Family & friends, good food & wine are the best pairings

August 20, 2022

On Friday, I had the pleasure of a large panel to sample wine when Barbara and I had nine family and friends over for a Spanish dinner. My daughter Marguerite whipped up tapas: a shrimp seviche, deconstructed Queso Manchego Crostini and Champiñones Rellenos (stuffed mushrooms with cranberry, goat cheese, onion cream cheese and caper-stuffed anchovies). I really enjoyed the idea of the deconstruct. The crostini were coated with a roast garlic, sun-dried tomato, XVOO mixture and the Manchego was served aside. It took some thinking to come up with wine pairings. Realizing there were nine peeps, I decided to go with several selections and 2-oz. sherry glasses for the preprandial libations.

On gathering, I immediately broke the theme by serving a 3-oz. glass of Roederer Estate L’Ermitage Brut 2015 Anderson Valley, Calif., 93 McD, a recent release and findable under $60. Served crackling cold, the nose was somewhat muted. However, it evolved on the palate showing pear, walnut and yeast flavors. Finished very dry with tart acidity, a fine palate cleanser. For the tapas, we had a choice – one was Gonzalez Byass Alfonso Oloroso Seco, tawny color, roast nut and dried fruit aromas and dry, bright palate of orange zest, dried apricot, mushroom, freshly baked bread and a slightly salty, caramel finish, 89 McD under $30. The other was Nik Weis Weingut St. Urbans-Hof Old Vines Riesling 2018 because, in its class, it is a prime example and can be found under $20. I keep some on hand because it is so food friendly and will keep a few years. The recent release, 2021, was written up here several weeks ago. 2018 shows pale lemon, mixed bouquet of apple, pear, grapefruit with floral and apricot back notes. On the off-dry palate, very subtle sweetness is well balanced with lifted acidity and slatey mineral notes. It supported the seviche beautifully and the slight sweetness tamped down the seviche acidity well. For the garlic toast and mushroom folks, I brought up the last bottle of Delaplane Cellars Williams Gap Red Wine 2017, a blend of 50% Merlot, 27% Cab Franc and 23% Petit Verdot, which I bought in Virginia in 2020. Small production, it is no longer available.

The entrée was paella with spicy, smoked roast pork, chorizo, shrimp and scallops. Found fairly priced saffron at Fresh Market. The recipe called for sherry and I knew there would be enough left over from the tapas sampling. Sadly, since Hercule Poirot passed, few in the U.S. even try sherry. I always have some on hand for Imperial, Newberg, lobster and crab bisques or onion soup, among others. It enhances caramel flavors greatly. Be sure to burn off alcohol (heat in pan, light with match, be sure fan is off) before adding. Served an Esporao Reserva DOC Alentejo 2018, 92 McD; under $20, this is stealing. Blend of six varietal juices provides lovely dark-garnet color. Opens to anise, cherry and a hint of dill. On the medium palate, look for cherries, lots of them, riding a nicely balanced acidity and mild tannin spine. Think poor man’s top-shelf Pinot Noir. Famiglia Pasqua Amarone della Valpolicella 2015 kept the cherry theme going, 93 McD, $40. Deep ruby in color. The nose has cherries, Mediterranean spices; barrel aging provides hints of dark chocolate and vanilla. Full-bodied, dry with good viscosity, acidity and earth notes supporting more cherry flavors. Finishes long and clean with slight tobacco fillip. Normally one would think white with a seafood paella. In this case, the flavors of garlic, onions, peppers, tomato, chorizo and the smoked, highly seasoned pork chunks plus the stock I made from the roasting pan detritus, cracklings and bones needed the reds. When the paella was nearly done, I tossed the shrimp and scallops with scant olive oil, S&P, then pressed them into the top and finished under the broiler. Please use a Japonica rice (Arroz Redondo) for best results. Bomba is best for me. For those using the more typical seafood, clams, mussels and chicken paella, I recommend Godelia, Viognier or Rousanne. Fat Chardonnay works but avoid most acidic, lean whites; they may present slightly bitter. Spanish red fans, Rioja Rosé chilled is traditional, but I prefer Monastrel or Tempranillo/Grenache blend. Props to Everyday People and Arena’s for showing them. Entertaining musicians.

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