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Apr 17, 2007 02:16 PM

Mother's Day Wine Pairing

I'm planning a dinner for 10 for the night before Mother's Day. Lots of favorite relatives, all appreciative of good food and wine.

Here's my menu, so far:

Gougere while we gather.

Clam Chowder
Beef Tenderloin with Roasted Shallots, Bacon and Port
Roasted New Potatoes
Spinach Gratin

Lemon Pudding Cake with Fresh Berries

I would appreciate, once again, any pairing suggestions, as well as comments on the menu.
Thanks so very much.

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  1. You've already received lots of suggestions for gougères in your other queries. Bubbly is always an elegant starter.

    Clam chowder: New England or Manhattan? In either case, a clean, unoaked white of character and medium acidity or a glass of fino sherry. Lean toward richer wines for New England (California Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris), sharper for the Manhattan (French Sauvignon Blanc, northern Italian whites).

    For the beef course, much depends on the sauce; sweetness is always the challenge when pairing dry wines with port sauces. Assuming the sugar's held in check, a fruit forward, New World-style red, even a fairly oaky one, would work (think west coast Merlot, Argentinian Malbec). The sweeter the sauce, the more I'd incline toward a late harvest-style Zinfandel.

    Dessert: limoncello, a late-harvest Muscat, a semi-sweet sparkler (Nivole moscato, for example), a liqueur made from the same berries used for the garnish, tea or coffee.

    edit: Would like to suggest that it might be fun to adopt a Spanish theme for the wines: cava for the cheese puffs; fino for the chowder; an international-style Ribera del Duero (e.g. Alion) for the main; and for the dessert, well, there's the rub -- nothing comes to mind, though it wouldn't surprise me if there's some decent sweet Muscat made in the country, especially seeing as how plenty of delicious ones can be found just across the border in France's Languedoc-Roussillon region.

    2 Replies
    1. re: carswell

      Thanks for your comment on pairing for the gougere. I had planned to serve champagne (I am learning!), but wanted to provide the whole menu for comment.

      Here's the ingredients for the beef:

      1 1/2 pounds large shallots (about 24), halved lengthwise, peeled
      3 tablespoons olive oil
      6 cups canned beef broth
      1 1/2 cups tawny Port
      1 tablespoon tomato paste
      2 3- to 3 1/4-pound beef tenderloins (large ends), trimmed
      2 teaspoons dried thyme
      7 bacon slices, chopped
      6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
      1 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
      1 large bunch watercress

      Looks like I'm okay on the sweetness front.

      The Spanish theme is a wonderful idea. Many thanks.

      1. re: carswell

        nice call on the Alion; perhaps Pintia or Flor de Pingus as well?

      2. Working forward on this menu...

        1) Gougeres. Assuming these are heavy on the gruyere, then Gewurztraminer is the ethereal match here. If you can get a great bottle of top-cru Gewurztraminer then that is always a show-stopper wine by itself as an event-starter and rises to a new level when matched with Gruyere.

        2) HOWEVER, when we look further into this meal we see the Clam Chowder AND the Spinach Gratin. To digress just a bit here, Spinach Gratin, assuming the "gratin" is a chardonnay-friendly cheese (brie, chevre, comte, gouda, gruyere, havarti, parmesan reggiano or some combination thereof) is bound to match quite splendidly with Chardonnay. SO, if we have chardonnay matching the Spinach Gratin then we can work backward and be fairly confident the Clam Chowder would probably best be New England (cream) style for the purposes of wine continuity.

        In that case then, while Chardonnay is not quite the match with Gougeres that Gewurztraminer is, Chardonnay is probably the single-best match for Gougeres, New England Clam Chowder AND Spinach Gratin. To mix things up you might do a chardonnay-based champagne with the Gougeres and then serve a glass of chardonnay vino with the Clam Chowder and leave it on the table during the main course where it will match nicely the Spinach gratin. One advantage of the Champagne is that it's alot easier to find a bottle of great champagne than great gewurztraminer and if you have a less-than-magnificent gewurz it can start a meal off on a flat note.

        3) Beef Tenderloin w/ Shallot, Bacon & Port. Several wines would work well here. My first preference would probably be Cabernet Sauvignon. Just a suggestion, if you could substitute a bone-in prime rib cut instead of the tenderloin you'd have an even more fantabulous match for the wine. Bone-in meats just have more flavor at the end of the day than non-bone cuts and they are so awesome with rich red wines :)

        As previously noted, if you serve a nice chardonnay with a New-England style clam chowder in the previous course, just keep it on the table during this main course as it will match very nicely with the spinach gratin and bring some interesting visual and palate contrast to your beautiful red wine.

        4) Lemon Pudding Cake with Berries. There are several possibilities here but at the end of the day your first objective has to be to "match the lemon". And that calls for Sauternes or Late Harvest Riesling. The berries are a secondary taste note in this dish, but it's really the dominant lemon essence that should be accented.

        5) "Chocolates"... this sounds almost like a "sendoff" item rather than a serious chocolate dish and may not need any match by itself. Moscato d'Asti is a great "sendoff" wine with it's light palate-pleasing bubbliness and matches lighter choclates quite nicely. Also fair with the Berries in the prior dish.

        SO, all-in-all I'd probably go with this sequence:
        Champagne (chardonnay-based) (or gewurztraminer if it's a great bottle)
        Cabernet Sauvignon
        Moscato d'Asti

        One way to extend this meal would be to serve a cheese course after the main entree and before the dessert. Leave the Chardonnay and Cab on the table, and bring out the Sauternes.... Choose 3 or 4 cheeses that nicely match your primary wines on the table at that time. Good choices for these wines would be: Chevre, Aged Gouda, Parmesan Reggiano and (esp for the Sauternes), Roquefort.

        Slow things down and linger over the cheese then take everything but the Sauternes away and bring out the desserts. Finish off with lighter chocolates and the Moscato :)

        9 Replies
        1. re: Chicago Mike

          SO, all-in-all I'd probably go with this sequence:
          Champagne (chardonnay-based) (or gewurztraminer if it's a great bottle)
          Cabernet Sauvignon
          Moscato d'Asti
          Somehow this Chowhound system didn't get the edit, but one last adjustment you would consider is based on the chowder.

          If creamy New England... then go with the Chardonnay and add a few crumbles of the chardonnay-friendly cheeses to the cream base to knock it through the roof.

          IF a Manhattan style... then go with Sauvignon Blanc. To optimize the chowder to SB, emphasize the vegetal elements (celery, Carrot, herbs, etc.).

          1. re: Chicago Mike


            Thanks so much for the great effort and care you put into your response.

            I'm intrigued by your gewurztraminer suggestion. Can you recommend a great

            Clam Chowder: in these here parts, there is only one kind. Sorry I didn't specify...didn't think to! At any rate, the idea of adding some chard-friendly cheese is very appealing. I will think about how I will do that.

            I wish I liked prime ribs....don't. So, for now it will be the tenderloin. I'll keep mulling the bone-in suggestion. Can you recommend a great cab?

            I'm so glad you suggested a cheese course. I wanted to do one, but thought it might be too much food ( as if that is actually a concept).

            Will mull this over, and once again, thanks.


            1. re: onefineleo

              Your original menu sounds great. I'd stick with it.

              I'm not so sure about all this cheese, though. You have cheese in the gougere. Cheese on top of the gratin. A cheese course. And then cheese added to the chowder?

              I love gougere with Champagne, and it's a great party kick-off.
              No need to add cheese to the chowder -- the cream in it is dairy enough.
              Many red wines will work with the tenderloin, spinach and potatoes, a Syrah or Cab comes to mind first.
              I think a cheese course *is* too much food, and too much cheese, frankly.
              Many late-harvest white wines or a Muscat will work with the lemon pudding cake and berries. If you don't serve bubbly with the gougere, there's a great Italian sparkling dessert wine that smells of raspberries and strawberries called Brachetto d'Acqui.
              Goes well with both berries and chocolate. Might be fun to try. About $23. Info about it:

              Here's a Chowhound post on where you can buy it in Boston:

              1. re: maria lorraine

                Thanks, Maria Lorraine, for your ideas and the links. Someone on the Boston thread referred to that a type of Brachetto? Gee, that stuff sounds so delicious. Does serving champagne have to preclude serving this with dessert? I recently served both a champagne while we gathered and a bubbly dessert wine, hoping it wouldn't seem redundant, and I don't think it did. Even tho both were served in flutes. Thoughts on this?

                1. re: onefineleo

                  Not really a conflict at all, or at all redundant. Unlike the cheese. (Mike likes to recommend you put cheese in almost everything.)

                  You can serve bubbly with two courses -- the pairings certainly work. You wrote "Even tho both were served in flutes," and I'm sorry, I don't quite understand. Bubbly is best served in flutes, including the stemless ones (like those from MOMA/NY), or tulip-shaped ones. Just not the old sherbet glasses.

                  Not familiar with the Niades Brachetto d'Acqui, but I can recommend Banfi's Rosa Regale. It's such a fun wine, and a particularly fun Valentine's Day wine. I'm here if you have more questions, and I sure hope you have a nice party. Those beef tenderloins with bacon, shallots and port sauce sound mighty yummy, and I just wish I had a piece of bread to dip into the leftover pan sauce.

                  1. re: maria lorraine

                    Just to clarify: Both the champagne and the dessert wine were served in flutes, and I didn't want it to seem redundant. It didn't.

                    The tenderloin dish is amazing:

                    Thanks again.

              2. re: onefineleo

                Hey Fine...

                As for a great gewurztraminer.... see what you can find from your local merchant in a 2001 or 2000 Alsatian premier or grand cru. If not available, 2003 would be next choice.

                As for a great cab.... that's a very long list. Again, just ask your local merchant for what they recommend in any of the following:
                Napa: 94, 95, 96, 97, 01
                Australia: 97, 98, 01, 02
                Chile: 99, 01
                Bordeaux: 2000

                1. re: Chicago Mike

                  Fine, you might also check and see if your wineshops carry any German gewurztraminers. If so, look for a Gewurztraminer Spatlese (1st) or Auslese. These should insure a bit more richness. 2003, 2002, and especially 2001 were all great years in Germany.

                  1. re: Chicago Mike

                    Some options for you:

                    Trimbach Gewiz, Ch. Ste. Michelle, Houge, Snolqualmie Naked (yum!), Ch St. Jean
                    Cabs: Oberon Napa Cab, Turnbull Cab, Ch St. Jean Cab, Flora Springs, Beringer Knights Valley Cab