2 Things I Don’t Understand About Wine

A number of my friends refer to me as a “wine expert.” It’s a nice compliment, but I’ve always felt that an “expert” at anything is simply someone who clearly understands that there’s always a lot more to learn.

With that in mind, we’ve decided to introduce an occasional series of blogs called, “Things I Don’t Understand About Wine.” Today, we begin with two things that have me scratching my head in bewilderment…

1. I don’t understand why some people refuse to accept the idea that chocolate and wine can make successful pairing partners.

A good example of this closed-minded approach to pairing comes from Drew Hendricks of Pappas Restaurant in Houston, Texas. Food and Wine magazine asked Hendricks to name his “nightmare pairing,” and Hendricks responded: “Red wine and chocolate! And people insist on it. It’s like, ‘OK, I’ve decided I want to rub sandpaper on my face.’ It’s that bad.”

Well…there are plenty of restaurateurs and winemakers who would disagree. For example: Susan Frasca, the owner of Kinzie Chophouse in Chicago, and Mike Benziger, the winegrower, general manager, and “Tribute” winemaker for Benziger Family Winery in Sonoma County.

Tomorrow night, Frasca and Benziger are teaming up to present a winemaker dinner, and we’ll have a complete report in the April issue of the Vinesse Grapevine newsletter. But for the purposes of this blog, I will tell you about dessert right now…

Frasca and her crew will be assembling what sounds like an exploration of total decadence: chocolate terrine with dark chocolate truffles.

And what have Frasca and Benziger decided to pour with that double-chocolate treat? Benziger’s 2007 “Tribute”—a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot.

Attention, red-wine-with-chocolate haters: All of those are RED wines!

Now, certainly not ALL red wines would fare well with such a rich chocolate dessert. We’d stay away from Beaujolais Nouveau and Chianti, for example.

But when the wine itself exhibits some chocolate-like qualities, as the 2007 “Tribute” does, the pairing can be absolutely sublime. Let me put it this way: When they bring around the terrine, truffles and “Tribute” tomorrow night, I’m not going to say, “No, thank you.”

The point is this: When it comes to food-and-wine pairing, it’s a good idea to keep an open mind. Otherwise, you could miss out on some mind-blowing culinary experiences.

After all, as parents, don’t we say to our kids (on an almost-daily basis), “Try it before you say you don’t like it”?

2. I don’t understand why, at this year’s Chardonnay Symposium in Santa Maria, Calif., organizers are inviting attendees to “BYOC” (bring your own Chardonnay) to a barbecue at Sierra Madre Vineyard.

Chardonnay and barbecue? C’mon, Chardonnay is a white wine, and barbecue flavors demand big, bold, assertive red wines, or refreshing rosé-style bottlings. Serving Chardonnay with barbecue would be like…

Uh, wait a minute… I’m starting to sound like a certain sommelier in Houston…

Posted in Editor's Journal
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