I’ve never been much of a rules girl in love or wine, and yet I get just what I want. In the love department, it’s been dumb luck, but when it comes to enjoying wine with dinner, I’ve got it going on. I’ve simply replaced the ancient red wine with meat, white wine with fish rule with two nifty principles, leaving me lots of room for creativity.
The first principle: Match the weight and texture of the wine to the food. Often, that does mean white with fish, red with meat: A delicate filet of sole goes swimmingly alongside a minerally Chablis, and a rare rib-eye steak makes happy love with a Bordeaux blend. But not always. For example, a saut of pork medallions, sage and apples is quite savory with a medium-bodied white wine, such as a CÃ´tes du Rhone Blanc. And when a slab of wild salmon, an oily, densely fleshed fish, hits the grill at my place, corks fly out of Pinot Noir bottles at an alarming rate.
The second principle: Match the flavors of the finished dish to the wine, as taste varies greatly with preparation. A halibut steak glossed with brown butter and preserved-lemon chutney merits an unoaked Chardonnay, while the same fish simmered acqua pazza with tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and capers needs a Dolcetto d’Alba or a similarly spirited red with good acidity.
Sacramentans are always up for a good match. I asked members of my Wine Savvy e-mail list to send me some of their faves.
â€¢ Jodar Winery serves this amazing blue-cheese-stuffed grape rolled in nuts with their Port. Nancy Major, Penryn
â€¢ I was skeptical about a â€˜sweet’ wine, but Navarro makes a dry GewÃ¼rztraminer that is heaven with spicy Thai food. Gary Jakobs, Sacramento
â€¢ Toasted marshmallows and Torrontes is out-of-this-world delicious! Gretchen Wilcox, Esparto, Calif., and Portland, Ore.
â€¢ Autumn pork stew with cider, apples, turnips and potatoes with Terre Rouge Viognier. Jane O’Riordon-Easton, Terre Rouge and Easton Wines, Fiddletown
â€¢ Santa Rita Rapel Valley Reserva CarmenÃ¨re with roasted sweet-potato frites seasoned with rosemary, garlic, olive oil and smoked paprika. Combine that with a summer sunset and a comfortable chair, and that’s what life is all about! Chris Holland, Sacramento
â€¢ Apple-smoked baby-back ribs and foothills Zinfandel. Kurt Burris, MadroÃ±a Vineyards, Camino
â€¢ Seared diver scallops and crispy scallion crÃªpes with citrus saffron oil, with Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne. Chef Ame Harrington, Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op in Elk Grove
For a fun wine-and-food-pairing experiment, make turkey sandwiches with the following fillings and serve with the accompanying wines:
Avocado and sprouts: Sauvignon Blanc
Brie and thinly sliced pears: Chardonnay
Cranberry sauce:White Zinfandel
Sauted mushrooms: Pinot Noir
Olive tapenade: Syrah
Elaine’s Pick of the Month
Asked her favorite wine-and-food combo, Martha Dunne of Sacramento said, Champagne with whatever else is being served. I couldn’t agree more. The Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve delights anywhere, anytime. (Around $35, Nugget Markets, Beverages & More, Selland’s Market-Cafe, KLwines.com)
Wine Trivia Contest
Who said, Hey, did you ever try dunking a potato chip in Champagne? It’s real crazy!?
E-mail your answer to email@example.com by Oct. 15. The winner will receive an insulated two-bottle wine tote from Built NY. Make sure to include your name, address and telephone number. The winner will be selected by random drawing from all the correct responses.
We’ve got a winner! In August, we asked: California claims Zinfandel as its own, but what is the grape called in Italy? The correct answer: Primitivo. The winner, Patrick Seymour of Roseville, received an insulated wine tote.