This Week’s Menu, with Wine Pairings by Carolyn Evans Hammond
Carolyn Evans Hammond is a sommelier, a journalist, and the author of Good, Better, Best Wines: A No-Nonsense Guide to Popular Wines. Carolyn is a different kind of wine writer, one who’s attuned to the tastes of the American wine-drinker. That is to say, she’s not afraid to review wine in a jug. In fact, she’s not afraid to review wine in a box. Thus, she was just the person to suggest wine pairings for cheeseburgers, pizza, and canned soup.
So I’m very pleased to present this week’s menu at the Jernigan-Clayton house, with wine expert recommendations.
ON THE MENU: Tomato soup from a can and microwave popcorn. (Frances, who is three, picked tonight’s meal.)
SOMMELIER’S COMMENTS: Soup and tomato are notoriously challenging foods to pair with wine and here they’re combined. You need a wine with sufficient acidity to match the tomatoes and enough restraint as not to overpower the soup.
And if you’re talking about Campbell’s cream of tomato soup [I am.—Ed.], you’ll need wine with enough residual sugar to combat the sweetness in the soup’s recipe. I would say, go pink.
TASTING NOTE: Aroma of talc-like minerals leads to a crisp, refreshing palate imbued with delicate pear and floral notes. The result is a tight harmony of aroma and flavor in this refreshing, beautifully balanced wine. Lighter side of medium-bodied with 12% alc.
WINE RECOMMENDATION: Folie à Deux Ménage à Trois Rosé Table Wine from California (under $11)
TASTING NOTE: Shiny fuchsia wine with sweet aromas of strawberry-vanilla and an intense palate of glazed wild cherries and ultra-ripe strawberries. This is an off-dry rosé with balancing acidity and a lick of vanilla cream on the finish. Full-bodied with 13.5% alc.
THE MENU: Turkey chipotle chili from The Gourmet Cookbook (recipe online here), one of my very favorite recipes. I suggest peeling, blanching, and pureeing the tomatillos yourself. Using canned will, indeed, save you some labor, but it, like, quintuples the cost of this recipe. This dish is a lot of work, but my small family is left with a generous quantity of leftovers, and this chili freezes beautifully. (You can also freeze the leftover chiles in adobo, if you're opening a new can. I freeze them in portions of two.)
SOMMELIER’S COMMENTS: This flavor-blasted dish needs a wine with full-on fruit, ideally with a hint of smokiness. There’s no reason you couldn’t carry on with the white or off-dry rosé (well-chilled) as a palate refresher but the ideal match would be a robust red.WINE RECOMMENDATION: Lindemans Bin 50
TASTING NOTE: Muted aromas of sun-warmed berries lead to exuberant flavors of stewed black forest fruit shot through with taut acidity. Bright, fresh, and fleshy with hints of smoke and pepper. Long, dark chocolate finish. Full-bodied with 13.5% alc.
ON THE MENU: Mushroom and sausage pizza. This is another kid-centric meal. If the day is gloomy and Frances and I are inside all day, we’ll probably make our own crust from scratch. If we're outside all day, we’ll most likely use Bobolis. In theory, this meal will be accompanied by something from the fruits and vegetables category. In theory.
SOMMELIER’S COMMENTS: Pizza demands an Italian red. And to my mind, Chianti is the perfect mid-week quaffer—but you need to know which one to buy because they’re far from created equally. That said, feel free to carry on with the Shiraz from last night because the smoked berry and pepper notes of this wine would also work with sausage-‘n-shroom za.
WINE RECOMMENDATION: Gabbiano Chianti DOCG from Tuscany, Italy (under $11)
TASTING NOTE: Here’s a great value Chianti that’s easy to find. It starts with wafting aromas of beef, cherries, earth, and minerals before caressing the palate with warm and enticing flavors of aged steak cooked rare, dusty cherries, and slight note of green olive. A hint of tannic astringency on the finish reveals a structure that would benefit food. This is a good value mid-week pizza wine. Medium- to full-bodied with 13% alc.
ON THE MENU: Chicken tikka masala with rice and naan on the side and mango for dessert. The main dish will be semi-homemade, utilizing a spice packet I got at the coop. The naan will be store-bought. I should probably just resign myself to the idea that the mango will have vanilla frozen yogurt on top, because fruit-for-dessert violates some of the fundamental tenets of my daughter’s belief system.
SOMMELIER’S COMMENTS: Spicy fare is fabulous with an off-dry but crisp, light-bodied, entirely quaffable Riesling. It refreshes the palate between sips, cools the tongue and seasons the meal with lime flavors.
WINE RECOMMENDATION: Fünf 5 German Riesling from Germany (under $8)
TASTING NOTE: Quiet candied lime peel aromas lead to an intense, tangy blast of mouth-filling lemon-lime sorbet. Medium sweet but impeccably balanced with sharp acidity so it finishes dry. Tantalizing, refreshing and full of fruit. Fun stuff to drink on its own or with spicy food. The intensity of flavor helps it stand up to the hot fare and the acidity keeps on refreshing sip after sip. And at a light-bodied 9% alcohol, feel free to gulp.
ON THE MENU: Oven-roasted salmon with bacon, wild mushroom, and spinach risotto. For salmon, I like the cooking instructions from the March/April 2008 issue of Cook’s Illustrated (helpfully reproduced here). The risotto is from the April 2010 Cooking Light (recipe here). I will most likely cut full-grown spinach into ribbons instead of using baby spinach, as I have a powerful aversion to baby spinach.
SOMMELIER’S COMMENTS: This flavorful dinner begs for Pinot Noir, which is the ideal choice for salmon. And Pinot Noir has enough oomph to match rich risotto. Lead into the meal, if you like, by pouring some leftover Fünf 5 Riesling as an aperitif.
WINE RECOMMENDATION: Mark West Pinot Noir from Sonoma, California (under $11)
TASTING NOTE: What a delicious wine! Aromatic flavors of raspberries, violets, vanilla, and clove characterize this richly-fruited, seductive Pinot Noir with resonating length. Along with considerable concentration, this wine is silky yet well-structured with taut acidity and soft, supple tannins. Such finesse! Full-bodied with 13.8% alc.
ON THE MENU: Cheeseburgers and sweet-potato fries, both prepared on the grill.
SOMMELIER’S COMMENTS: Grilled cheeseburgers are easy to pair—any well-structured red can do the job—but the sweetness of the fries require a wine with the lush roundness that comes from a hint of residual sugar—something for which [yellow tail] is well-known. But beware: very few [yellow tail] wines in the range are winners but if you buy the right bottle, you’re in for a treat.
WINE RECOMMENDATION: [yellow tail] Shiraz-Grenache, South Eastern Australia (under $8)
TASTING NOTE: Slap some burgers on the grill and grab a bottle of [yellow tail] Shiraz-Grenache. You won’t be sorry you did. This wine is the equivalent of award-winning, gourmet barbecue sauce—and I mean that in the best possible way. Smoky, concentrated, and ripe with a generous kick of spice, it’s an easy crowd-pleaser.
ON THE MENU: Asparagus and smoked trout frittata, with orange and arugula salad on the side. The frittata, like the risotto above, is from the latest issue of Cooking Light (recipe here). The asparagus and orange salad is what it sounds like. I’ll make a citrus vinaigrette to go with, and I might sprinkle on a few chopped pecans.
SOMMELIER’S COMMENTS: Asparagus and Sauvignon Blanc is a killer match. And trout with Sauvignon Blanc also works marvelously well—the citrus, herbal notes seasoning the fish. So for this meal, you can guess my recommendation.
WINE RECOMMENDATION: Rosemount Diamond Label Sauvignon Blanc from South Eastern Australia (under $11)
TASTING NOTE: Pronounced asparagus and lime zest on the nose lead to a crisp yet silky palate that’s citrusy yet herbal, full but delicate, lean yet muscular. Medium-bodied and balanced. Impressive. 12.5% alc.
If you’d like to read more of Carolyn’s entertaining, accessible wine reviews, visit her website, become a fan on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter. And, it should go without saying, get yourself a copy of her book before your next trip to the supermarket.