Personal Sommelier Online - October 2010
Harvest in Northern California is late this year, and not just in wine country. Our rooftop garden in San Francisco barely saw the sun for all of June, July and August, an all-time low that was extraordinary, even for the famously un-summery City by the Bay. But thanks to a burst of sun in late August and September, we expect to be eating tomatoes throughout October. Better late than never!
Tomatoes are a controversial food. They have high sugar and acidity, but their subtle earthy flavoring makes them more complementary to savory dishes in cooking, like a vegetable. Wine enthusiast foodies consider the tomato to be one of the world’s most wine-unfriendly foods. Wines with anything less than equally high acidity can fall flat. Its high sugar content can also cause dry wines to taste sour. And even moderate tannins can enhance the sour taste triggered by the tomato’s sweetness, drowning out any semblance of fruit in the wine. A dilemma indeed, especially for us tomato-lovers who also love wine. Luckily, the tomato need only be tweaked a little to unlock its wine pairing mojo. Grill it. Bake it. Stuff it. Add protein. Add a starch. Anything to play up its subtle earthy flavors and round out the acidity. October is a great month to experiment with wine and tomato-accented food pairings because you can still get fresh tomatoes from the market, but the shift towards cooler weather calls for more savory dishes and heartier recipes—the kinds of dishes where a carefully played tomato can really work magic with the right wine.
2008 Clayhouse "Adobe White" Central Coast White Blend ($11.99) Tomato purists take note. This truly unique white, made from a blend of 22% Viognier, 18% Sauvignon Blanc, 17% Grenache Blanc, 16% Roussanne, 6% Chardonnay, 5% Chenin Blanc and 16% Princess (a variety of seedless Muscat), is the kind of wine you want with your fresh tomato salads and sandwiches. Its floral and ripe melon aromatics lead into a fruity and just off-dry palate that has the right weight and sweetness to complement your standard insalata caprese or—my favorite—a simple sandwich of beefy heirlooms slathered with aioli.
2007 Vino Noceto Shenandoah Valley Sangiovese ($15.99) Vino Noceto is a family-run grower-producer that make some of the most honest and tasty iterations of this varietal in California. (Sangiovese is most famous for being the grape varietal used in Chianti.) The Noceto shows textbook cherry and cranberry notes, with hints of spice, mint and earth, like a ripe young Chianti. The upfront fruit, bright acid, mild, sweet tannins and subtle spice of this wine make it a go-to for Tuscan-inspired pasta dishes featuring the sweet-savory flavors of tomato-based sauces.
2008 Lioco Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($29.99) For exotic dishes featuring sweet and spicy tomato salsas or chutneys, you need a wine with some complexity that steers clear of heavy tannins. The ’08 Lioco Sonoma is just the ticket. It has an exotic nose of incense, plum, eucalyptus and cedar. The palate is layered and earthy, but lifted by bright acidity and a lengthy finish—a perfect match for salmon with tomato chutney.
Personal Sommelier Service
K&L Wine Merchants
“You Say Tomato…” Whether you are seeking more food-friendly wines, or simply looking to branch out, you can create your own customized wine club through the K&L Personal Sommelier Service. You set the number of bottles, the duration of the subscription and the budget. You can focus on specific regions and styles, or leave it open to be surprised. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or sign up online today!