Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Monday, September 24, 2007

In Vino Veritas

Our little celebration in four courses is not quite over yet.

Not only do I have the most amazing meal components to play with as leftovers, in this case more like reincarnations than leavings, but there are the wine pairings to report on. Looking back to share with you what we drank as well as what we devoured, is twice the fun. Sharing IS always best.

Our Birthday Girl had requested we start with a Prosecco. To choose just the right bottle I turned, as I often do, to the two Ginger Guys at my favorite Twin Liquors store. Though not twins themselves, I've found it one of those delightfully quirky Austin things that there are two genuine redheads running "my" Twin Liquors, which was named after one of the "original" Jabour Twins from the 1940s.

Twin Liquors is an Austin enterprise that began as a package store in the late 1800s, was interrupted by Prohibition, and past that has consistently merged with other prominent local retailers into a chain that serves most of the neighborhoods in our metropolitan area. I like the power of a chain, in that, if "my" Twin doesn't have what I want, it can sometimes be found in another location. I like even better that they are a local chain, so the dollars I spend stay here in Austin for the most part, and don't fly off out of Texas to who cares where else because it ain't here. So - back to the Ginger Men.

They suggested a midpriced bottle, a Carpene Malvolti. It is a VSQPRD, or "Vino Spumante di Qualita Prodotto in Regione Determinata" from the Conegliano area. Conegliano, in the province of Treviso, is known for it's dry white Proseccos, and is home to a prestigious wine school. This Prosecco is a Spumante, a sparkler, and it really lived up to that, especially for under $20 a bottle. Pop!

So once the Vichyssoise was doled out, we loaded up the flutes and toasted our Birthday Girl and her brother the chef.

Next up to bat was a wine my son had told me to try when I'd shared with him some of my recent adventures in Non- Chardonnay Whites over the past few weeks. He suggested I find a bottle of Campus Stella, an Albarino varietal that has a somewhat unique flavor. When I was able to secure two bottles, we decided to hold them for the Feast, as this once rare Spanish white pairs beautifully with seafood.

Enter the skillfully prepared and exquisitely plated bacon wrapped scallop and shrimp. A work of art on a plate matched well by the striking Stella Campus label. We opened, we sipped, and to our delight, found ourselves enjoying a light white wine that simply dances on the palate. I'm more a Parker than a Simon at describing wines, so rather than parrot something somebody else wrote, I'll simply suggest you try some on your own. Again, at under $20 a bottle, this is an experiment you won't regret even if it does not prove to be your personal favorite.

On to our beef tenderloin. This would call for a red, a special red, one to stand up to not only a superb cut of beef, but also to the salty tangy richness of the rosemary chevre stuffed inside. Just to show you don't have to go to France or Spain to get fine wine, we went local and uncorked a bottle of the Fall Creek Vineyard's fine Meritus, from Tow, Texas. You read that right. Texas.

A blend, Meritus is only made those years the vintner feels the combination of varietals will serve the palate justly. At around $30 bucks a bottle, it delivers proudly for a fair price. Meritus is a wine I serve without hesitation at any special occasion to any family member, friend or visitor. I am that confident in it to deliver that I'll set up it against nearly any much pricier bottle from anywhere else. Go Texas!

Last, but certainly not least, we had a special wine for our desserts. As luck would have it, I had on hand a bottle of golden Passito di Pantelleria that had been cabinetted (no cellar here, alas) for some 6-7 years, just waiting for a worthy occasion.

Pantelleria is a tiny island just off the tip of Italy's boot. The dessert wines produced there are from a very special Moscato grape, the Zibibbo, where harvested grapes are left to air out in the sun and wind and then are are mixed with fresh grapes and fermented. This wine by legend was substituted by a maiden for ambrosia to successfully win the heart of Apollo. It is a delightfully creamy wine, stopping just short of being syrupy, and works fabulously well with both sweet bites and the varied creamy/salty/tangy bites of a cheese platter.

At 14 proof, Passito is a wine to be judiciously savored in good company. The color and fragrance is as pleasing as the taste itself. Truly a fitting finish to our Feast in Four Courses.

So there you have it. Our amazing wine pairings to go with the equally amazing food.

While we did have a Cordon Bleu trained chef in charge of our menu and food preparation, a reputable local wine store certainly ought to be able to advise you and hopefully carries all you will need to make successful pairings similarly reproducible wherever you are.

As the deceased wine critic Andre Simon once said, "Food without wine is a corpse; wine without food is a ghost; united and well matched they are as body and soul, living partners.".

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