Monday, July 29, 2013

Wine and Food?!?! Wine is Food!!!!

Last Friday I was commuting home by bicycle, this is fairly mundane. However on this particular afternoon I got to glimpse perhaps what is at the heart of America's wine drinking culture-problem. That is profound.

Right before I enter my high end neighborhood with all the private gates I pass a fairly rundown tiny little plaza with a gas station/convenience store, a teriyaki joint and a pizza place. I don't stop at any of them if I can help it. It's next to a happening transient drinking hangout and a Crossfit. I don't really care for either of those kinds of social settings either, and on some days you can't really tell them apart but that's not the point. I saw this very fancy black luxury car parked at the pump, the guy was walking around the front of the car, about to re-enter his automobile, he was dressed to the nines. Here's the kicker, he was carrying a bottle of wine. Now, one can only conclude that he bought it at the sorry ass convenience store there. This actually happened.

What the hell guy? You're spending a year's salary (somewhere between 60-90k) on your car, some serious coin on your wardrobe and you seriously just bought a bottle of wine at that hell hole? I wouldn't buy beef jerky from there and that's what gas station/convenience stores specialize in. On your way to Jack in the Box homey?

Here's the thing, he's not. He's probably got something nice on the grill, or some sushi take-out waiting behind his private gate. He's rolling like a baller except he's drinking like somebody who's cooking meth for a living. Gas station wine? No offense, but seriously.

Here's the deal, wine is food. There, I said it. Wine is food, so you get what you pay for. Just like food is food, there are some killer deals out there. For example in Seattle, you can eat some of the best Thai and Vietnamese cuisine in the city for a song, and similarly there are wines out there, Spanish wines come to mind that you cannot believe how good the wine is for the price. Down right shocking.

In fact food should be the occasion to celebrate good wine, and you gotta eat, so it doesn't necessarily have to be a special occasion. The foodie movement has got us all thinking more about what we eat, and celebrating food, whether it's high end white table cloth dining, or great grub from a food truck.  Can wine get a little bit of that love and consideration? You don't have to geek out on pairing and consult your local sommelier, but at the very least show some human dignity. Everyone's big on eating local and so Northwest wines are really the only way to round out that locavore meal. Remember, wine IS food!

To save you some time and energy I've got two recommendations to help you on your way with popular summer eats. Northwest salmon, who doesn't love that, and spicy Asian cuisine.

Squash Blossoms and Pinot Noir
That Oregon Pinot Noir is the perfect wine for the great salmon caught and cooked here in the Northwest is no secret. While salmon on the grill is always a great bet, mix it up from time to time and take advantage of the summertime farmers markets in full bloom. We stuffed squash blossoms with smoked salmon mousse and pan sauteed kale. (Don't try this with chocolate mousse, results will vary wildly.)

The 2010 Meredith Mitchell Vineyard Pinot Noir from Raptor Ridge is another in what seems like an unending vintage of beauty. Fine tannins along with black fruit and an earthy minerality carry this wine through the palate. It stands up to the smoky creamy salmon mousse and it's very pretty aromatics of dried violets and ripe berries make it a natural compliment to any sensory experience, you know, like food. Pinot tends to be the best red wine to pair with food due to its higher acids and more medium bodied mouthfeel. Its presence is much more noticable than a denser, fuller bodied wine.

Burmese Style Pork and Chardonnay
Burmese cuisine is a bit of a hybridization, influences from neighboring China and India play a big role. I don't pretend to be an expert on Burma, but I did see the movie Beyond Rangoon once, with Patricia Arquette. Great film. I should clarify, we didn't watch it together, she stars in it. Anyways, I learned all this from a cookbook.

Burmese curry is lighter in weight and packs some serious kick. In hindsight I should have gone a bit easier on the dried red peppers. To balance a spicy dish you want something fruit forward, bright and it can also have a touch of residual sugar, like a Riesling or Gewurtztraminer.

I went with the 2012 Steel Chardonnay from Three Rivers Winery in Walla Walla. Steel is real, we like to say that a lot in the cycling world. Besides the fact that it rhymes, I'm not sure what it means, carbon fiber is real, aluminum isn't imagined. But steel fermented Chardonnay brings a freshness to what is too often an oak clobbered wine here in the states. This wine is loaded up with citrus aromas like grapefruit and lemon zest and flavors match along with some wet stone and cut green apple.


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