Let the taste sensations astound you when these opposites attract
The first step to creating a memorable wine and food experience is to find a common denominator between food and drink -- turkey and cranberry sauce, for instance, served with a Pinot Noir, known for berry flavors. But when more of the same doesn't mean more enjoyment, proceed to step two and look for opposites that attract. Take gooey. Many of us crave the rich slather of melted cheese, soft eggs and creamy sauces. But a caress turns into a clog with the addition of a complex wine, often grown in warm climates, which weigh down the palate with alcohol, sugar or oak. Instead, pair food's richness and a glass of wine with cleansing acidity, often grown in cold climates. Brie en croute, for instance, is an easy and elegant appetizer but quickly dulls the taste buds. To tickle the tummy and urge the palate to ask for more, add the snap of acidity from a white Burgundy. While this region's top wines fetch $400 per bottle and up (way up), the Macon subregion provides excellent and affordable wines including: Macon-Charnay "Les Chenes," Domaine Manciat-Poncet (Burgundy, France): Green apple refreshment with mineral complexity and vibrant finish makes a classic cocktail and pairing with cow's milk cheese, seafood, poultry and dishes prepared with butter. One hundred percent chardonnay grown in the grape's homeland. About $20 California Chardonnay is famed for buttery richness but is often laden with oak and absent acidity. To pair with richer butter or cheese dishes, turn to cool Russian River Valley and wines including: Chardonnay "Dutton Ranch," Dutton-Goldfield (Russian River Valley, California): Sun-ripened orchard aromas, brimming with flavors of apples, pears, and oranges with a touch of ginger, focusing into a bright acid and mineral finish. Aged 10 months in French oak, 40 percent new. Patience to decant or leave a partial bottle overnight in the fridge will be rewarded with added complexity. Serve as a rich cocktail and complement to butternut squash ravioli, scallops in cream sauce and the extra-exotic and oh-so-easy truffle mashed potatoes (simply sprinkle in truffle salt). About $36 Spicy cuisine is a Chicagoland specialty but will ignite the palate with the added heat of high-alcohol wine. For make-me-sweat cuisines including Korean barbecue and Indian curry, protect your palate with a layer of sweet or fruity wine. In white, the Riesling and Chenin blanc grapes offer brisk acidity and sweetness ranging from nearly-dry to honey-sweet; ask your merchant to recommend a wine to your preference or look for: Riesling "Gobelsburger," Schloss Gobelsburg (Kamptal, Austria): Chemically dry, but lush with nectarine flavor intertwined with mineral complexity and refreshing finish, this Austrian beauty satisfies a wide range of cuisine, including most appetizers, spicy cuisine, fried dishes, seafood (including sushi), veggies and poultry. About $17 Red wine lovers, look for rich fruit extract to add a protective layer between scratchy tannin and your palate. Anne Pichon, Syrah Grenache "Sauvage," Anne Pichon (Ventoux, France): Lush aroma of ripe berries and brown spice, velvety texture and pleasing tannin, the result of hand-craft tradition, small production and organic winegrowing. About $15
Ross' choiceName: Touraine Rose Producer: Charles Bove Region: Touraine, Loire Valley, France Vintage: Multi-vintage Availability: Wine & spirits shops and specialty grocers, $19 Distributed by: Bodin Street Wines & Spirits, Chicago Tasting Notes: This sparkling Rose tickles your palate with delicate, dry-ish raspberry and red fruit flavors, fine and abundant bubbles and mouthwatering finish. Serve chilled as a satisfying cocktail, to complement light, flavorful appetizers (sushi, barbecue wings, cured meats, and cheese), dinners of seafood, poultry and light meats and omelets, lox and bagels and all breakfasts in bed on the morning after the night before.
Join Mary at the Chopping Block: On March 15, we'll explore the taste sensations of ethnic cuisines paired with wine in "Food and Wine Around the World": The traditional rule "serve red wine with red meat" may apply to a Chicago-style steak, but what about Indian Tandoori Lamb Chops? Does "white wine with fish" work with Japanese Spicy Tuna? Will any wine pair with Salsa Verde? In this mix-and-match of five courses and five wines, we'll test the guidelines of pairing wine with international, so you can BYO, takeout or prepare your global culinary adventure at home with confidence. 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at The Chopping Block, 222 Merchandise Mart Plaza, Suite 107, Chicago. Discussion led by Advanced Sommelier Mary Ross. Seating is limited and registration required. For more information, call (312) 644- 6360 or visit www.thechoppingblock.com/classes.
• Mary Ross is an Advanced Sommelier (Court of Master Sommeliers), a Certified Wine Educator (Society of Wine Educators) and recipient of the Wine Spectator's "Grand Award of Excellence." Write to her at food@daily herald.com.