Kitchen Witch - it's magical for me to plan, shop for and cook a meal. Choosing the wine is like putting final piece of the puzzle in place - when you add the wine, you reveal the finished picture.
(Yes, I am about to compare the tastes of a meal with art, simply because poetry and eating is sooo 18th Century)
|CC Pollock ONE Wikipedia|
(Please Pollock fans, no e-mail, art is SUBJECTIVE)
|CC Turner The Fighting Temeraire Wikipedia|
Sometimes I get it right, and a meal can be like a J.M.W. Turner sunset - harmonious with the surrounding ships balanced by the intense focus of the light as it colors the scene. (In my mind, the wine is the light)
|Using too much tarragon made |
my beet salad
a bit like a Pollock. oops
You can't buy the `06, `07 or `08 Mudd anymore, they are all sold out. It's a small batch wine. The `08 was only 141 cases and 54 magnums - that's just 1800 bottles (2700 liters or 713 gallons for those non euro types) - The wine can't be bought at the Vineyard, it could be tucked away in cellars, a few bottles may be in restaurants or in wine shops or, like mine, it is already poured and enjoyed. Mudd is a hand made limited number, which makes it an artisanal wine. Pick some up if you can find it and make yourself an ARTisanal meal (hah! get it? I finally tied in my musings on Turner and Pollock with pairing food and wine)
The upshot on all my musings? Life is too short not to enjoy every moment.
Roasted Beet Salad with goat cheese and candied walnuts on a bed of Mache
Pillsbury Crescent Rolls (I'm a long time fan of bread in a can!)
For dessert, I got to play with fire! (I may be a bit of a pyromaniac...)
I made my very first Crème brûlée.