Tales from the Tasting Room
Blog updates from Preston Radford, Tasting Room Manager, Sommelier
Stay tuned for tasting and wine pairing notes as we sample upcoming vintages!
Celebrate the Everyday
General Guidelines for pairing food with wine
Pairing wine and food seems to be one of the most intimidating things. There is a stigma attached to getting that perfect pairing and there are entire libraries devoted to the subject. For me there are few excellent pairings, such as fresh oysters on the half shell and champagne (sparkling), and conversely there are very few outright disasters like chocolate cake and champagne (sparkling). Food and wine pairing should be something to have fun with and not worth stressing about.
Basically, my philosophy is don’t be a slave to rules, take them as rough approximations, experiment and have some fun.
Having said all that here are a few guidelines that I use to help me along when determining a good or unexpected food pairing.
Pair the region to the food – if you look at where the wine comes from (we are talking old world here) and what type or style of food is grown there, you can’t go too far wrong. For an example – the Champagne region is famous for Reims Ham, Reims Mustard, Chaource Cheese, Truffles and Pink Biscuits (Les biscuits roses de Reims, locals are fond of dipping them into a glass of champagne). So, it only stands to reason that these foods will pair wonderfully with champagne.
Pair the wine with the most dominant element in the dish or on the plate. Many of today’s gastronomic ‘events’ are complex and made up of numerous ingredients. It can be a herculean if not impossible task to try to find a wine that perfectly pairs with every single element in a dish. What I find to be the most helpful is to identify the predominant flavor or ingredient and work from there. When you pair a wine based of the dominant flavours, I find the supporting characters fall into place, but it is sometimes fun to take a supporting flavour and experiment with pairing with wine to see what if anything happens to the dish.
Generally, when trying to work out what wine will go with a dish or meal, I try to tackle it somewhat systematically, working from the least forgiving of my guidelines to the most forgiving. What I tend to look at first is the sweetness level of the dish. I find that this is the aspect of food and wine pairing that has the least amount of flexibility. A wine should be at least as sweet as the food that you are trying to pair it with. When a wine is drier that the food, I find that the wine becomes flat and sometimes will give it almost a sour aftertaste. Having said that I do find that a bit of sweetness in a wine will often balance out some heat or spice in a food.
Once I have tackled the sweetness equation what I would then tend to look at is the weight or body of the food I am trying to pair. This will more often come down to perception and how you personally interpret these aspects of a dish, but a few very simple examples would be: a powerful red will likely overwhelm a light salad with a citrusy vinaigrette. Conversely a soft, fruity white will likely lose its way against a rich meaty stew.
Working down my checklist, this is the one that I tend to have the most fun with as it is the most versatile, and that is acidity. Here is where I tend to work slightly backwards and look at the wine first, a nice dry, high acid Riesling will cut through rich foods. High acid wines will also stand up to any tartness in the food. Sparkling wines tend to be high in acid, so I love to experiment with using them as a counterpoint to fried foods or foods higher in salt.
The last thing that I will look at will generally have to do with red wines and food – that is where I will look at tannins and alcohol and how these will affect the food. Tannin absorbs fat, making it such a great accompaniment to red meats. The main thing that I keep in mind when I am looking at a tannic or red higher in alcohol is the effect that these elements have on spice. These wines have a tendency to make spicy foods spicier and bitter food seem even more bitter. With these guidelines I will generally pair these bolder reds with rich savoury dishes.
My one last comment is that it is sometimes best to let one or the other become the ‘star of the show’ if you have a great bottle of wine that you have been hoarding for that special occasion. Let it shine and either enjoy on its own (with the best company of course!) or pair it with a simpler dish. Or conversely if your chef is letting his creative juices flow, then pair with a simple versatile wine.
These are just the guidelines that I use but my most important motivator has always been to have some fun and try different things. I once paired a beautifully aged port with some spicier chorizo and was wonderfully surprised at the result, but always have a tried and true bottle waiting in the wings.
Here are a few surprising everyday food pairings for your favourite sparkling wine that will elevate even your Thursday night Netflix marathons.
- Anything fried – a few of my favourites include fried chicken (KFC – who would have thought!), mushrooms and zucchini sticks – even mozzarella sticks.
- Crudité – Just a fancy work for raw vegetables – for a dip I like Olive Tapenade or Taramasalada
- Crostini – Another of those fancy words – this one is small toasts – again for a topping try anchovy, olives, goat cheese or prosciutto.
- Hard Cheeses – Pecorino or an aged cheddar – there are a few good Italian pecorino’s out there with truffle that are easily available and relatively inexpensive.
- Potato Chips or Popcorn – try adding a bit of truffle oil to your melted butter and a touch or dried thyme.
- Mac and Cheese – to get a bit decadent and a bit more mileage out of your truffle oil – add to your cheese sauce and top with a bit of crispy pancetta and brioche breadcrumbs.
- CORN DOGS – no seriously – use ketchup if you must but I prefer a good Dijon or stoneground mustard.
- Grilled Cheese – Do we see a cheese theme developing here – I use a favourite sourdough and add a bit of ham and caramelized onion.
- Vegetarian Chili – Doctor up some store-bought chili with some extra red beans and top with a bit of grated cheddar.
- Prawn Spring / Egg Rolls – your favourite Chinese takeaway never felt this good – plus an excuse to have another glass an hour later.
- Fish Tacos – keep the spice down with a nice salsa verde and don’t forget the avocado
- Margherita Pizza – this is awesome with a Rose sparkler.
- Eggs Benny – quintessential brunch fair but skip the orange juice – to impress that special someone substitute the ham for smoked salmon (lox) and capers.
- Fruit Desserts – anything with fresh berries – add a few to your glass for a bit of extra presentation.
Above all – have some fun and ENJOY!
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” - Mahatma Gandhi
This wonderful quote from Mahatma Gandhi has been used so frequently and indiscriminately that for most of us it has lost its simple, elegant power. In our modern world we have never been more connected and yet so isolated at the same time. Technology has brought the ends of the earth and beyond to our smartphones at the swipe of a screen but at the same time has removed us from the actual humanity that is in front of us.
Our strategic planning session in 2018 gave our team the opportunity to consider what was important for Noble Ridge’s overall objectives and mission statement. After this review we realized, while financial success is obvious, we also see that "being noble” continues to be a very strong motivator and the overall key to our culture.
We want to spearhead the behavior we hope to see reflected in our communities, so we have instituted our “Noble Causes” whereby Noble Ridge staff select a few charities to support annually.
A portion of our tasting fees are given to these charities, along with proceeds from additional fundraising activities.
We truly value those who exhibit noble qualities and act on them. There are people who have become our advocates, displaying the exact qualities of nobility that we are aspiring to achieve for ourselves. We have developed a new program that recognizes and celebrates those individuals. Thus, we created a new tier of wines: “Round Table - Noble Knights and Dames”. The first of these new wines are:
Powers 2017 Chardonnay - Sir Richard Powers
Richard is constantly buying and promoting NR wine to his friends, business associates and family. He has assisted in expanding our Wine Club in Ontario. As Associate Professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Business, he has been awarded numerous teaching awards for excellence, in addition to his considerable volunteer contributions, e.g., with the Canadian Commonwealth Games, Rugby Canada and the Canadian Olympic Committee.
This barrel fermented chardonnay displays strong varietal characteristic of apple and citrus flavours that are accompanied by deep and complex aromas of butterscotch and caramel. The acidity balances a strong palate weight and carries the wine on its way to a complex and lingering finish.
Stone 2017 Cabernet – Sir James and Dame Pamela Stone
Both Jim and Pam are practicing physicians and have made significant professional and volunteer contributions in each of their fields, cardiology and pediatrics respectively. They have contributed their time and support out on site at NR on many occasions. In addition, they have held events and promoted NR wines, personally purchasing NR wines to send to their friends and colleagues.
This Cabernet blend displays textbook savory notes of roasted peppers, tobacco leaf, black current and ripe plums. The rich and full body delivers ripe flavors of blueberry and black cherry are highlighted with hints of black pepper with a touch of spice and oak. Firm tannins lend to a long, lingering finish!
Holiday Food Pairing
Blue Cheese and Fig Appetizers (alternately use Brie and Pear)
Quick, easy and sure to impress
Once the pastry thaws, it takes just about 30 minutes and four ingredients to make these scrumptious appetizers.
½ pkg Filo Pastry Thawed
150 gr Blue Cheese
5 tbsp Fig Jam
Heat the oven to 400°F.
Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Cut the Filo into 6cm squares. Lightly butter each square and alternately stack 3 squares on top of each other. Press the squares into 36 (1 3/4-inch) mini muffin-pan cups.
Bake for 10 minutes or until the pastries are golden brown.
Place 1 piece of blue cheese into each pastry cup and top with about 1/4 teaspoon jam. Bake for 5 minutes or until the filling is hot. Let the pastries cool in the pan on wire racks for 10 minutes. Enjoy!
During the launch of this new wine label and delving into the deeds of these amazing people, I have begun to look at what I am doing personally in my life to make the world around me a better place. I have always been a huge supporter and advocate of animals (like my side kick, Ollie) and the BCSPCA in particular but what am I doing for my fellow man?
A very good friend of mine suggested I join him at our local Soupateria, a local group that provides a hot meal to individuals in our community who need it most. The Soupateria motto is: “All Are Welcome For Those In Need.”
Armed with a double shot Americano it was off to the kitchen. Greeted by an amazing crew, the menu for the day was explained and everyone given a job. My realm was veggies for an amazing soup and a rib sticking chili. A local orchardist had also donated a huge bushel of apples that morning, so a last-minute apple crumble was also in the works. Another crew was busy with sandwiches and salads. Lots of laughter and comradery as everyone set about to work. Several hours later everything was ready to go, and it was time for service. We served over 150 people that afternoon, everyone from single mothers with children, those who may be homeless, to lonely senior citizens. This was a truly rewarding and humbling experience, and one that I hope to continue.
In this season of giving, I would encourage everyone to give some thought to your own personal contributions to the world around you.