Aristotle said that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” This statement holds true when we combine different flavors and dishes. It also applies to pairing wines with food. It’s not just the flavors that create the synergy, but also other aspects of the pairing. An acidic chenin blanc with certain fish, a big cabernet with a great steak and many more.
There are several steps in learning about all of these flavors – an important step is to learn about how wine is made and the different elements of the wine and how that interacts with different flavors.
My first real experience with wine was while I was traveling in Europe and visited a winery on the Mosel with a friend of mine who had moved back to Germany. The winery was owned by some of his relatives. When we arrived, I was treated as an honored guest and they had me try a number of their wines, pulling out some of their best Rieslings. The family has been growing grapes and making wines at the same location since the 1500’s. After we tasted, they invited us upstairs (their house was above the wine storage and tasting area). In the dining room was a table that was hundreds of years old covered with different awards and trophies of the wines. As we talked, I found that their family had come from the same area of Switzerland as my family. My friend’s aunt pulled out the family bible (just off the shelf…) dating back to the 1500’s and showed me the family tree and information in the front of the Bible. This was an amazing experience as I was literally sitting in what I thought was a museum with amazing antiques and we were really just sitting in the dining room they use everyday.
I found a US distributor and got some of the favorites I had tried that day – all Rieslings and mostly sweet wines. I had branched out a little, but not much. Sticking with this style of white wines. After Lori and I moved to Florida, we discovered a local wine seller at one of the Home and Garden Shows in Fort Lauderdale. They had a wide variety of wines including a great selection of German whites, including the winery I had visited years before. We bought a selection of wines and starting visiting with them at the different shows. Over the years we were in Florida, they started introducing us to different wines moving us away from the sweet wines.
After we moved to Texas, I was assisting at the Central Market Cooking School and had the opportunity to take several wine tasting and pairing classes. This was the first time I was introduced to a wider range of wines and how they tasted, were made and went with food. I was amazed when I found other wines that I really liked.
When we moved back to Huntsville, an opportunity to visit California Wine Country fell into our laps and Lori and I headed out on a two day trip through Wine Country. Because of the size of the tour, we went to six of the larger producers in both Napa and Sonoma. I remember our first visit to the Markham Winery in Napa and had the first tasting of a much wider variety of California style wines and Lori and I really enjoyed their Merlot. Still to this day, a Markham Merlot has a draw when we see them. Lori had stuck with whites up to this time and this trip was the first time she really branched out trying different California reds.
After the first trip, we’ve made numerous trips back to Napa and Sonoma as well as the Monterey area. We’ve tried all kinds of grapes and all kinds of styles. We’ve had the opportunity to tour many different wineries and be able to talk to winemakers about the vineyards, grapes, wine making and what they are trying to get into the bottle.
In my other travels, I’ve visited vineyards in France, Australia, Italy and others. I always learn more about the complex world of winemaking on these trips.
A key is tasting a wide variety of different types of wines and comparing the tastes of a Pinot Noir from California, France and New Zealand. The best way I’ve found locally are the wine tastings held by different wine stores in Huntsville. One of my favorites are the Friday Night wine tastings at the Wine Cellar. I’ve had the opportunity to try wines from around the world, many different grapes and many different styles. Often, I don’t particularly care for a specific wine, but I’m always learning about what they taste like and their other characteristics.
While these tastings are great, nothing beats the opportunity to visit the place where the wines are crafted, talk with the artists that make the wines and enjoy the wines with local food and lore.
That is why I am very excited about the opportunity to introduce my clients to a number of great wineries in California Wine Country. The trip we have planned for next July will give you an opportunity to experience a wide range of different grapes, different styles and different locations. If you want an opportunity to immerse yourself in California Wine Country, join me for this trip next July 12-16. For more information see the information page on the Wine Country Extravaganza.