About a year ago, I unwittingly unleashed a minor sh*tstorm when I taste-tested some very good chocolates and paired them with some very good wine and found the match up to be not-so-very-good.
The main issue then was that the very good chocolates in question were designed specifically to pair with wines. And yet, time and time again I find myself coming back to a conclusion that is almost as certain in the wine and food pairing world as death and taxes are to the “real” world:
Most wine and chocolate pairings simply DO NOT work.
The vast majority of the time, the chocolate is too robust, and it clobbers the paired wine. This is because most still, dry wines – even hefty, hearty reds – just lack the jabs to counter chocolate’s overall lack of subtlety and bitter power-punch. The match-up might work for some people, but probably doesn’t work for most people.
There are, of course exceptions – more on those in a minute – but they are just that: exceptions. You’re usually far, far better served enjoying the wine and then later enjoying the chocolate, keeping them as far away from one another in the process, lest they start the palate equivalent of a Ballroom Blitz.
So you can imagine the pants-crapping emotions I experienced when I was recently hired to choose the wines for a wine and chocolate pairing corporate event held in Philly’s iconic Curtis Center. Yiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiikeeeessssssssssssssssssssss!…
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I recently had a conversation with a celebrity involved in the California wine biz that went something like this:
CA Wine Celebrity: “Hey – have you ever had cannabis-infused wine?”
CWC: “Yeah. Totally. Pot wine?”
Me: “No – but I wouldn’t be surprised if every other winemaker in California was drinking it; and probably making it.”
CWC: “I just tried some. It was weird. It smelled exactly like…” – at this point he extended a long, lanky, outstretched arm ending in pinched fingers directly under my nose – “…like someone stuck a bud in there; it smells just like a big ol’ bud right up in your nose!”
Turns out, he wasn’t very far off. It is with very, very little surprise that I give you the findings of Michael Steinberger’s recent article for The Daily Beast, titled Marijuana-Laced Wine Grows More Fashionable in California Wine Country: apparently, a lot of winemakers in California wine country make the stuff (by dropping about one lb. of dope into fermenting grape juice, Cabernet apparently being the variety of choice, and nearby Humboldt County being the marijuana source of choice), because a lot of CA winemakers dig pot.
Whoa – now there’s a news flash [ Editor’s note: sarcasm intended ].
We are talking about California here, people…
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This week, we begin what school children in the U.S. have long considered the holy triumvirate of holiday respite, rivaled only by the extended time away from school called Summer Vacation. For this week, the oft-exploited holidays of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas attack us in quick bursts of targeted marketing succession.
Now that I’m older, a full-fledged adult, I look at the season a bit differently. To me, it’s the Season of Hopeless Wine Pairings, in which I am besieged by requests from friends, family, and strangers alike who are looking for an answer to the fright-inducing question:
“What wine should I bring to [Insert Holiday Dinner Name Here] ?”
For reasons that I find difficult to understand, hardly anyone who asks me that question seems ready to accept my answer:
“It doesn’t really matter unless you’re trying to pair a wine with specific dishes, so just drink whatever you and your guests like best.”
Like the aforementioned school children, they are somehow desperate to identify a “correct” answer, even if there isn’t one. Will this be on the exam?
I realize that Holiday time in the U.S. can be particularly stressful for modern adults – which is why I think it’s even more important not to sweat the wine choices for holiday dinners; just bring something you’ve been dying to try, or that you like. No, I’m serious – that’s all there is to it. You can over-complicate it if you particularly like being stressed-out, your call.
Anyway, I invite those looking for some relief from the potential hangover of holiday wine pairings to check out the latest issue of Mutineer Magazine, in which I join up with Drew Langley (from L.A.’s Providence) and Michael Scaffidi (from The Jefferson in D.C.) to pair wines with specific holiday dishes like Smoked Paprika Popcorn, Pork Belly Sliders, and Ganache Stuffed Figs. So you’ll get some interesting and inspired holiday cuisine suggestions along with wines to go with them.
Oh, yeah – and Marina Orlova is on the cover, and she is ridiculously hot.
Enjoy the issue, and let’s drink a toast to a low-stress run through upcoming Holiday season.