Wine was the subject of a conversation I had with some friends recently. More specifically, we talked about how pretentious, snobby, and “uppity” it seems to be when it relates to wine tasting and wine pairing. Naturally, I defended wine. The only reason, in my opinion, that wine has this bad image is because people are often intimidated by it because of their lack of knowledge. Wine shouldn’t be intimidating, pretentious, or snobby. On the contrary, wine should be, and really is, fun!
We had a friend over for dinner whose knowledge of wine is pretty much centered solely on chardonnay. It’s also my understanding that her knowledge of wine, even including chardonnay, is limited. I decided to make dinner fun for all of us. First, I picked a recipe that pairs well with both white wine and red wine, specifically chardonnay because that’s her favorite. As you will read, we had several bottles open, a couple of which were opened previously during the week. Waste not, want not; right? Besides, they’ll last about a week after they’re opened, and some even taste better after a day or two.
The dish we (my partner, Kate, and I) chose was saltimbocca chicken breasts with sage sauce and creamy arugula pasta (a link is attached below). Let me briefly describe the dish: The chicken breast is stuffed with provolone cheese on the inside; the outside is wrapped with prosciutto. The prosciutto is what goes well with the red. As the recipe suggests, the sage sauce is drizzled over the cooked chicken breast. A creamy, lemony sauce is made to accompany the pasta and is topped with arugula. The creamy, lemony sauce is what goes well with the white wines.
Before I go into the specifics of the pairing, you should know that, like I mentioned a moment ago, we are not snobby or pretentious in our association with wine. We don’t normally use words like “elderberry flower” or “juniper trees” or “umami” to describe wine. We have, however, used our own words like “new carpet” or “Elmer’s glue” and have even been looked at a little funny at a couple wine tasting events when we used our own words. Fortunately, we don’t care. Hey, that’s what we smelled. We appreciate wine, but we just don’t make it that serious. You’ll see when you read the pairings.
This is what we paired:
2009 Scott Harvey Barbera, red label (this is a red wine from California)
2007 Louis M. Martini Napa Cabernet Sauvignon
2009 Miro Pinot Noir
2009 George Duboeuf Macon-Villages Chardonnay
2009 Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc
When pairing food and wine, as we told our friend at dinner, it’s important to taste and notice the way the flavors of the wine and the flavors of the dish might enhance or contrast each other. This is where the fun begins.
These are our tasting notes, which, after a few glasses of wine, get a lot harder to write (wink).
2009 Scott Harvey Barbera: A full-bodied red with dark fruit flavors (plum, blackberry) as well as some red fruit flavors. Not as heavy or dense as a red zinfandel or a petite sirah; The pairing was “okay/good; average” when paired with the dish. This wine is so great wine by itself we expected it to pair better with this dish.
2007 Louis M. Martini Cab: OMG!! Wow! Love this! This cab really accentuates the dark flavors of the prosciutto, pepper, and sage sauce. The finish really carries on for a long time on the palette, “like, pow!”
2009 Miro Pinot Noir: A light-bodied texture and full fruit flavors of cherry and cola, typical for pinots, with a very nice balance and decent acidity. Surprisingly, this was the favorite of our chardonnay-drinking dinner guest. The light flavors that are inherent to pinot noir complement both the darker flavors of the prosciutto and also the lighter flavors of the lemony cream sauce (maybe it’s the wine’s acidity the balances the dish). We might be turning our friend on to red wine after all!
2009 George Duboeuf Macon-Villages Chardonnay: The wine tastes clean and earthy with slate/stone flavors, which are typical to most French whites. A balanced wine with low acidity. Nothing really noteworthy to write about here though. The pairing was okay.
2009 Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc: Wow! The bright, “zippy,” crisp acidity of the sauvignon blanc really picks up and carries the crisp lemon zest that’s added to the arugula noodles. It also is a great contrast to the dense, dark prosciutto flavors. Great finish! We didn’t expect this to pair well with both the light and dark flavors. We thought it’d just accentuate the lemon sauce and noodles.
Below is the recipe we used. If you decide to do your own pairing with this recipe, I’d really love to hear what you paired and what your tasting notes are.