Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Wine is food

Wine and food are one of the magical marriages in our world. In my cooking, I am careful to select both the recipe and the wine to keep harmony in the union at the table. I also like to have formal meals progress from lighter white wines to heavier reds as the menu progresses from lighter selections to the heavier entrĂ©e and into the cheese course. Take care, though, because it isn’t the color of the wine that’s important, it’s the weight and power it delivers to the palate. There are some white wines, like heavily oaked California Chardonnay that are more powerful than a perfumed red Burgundy, including some pinot noirs now coming from the New World, which makes it crucial that you are familiar with what will come from the bottle to your guests’ palates. So how does one keep track? You have to taste and remember. Be sure to taste all of the wines you will be serving at an important meal long before starting the menu design, then design the menu to pair with the wines based on the freshest ingredients available. Stacy I regularly taste wines by visiting the Wine Country, attending tasting events, and asking our wine steward or sommelier to introduce us to something new when dining at a restaurant (this is also very instructional to learn how to pair wine and food). We keep a private cellar in our home that has a current stock of over 1,000 bottles of more than 500 unique wines. Stacy and I can tell you what to expect in taste and structure from all but the most rare of those wines as we tasted them before we made the purchase. This broad palate of wines and our familiarity with the cellar gives me the opportunity to design meals that are balanced and memorable.

Stacy and I have created a space to store our wines based on our desire to keep a five to seven year inventory of red wine along with some special whites on hand for aging. We also keep a secondary wine inventory which is mostly white wine that we typically turn in a few months to two years at most. By making this investment, we have created our own wine library at a fraction of the cost of purchasing aged wines. I also keep an automated inventory of our wines so that we know what we have, when to drink it, and how much we consume in a given span of time (it seems too much). The best service I have found and now use is the free cellartracker.com. This amazing web site now hosts over 80,000 users who manage over 12 million bottles of wine inventory, and who have written over 850,000 tasting notes, which are all available from the site, for free.

The love affair of wine and food is part of every meal we create. In a recent class we served two bottles of 1999 Howell Mountain Cab from Pine Ridge that were exquisite. Quoting Maya from the movie Sideways, “I know that when I taste this wine today it will taste different than on any other day.” We found the right day to open that wine for sure as it was magnificent accompanied by the braised beef and cheesy polenta.

Stacy and John Murphy host an instructional, nutritious, and fun hands-on cooking class one or two Saturdays each month using ingredients that come fresh from the San Francisco Farmer’s Market.

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