Dinner's on the table." Ah, yes, my favorite heads-up, prompting me to grab two bottles of wine, maybe three if there's some leftover from the previous evening, and put them to the nightly food- and wine-pairing test. A handful of variations on chicken, pasta and Mexican themes are common table fare, but on this occasion I am gazing at a couple of delicious-looking plates of eggs Benedict. You know — a toasted English muffin topped with crisp bacon, non-marinated artichoke hearts, poached eggs and Hollandaise sauce. Aha, a new frontier!
The first batter up was the 2011 Giguiere Chardonnay Musque Clone 809 ($14.95, 13.4percent alcohol). I have had ample pleasing and successful pairing experiences with musque, the French term for perfumed and muscat-like clones of Sauvignon Blanc, but this was my first with Chardonnay. The label describes "beautiful aromas of honeysuckle and orange blossom with flavors of apricot and honey." Sounds about right. I was also taken with the lovely, silky mouth-feel of 1.3percent residual sugar. The pairing was downright delightful (particularly loved the bacon component) and I have no doubt as to this wine's food versatility; more good news to follow when it reaches the market in a month or two.
Not too surprisingly, the Angeline Sonoma Reserve Merlot ($14.95, 13.9) barely passed muster, but at least it was doable and did shine a bit with the usual sharp white cheddar post-meal nibble.
Now, I know what you are thinking: What about wine and chocolate? Well, this is your lucky day, as the subject of Dorothy McNett's recent Cooking Club gathering was none other than Chocolate! Chocolate! Chocolate! Here are Dorothy's thoughts:
"Recently, it has become quite popular to pair wines with chocolate, perhaps due to the current trends to classify red wines as well as natural dark chocolate as health foods. Being a foodie and a wine drinker, this makes for a wonderful match. We started with making our own healthful "trail mix," which I call a Mix and Match Snack. Just simply toss together some dark chocolate chips, pure cocoa nibs, dried cranberries, crystalline ginger and gogi berries and sprinkle it over a wedge of delicious brie cheese. The Hy-Brid Lodi 75/25 Pinot Grigio/Vermentino blend by Peltier Station was a perfect match. The sustainably grown grapes in this blend create a wonderful, easy-to-enjoy wine to pair with cheese and dark chocolate chips. Then we moved on to a chicken mole full of roasted chicken slivers, chili pepper, cayenne, dark chocolate and diced tomatoes. A Petite Sirah is the perfect match with the heat of the chili, balanced with smooth and earthy dark chocolate, brightened up with tomato sauce. The McManis 2011, also produced in the Lodi area, hit this perfectly, proving once again the theory of chocolate and red wine. My famous Grilled Beef Steak with Chocolate Covered Aged Cheddar needed a bigger, darker red and the Cabernet Sauvignon Spirit Hawk by Lander Jenkins hit it right on. It is rich and smooth with very light tannins, which is just what each bite of beef followed with a small piece of chocolate cheddar needed. And those with a little Cab left in their glasses enjoyed sipping it with the rich Chocolate Coffee Cheesecake dessert. Cheers to chocolate and wine, and we all felt so healthy afterwards!"
And I might add that she delivered a plate of goodies to yours truly as well; yum. Thanks DM.