Monday, December 20, 2010

Purple Teeth Cellars talks Pinot – Huh?

Hope the holiday season is treating all of you well!

As some of you may know, I (@MrsPTC) tend to run a fair amount. One of my regular running buddies is not a huge wine drinker but likes to enjoy a glass or two every so often. We were out running one day and she had mentioned that her and her sister had a breakthrough "red wine" moment and didn't know where to go next. As far as where they were coming from, they tended to stick to mostly white wines – particularly my friend's sister.

So my friend asked if I would be willing to introduce them to some wines that they might like and wouldn't necessarily know to try on their own. Now in Purple Teeth Cellars land, we tend to stick to the "heavier" reds – both in terms of body and acidity. Thus, it didn't make sense to make this a PTC-oriented event. Maybe at some point, they will like more of the style of wine that we make but for now, plenty of fabulous reds are available that may be more in line with their preferences are. That is how we ended up at Pinot Noir.

I had a bunch of ideas race through my head on how I would so this. I am now an "industry person" of sorts in the wine world, so I really wanted to put some thought around how I wanted to approach this event. I immediately thought back to a Food and Wine pairing class that MrPTC and I took at the Culinary Institute of America back in 2007. They had us go through some very tangible exercises to learn about the nuances what makes certain foods work better with certain wines. More importantly, they focused on how the seasoning of the food can make or break a pairing – something I never thought of previously but it makes perfect sense. For the fashion forward folks out there, it is all about how you accessorize the sweater in many cases as opposed to it being about the sweater itself (ok, we'll leave out some of the tackier Christmas sweaters that have been showing up recently on Facebook). Much of food and wine pairing rests on how you "accessorize" the food, whether it is by seasoning or cooking method.

Keeping this in mind, I figured I could do something simple on the food front. Get a bunch of chicken tenders and season them differently. Maybe cheese pairings could be fun too. OK. Now what kind of seasonings and what kind of cheeses? I found some of the more "tried and true" pairings, but also wanted to get some pairings that would deliberately shock the heck out of everyone (READ: CLASH!). But the food part was pretty much worked out. Now what kind of wines to serve?

Obviously we're going with Pinot or close relatives of Pinot based on the criteria my friend gave me. But the issue with Pinot is that it is SUPER hard to find really reasonably priced bottles because it is such a temperamental varietal to work with. Don't confuse this with how it tastes because we do enjoy a bottle of Pinot every once in a while as well. Still – I am trying to figure out how I want to pivot the wine selections so there is some level of consistency and we're doing a somewhat "apples to apples" comparison.

My friend and I went to the local wine store that has a pretty good selection. After looking around at Burgundies, Oregon Pinots and California Pinots, I decided on the 2007 vintage and the price point of $30-$40. I'll say that for an introductory wine tasting, that's kind of high for me, but even at one of the best wine stores in Seattle, we were struggling to find bottles. And I wanted to do Old World (Europe) vs. New World (US) in the comparison.

I settled on a Burgundy (Pinot is the main red grape there, so when someone is talking about a Red Burgundy, it's Pinot, and when someone is talking about a White Burgundy, it tends to be Chardonnay), an Oregon Pinot, a Northern California Pinot and a Central Coast California Pinot. I then decided to throw in a mystery wine from the personal collection just to see what would happen – a Barbera from Piedmont, Italy. Barbera is a "relative of Pinot", so I thought that might be fun. And all of the wines were going to be put in brown bags, which meant that everyone would taste their wines blind. Ooh, the mystery!

So 5 wines, 5 cheeses, 6 chicken preparations with olives, crackers and brownies (MrPTC is a fabulous baker) makes for some crazy logistical planning for 10 guests!! You need a boatload of wine glasses, for starters, so we needed to improvise a bit. We had cheeses that were cow, sheep and goat. They ranged from semi-soft to firm, and were from different countries. The chicken prep went from simple (EVOO and salt) to cayenne pepper/black pepper. And if you are doing the math, it was a fair amount of combinations to try. It *MIGHT* have been a tad overambitious on my part – LOL. Oops.

I liked watching everyone just notice the differences in the wines that they normally wouldn't think would be all that different. After all, with the exception of the Barbera, they were all Pinots! They can't be *THAT* different. Some people thought they liked the low alcohol and lightest wines, and when the truth was revealed, they ended up enjoying just the opposite the most! Some of the folks didn't care too much about the pairing aspect and just enjoyed the laughs, which was great too! Isn't that what food and wine is about anyway?

Questions were asked and answered about palate cleansers, varietal differences, how to engage a sommelier at a restaurant without feeling stupid (we spend a lot of time answering this question to family and friends – for the record, the "somm" is there to HELP you not rip you off), current relevance of food and wine pairing rules, etc. It was really an enjoyable evening as we got to give some ideas to our friends about wine and help break down any misconceptions about it. Our hosts were fabulous and gracious, and I hope the clean-up wasn't too terrible.

As luck would have it, the next night we were invited to a dinner at a very good friend's house, who also happens to be a "somm". And of course, other "somms"/wine industry folks were present so we were definitely back in the land of being amateurs again. They were all really fun and cool, and were very keen on what we are doing at Purple Teeth Cellars. They share their knowledge of their industry freely and likewise, they were very interested in the tasting experiment that we did the evening before as some of them are studying for advanced certifications in wine.

Do we have a great life or what?!?!

As always, thanks for tuning in and check out the most recent newsletter on specials on the PTC webstore!

posted by Jill B. @ 4:42 PM        1 Comments


At December 21, 2010 at 5:46 PM , Blogger Tricia said...

Thanks again.


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