Below is a list of suggested wine pairings for our October dinners.
chicken mousse toast
hen of the woods, maple pearls, thyme
Sometimes when matching food and wine, finding similar flavors between the two can seal the deal. A powerful and aromatic compound, sotolon, is a significant part of foods like maple, lovage, fenugreek (think curry) and wines aged under flor yeast like…Sherry. With cooler weather coming, a richer sherry like Amontillado is a perfect fit. Most Amontillados come in half bottles or 500 ml (and they don’t go bad), so what you don’t drink can be consumed at a later date. Even if you can’t find the smaller formats, Sherry is always an incredible value. Fine producers include: Bodegas Emilio Hidalgo, Emilio Lustau and Bodegas Valdespino. Best value: Around 15 per 375 ml.
watercress and endive salad
blue cheese, pears, pickled grapes, candied walnuts
This is a dish with so many contrasting flavors, it is difficult to imagine a perfect pairing: peppery, sweet, tangy, nutty and savory. A wine that sort of weaves itself into the many flavors is a young, fresh Grüner Veltliner from Austria. Attractive fruit, peppery notes, zesty acidity and lime-like flavors combine to make it one of the most food-friendly wines around. If you want something that will carry you through the whole meal, look for the dustiest bottle of Austrian Grüner you can find; if it’s priced over $20 and is at least 5 years-old, it will stun you with its richness and complexity while retaining remarkable freshness (especially if it is labeled Smaragd). Look for wines from Prager, Lagler, Domäne Wachau and Meinklang. Best value: $15 to $25
roasted pumpkin soup
pepitas, vadouvan curry, seared scallop
Pumpkin soup is the ultimate autumn dish; the leaves are changing, the pumpkins are getting picked, and it seems like everything we eat has some fall color to it. Why not choose a wine that echoes the shades of fall? White wines fermented on their grape skins are sometimes referred to as “orange” or “amber” wines, and for good reason; that’s the color they are…sometimes. Skin-contact white wines, while sometimes expressing fruit flavors, are more likely to show savory, nutty flavors with a suggestion of salinity and earth…and roasted squash. Best part is, they go with just about anything, and so would take you through the entire meal. Now, it must be admitted that sometimes these wines are pretty gross: overly volatile, sweaty and cidery. But if the idea intrigues you, trust these wines: Orgo Mitsvane from Georgia, Al di là del Fiume “Fricandò” and Fattoria Mani di Luna “il Baratto” from Italy. Best Value: Around $25.
crispy suckling pig
glazed root vegetables, parsnip puree, sage gravy
Suckling pig wants a fresh wine with dark red fruit tones, but also one that offers richness of flavor and a little tannin to keep the palate fresh. This dish also includes the earthy—almost sweet—flavors of root vegetables and the savory aromatics of sage. A great choice is Primitivo, genetically identical to Zinfandel, but treated in a typically Italian, food-friendly fashion. Primitivo can be “big” like Zinfandel, but it always comes with balancing acidity that keeps the wine from dulling your palate. Fine producers include: Alberto Longo, Menhir and Regina Viarum. Best value: Around $20.
warm apple tart
rosemary crumble, cheddar ice cream, salted caramel
Sweet wines are a challenge sometimes because there is often more in the bottle than you actually want to drink at the time. For that reason, we have suggested wines that are low in alcohol, or come in small formats or ones that can sit around in the bottle for a few months without going off. A unique choice would be Pineau des Charentes, which is not necessarily a wine per se. It is actually something called a mistelle: a spirit, in this case Cognac, mixed with grape juice or partially fermented must from the Cognac region. They come in rosé, red or white, aged or not and are always delicious. Look for these producers: Château de Beaulon and Pierre Ferrand. They are not cheap but throw it in the fridge and enjoy it through the end of the year. Best value: Around $30.