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Jul 28, 2001 11:25 PM

Help me pick a wine!

  • r

I'm having a little trouble figuring out what to serve with my vegetarian dinner Wednesday.

The menu:

Corn and red pepper soup and fresh basil
Frittata with carmelized onions and manouri cheese
Orzo salad (with green beans, scallions, more basil, and a red wine vinaigrette)

I'm probably going to serve something chocolate for dessert with a late harvest Zinfandel, but I'm stumped on the rest. White? A light red (about which I know nothing)? My guests are reasonably sophisticated wine drinkers.


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  1. I especially like Sauvignon Blanc-based wines with vegetable dishes. They're also high in acid and very refreshing in warm weather. Go to Paul Marcus Wines and ask them to recommend a Sancerre which is an area in France's Loire Valley that specializes in Sauvignon Blanc. The blancs from this region have wonderful floral aromas, taste of gooseberries and newly mown grass, and what is called "minerality", a chalky taste. You'll impress your guests with this sophisticated choice, have a good wine with your meal, and shouldn't have to spend more than $20.

    24 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      Thanks for pointing me toward Paul Marcus wines -- I'll head in there on my way to Grasshopper Tuesday. Maybe we could make it an auxilliary chowhound fieldtrip!

      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        Ran across this piece (link below) on matching wines with fast food. Name brand fast food and good wines of type that can be found easily are paired up. It's actually done quite thoughtfully. The only match that I'd question is the Jack in the Box turnover with a fruity Chardonnay, but who knows?

        Link: http://www.metroactive.com/sonoma/din...

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          Very funny site on junk food-wine matching. Another good site is www.eatdrinkdine.com. Evan Goldstein, MS put this site together to help match food/wine.

          1. re: Laiko
            Melanie Wong

            Much as I respect Evan, that approach still gives too many rules for most people to follow. Last week's conference offered a few sessions on wine and food pairings in train-the-trainer fashion. The feedback I heard from those who picked those sessions was that several pairings were off because a particular wine had evolved to a different taste profile, the kitchen didn't char the whatever as much as needed, etc. If the pros can't get it right, what chance do the rest of us plebes have? Not everyone wants to make such an involved decision about what wine to drink with which dish or vice versa.

            Since you and several others reading along here are new, I've linked below to an earlier discussion on the General Topics board that you might enjoy. It tries to cut through some of the BS on food/wine matching. This was near my inaugural post on this site, let us know what you think.

            Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

      2. re: Melanie Wong

        Melanie -

        I'm curious... what would you think of a viognier to start the meal...? It's seems like such a fragrant wine would go well with the soup. On the other hand, would it be too fragrant?

        I also love throwing my guests for a loop and serving a bone-dry, lovely rose sometimes. People inevitably do a double-take thinking that you're serving white zin!

        1. re: Fatemeh

          I agree with the viogner/rose ideas--actually if you can find a blend of viogner and sauvingnon-blanc...if not, a slightly dry rose ...Heitz Cellars has a great one, I just bought it at Vino! on California and Fillmore.

          1. re: Laiko

            I was in the neighborhood of the wine shop Melanie recommended, so I picked up a couple of bottles of Sancerre.

            I did eye some roses, though. It seems that after years of disrepute, they're coming back. Unfortunately, I haven't tasted one in a long time, and so I chickened out.

            Maybe I can talk the rest of my family, who know much more about wine than I do, into a rose tasting later this summer.

            Is Vino! in SF connected with Vino! on College Ave. (right next door to Grasshopper)?

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              I'll be interested in hearing what you picked out and how you like 'em.

              With the exception of white zin, rose' wines are so associated with summertime and warm weather that only those wine shops with big turnover are willing to carry them. We are seeing more available here now, and dry ones, thank god.

              I tasted a few dozen Tavel rose wines in the Rhone this spring. It was one of my favorite villages, even though we only had pink wine to drink. Many, many beautiful wines of 1998, 1999 and 2000 vintages with high overall quality. We were given very nice booklets with producer info and room to write out notes. I took copious, very detailed notes, and had a melt-down when my book disappeared during lunch! Someone had left his blank book for mine.

              Yes, Vino! has stores in Berkeley, Albany and San Francisco.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                I'll open up the Sancerre and try it before I head off to the chowhound dinner at Grasshopper -- we can discuss it further then.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  Only if you have a fresh bottle reserved for your dinner guests!

                2. re: Melanie Wong

                  Its hard for me to keep up with these comments. I must get better! I will try to check out the "general comments" link too.

                3. re: Ruth Lafler

                  Yeah-I think there are several Vino's around the Bay.

                4. re: Laiko

                  Hmm, blend of Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc, the only ones I can think of are Iron Horse Cuvee R which is about 15/85 respectively V/SB, Caymus Conundrum, or Beringer's Conundrum-knock off. What others have you had? Can't recommend Caymus or Beringer as they're saturated with so much oak it's like drinking sweet vanilla and splinters. The Viognier does add a lot to the blend opening up the bouquet with tropical and floral qualities.

                  Iron Horse also makes a lovely Rosato from Sangiovese grapes. This used to only be given to family or sold to friends at cost, but it's now commercially available.

                  Heitz Grignolino Rose' can be fun - this was one of the few dry pink wines of its day. It's been a couple years since I've had one. Not widely distributed, I'm happy to know where to find it in The City.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    I was winetasting up in Napa last month and had the Viognier at Freemark Abbey which was very good. I believe it had a small % of Sauvignon Blanc. At the winery it sold for $25 a bottle.

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      You replyed to my comment on Viognier/Rose some days ago. Sorry but I just logged back on today..so regarding the Viogner: yes one of the wines I was thinking of was the Iron Horse. I can't remember the other--but I think I got it at Kermit Lynch or the Jug Shop
                      and it was a Calif wine. I will look for it (because now I want to drink it) and let you know. Regarding the rose's, I just had the Heitz pink and it is wonderful for this time of year. I also love the Bonny Doone rose, and Navarro's as well. Chateau Rotas also does one-but it is not as good as the others.

                      1. re: Laiko
                        Melanie Wong

                        Hi Laiko, thanks for your e-mail. Not to fear, eventually I get to all messages here on the SF board.

                        Haven't had a Ch. Routas wine that I've liked yet. Not enough intensity to be interesting.

                        Pls. do let us know how those wines are drinking now. I'd suggest that you post them on the General Topics board (link below). I think you'll enjoy the conversations we have there with chowhounds from all over.

                        Link: http://chowhound.com/boards/general/g...

                  2. re: Fatemeh

                    I love Viognier, but there are so few good ones from California and they're pricey. Recently had a good value one from Martine (California) that I think is under $15.

                    The trouble with starting with Viognier is that it has the alcohol (usually around 14%) and richness of a red wine. Tends to blow everything else off the table! I tend to like to start with something crisper and more acidic, build-up in power and concentration, taper back down with a cleansing white, then end with something sweet. Not traditional (whatever that means) but I like the palate breaks.

                    Also, soups are always a sommelier's dilemma. Liquid on liquid, so to speak, washing each other out. The classic combo is fino sherry for consumme, but how many of us are drinking consumme, or sherry for that matter, these days?

                    The most important rule to follow in picking wines to go with foods, is to choose a wine that you like to drink. Inevitably that will be the most popular wine, whether it's the perfect match for your meal or not.

                    Tim Hanni, "Swami of Umami", and sometimes Chowhound will be interviewed on KQED Tuesday night on flavor and sensory perception. He always has something entertaining and thought-provoking to say. I've linked the program announcement below.

                    Link: http://www.pbs.org/kqed/springboard/s...

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      I don't drink consumme, but I do occasionally drink sherry; I picked up the habit of drinking it before dinner the summer I stayed with my aunt and uncle in England. So civilized, my dear!

                      I like to cook with it, too -- there are usually bottles of both Fino and Amontillado in the kitchen, at hand to deglaze a pan.

                      But like the wine question, I wish I knew enough to pick out a better quality one than the Hartley and Gibson that is my "house sherry."

                      I've never been impressed by a Viognier, so I suspect I've never had a really good one. For that matter, I'm glad you encouraged me to give sauvignon blancs another try, because for a while it seemed the market was inundated with mediocre ones, and I'd pretty much given up on them.

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                        Sherries styled for the British market are usually sweeter. Fino sherry should be consumed immediately upon opening, the flor aromas are transient. the remains can be used for cooking.

                        If you have more questions about Sherry, you should post a message on the General Topics board (with a link back to the root thread on this board). You'll get a broader response. Sherry has wide enough distribution that other regions will be able to weigh in, unlike specialty wines that are only available in San Francisco and New York or our California produce.

                      2. re: Melanie Wong

                        Melanie -

                        My favorite Viognier is from Favorito. I am a red-drinker, and this is a white for red-heads!

                        I was recently able to get some at Amphora, but the last time I was there, they had none.

                        Head's up too, on my current favorite Spanish Red - Casa Castillo de Monastrell. It's from Jumilla. really well-balanced, lovely tannins and very quaffable. I've been serving it with a lemon-pepper crusted pork tenderloin (which I'd normally serve with a big zin) and it's been a big hit.

                        1. re: Fatemeh

                          If you like Viognier try a Condrieu.They're decadent.More body,more aroma and (sadly) more price.

                          1. re: Fatemeh
                            Melanie Wong

                            Aha! So I did smoke you out as a red-head. I haven't tried the Favorito Viognier yet, will keep an eye out.

                            The wines from Jumilla are so good and so inexpensive. Ripe and forward New World style fruit with Old World balance. When I was in London 2 years ago I had the chance to sample a wide range (red, rosé, and dessert from many producers) at a Spanish wine trade exhibition. Mourvedre (aka Monastrell or Mataro) originated in Jumilla and perhaps this is where it grows best in the world. The rosés from this region made from Monastrell are delicious and graceful too. Wish someone would import some of them to San Francisco.

                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                              I continue to be intrigued by the roses that are out there.

                              Wine is really enough of a reason to take a hiatus and go to Spain and Italy. Would I be a heretic if I admitted that my favorite French wines are... futures??

                              I've had a few Rhones that I've enjoyed, but in general, you won't find me ordering French from a wine menu.

                              1. re: Fatemeh
                                Melanie Wong

                                Wine preference is entirely an individual thing. Trust your own palate and don't worry about what anyone else thinks.

                                By saying that your favorite French wines are "futures", do you mean Bordeaux wines that haven't been released yet? With your attraction to Viognier and to Monastrell which is the same as the Rhone's Mourvedre variety, one would think you'd be very attracted to Rhones.

                                Last week I attended a tutored tasting on the wines of Piemonte (Piedmont, Italy). Can hardly wait to visit there now.

                    2. If you want a light red try a young inexpensive Chinon or Samur Champigny, both Cabernet Francs from the Loire.They go well with herbs,vegetables and basil.I second the Sancerre idea. I dont' know about the Rose but if you do like Rose one of my favorites is Domaine Tempier.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: howard

                        I'm not that enamoured with Chinon and Loire reds, as we've discussed before. But the rose' that Jouguet makes from Cabernet Franc is exquisite.

                        Dom. Tempier used to be my favorite, but the price is much too dear for what you get. Also watch for pinks coming from the Luberon and Cotes du Ventoux, tried many this spring that are cheapo and delicious. I hope they find US importers.

                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          I don't drink much Rose.When I do it's at restaurants by the glass.Will keep my eyes peeled for the Joguet Rose.(Bottles for home)

                      2. r
                        Randy Salenfriend


                        I served a Pascal Jolivet Sancerre Blanc at a recent dinner party and it was universally enjoyed. It is a wonderful example of the varietal, complex and floral with good acidity, silky mouthfeel and superb richness.

                        1. l
                          Louis Montcalm

                          I like some of the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc wines. Some have significantly more fragrance than many Loire Sauvignons. I picked up Thornbury and Isabel down at Weimax in Burlingame. Both are excellent. Really intense on the nose and crisp and zesty on the palate.
                          They also have a really magnificent, Beaujolais-styled Pinot Noir from Oregon for $15. "Whole Cluster Pressed" and I think it's Willamette Winery. You can serve that chilled or cooled and it'll be perfect for the frittata.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: Louis Montcalm

                            NZ Sauvignon Blancs are significantly more aggressive aromatically, however, recent very ripe vintages in the Loire are bumping up those too. What's lovely about Sancere is the floral nature which is not as pronounced in the Kiwi wines.

                            I've had the Thornbury but don't recall its character. The Isabel is quite distinctive for the dry crisp finish. Because NZ wines have so much natural acidity, plus Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most acidic white varieties, Kiwi producers tend to leave just a touch of residual sugar in the wine to smooth out the jagged edges for a rounder finish. It's nearly imperceptible in the balance unless you're specifically looking for it. However, Isabel does not do this, finishing the wine dry and it is very brisk and chalky in the end.

                            That would be Willamette Valley Vineyards winery - there was an article in the Wall St. Journal a few years ago on the repositioning of the brand when this particular cuvee was introduced.

                            1. re: Louis Montcalm

                              Look for N.Z. Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region such as Goldwater or Cloudy Bay. N.Z. Sauvignon often has tropical fruit overtones. Sancerre is like a steely intense laser.They're usually fermented in stainless steel not oak. The classic Sancerre match is with oysters.

                              1. re: howard
                                Melanie Wong

                                The match you may be thinking of is Muscadet (another Loire Valley crisp white wine) with oysters. Muscadet smells and tastes like oyster shells. But whatever wine you like best is usually what tastes the best with your food, classic or not.

                                Sancere is really delicious with the fresh goat cheeses of the region.

                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                  Yep.Yep.Yep.(Gary Cooper impersonation) I like Sancerre with oysters because of its steeliness and intensity. Muscadet and oysters is a classic match but personally I'm not a Muscadet fan. (Even the Maine).Sauvignon Blanc and goat cheese is like Beany and Cecil.(What a pair!) I've always loved N.Z. Sauvignon Blanc and Humboldt Fog. It's addictive.

                                  1. re: howard
                                    Melanie Wong

                                    Muscadet Sevre et Maine AOC is the appellation felt to have the best quality muscadet wines. That said, it takes an awfully hot year for these wines to show much fruit. Muscadets can be aged sur lie (on the yeast) to add more complexity of flavor and round out the otherwise sharp mouthfeel. Many would have no character other than crisp acidity if this manipulation were not made.

                                    Humboldt Fog...now you're talking! One of my favorite California cheeses. Especially fine when it ages to the point that the surface just under the downy rind starts to ooze.