Aside from getting a little natural Vitamin D and fresh air here and there, I was hunkering down like the rest of us. I had every intention of staying fit and sober for health's sake. Then, out of thin air, a wine fairy dropped off some marvelously boutique bottles of vino on my front path and flitted away.
Moments after the wine fairy's visit, I receive instructions in the mail for my SIP with a Somm seminar. Oh right, this was supposed to be the Somm's Kitchen and SIP Certified wine pairing that was initially planned to feature local viticulturists and winemakers sitting in proximity at the Somm's Kitchen counter in downtown Paso Robles.
- Photos By Beth Giuffre
- AT YOUR DOORSTEP The virtual wine tastings are an adaptation of Somm's Kitchen's usual tastings (at its downtown Paso location).
Turns out the SIP with a Somm crew was among the first wine programs to adapt to the new shelter-at-home orders. Before you could say "quarantine," the event had already been reformatted to be virtual.
Chef Ian Adamo gave me and the other 19 guests and six panelists a list of three categories to prepare food pairings from home with each of the SIP-certified wines. Understanding his guests, who likely have differing home situations, he divided his food suggestions into: 1) feed the kids, grab a bite, drink a lot; 2) midday snacks; and 3) and overachieving, nonparents, who aren't broke.
I've been looking forward to my 3 o'clock appointment today. It's also deadline day, since the SIP with a Somm seminar was postponed to this week, so tasting seven bottles of wine between my husband, Greg, and myself (a lightweight) means I may be writing this column a little bit happy.
In other words, mixed in with the following descriptions of these wines and their pairings are some deep, red wine thoughts, a la the vintage SNL skit, "Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey."
- Photos By Beth Giuffre
- BELLINI WITH SALMON First stop on this virtual wine adventure: the Riverbench Vineyard & Winery 2017 brut rosé with smoked salmon (as prepared in-house, by my husband, Greg).
Chef Adamo starts us out with the Riverbench Vineyard and Winery 2017 brut rosé, which Greg pairs with Adamo's suggestion: smoked salmon with the wine as a Bellini (featuring a puree of raspberries and local Rock Front Ranch honey). The Santa Maria Valley wine—French oak and pinot noir grapes—is pink, fun, and flirtatious with flavors of rose petals, strawberries, and orange blossoms ... and a finish straight out of the Easter basket: a hint of Jolly Rancher and white gummy bear. This wine has me thinking about holidays: Shouldn't we celebrate two Independence Days this year—one on the Fourth of July, and the other on the day the shelter-at-home mandate is lifted?
Next we venture to the well-balanced Cambria Estate Winery 2018 Katherine's Vineyard chardonnay, which we pair with strawberry yogurt and waffles. The nose on this wine is spring in a bottle: fresh citrus blossom, flowers, and fruit, complemented by apple and wet stone in the body, with oak influence mid-palate. Sitting with my waffles, yogurt, and chardonnay, I start thinking about Hearst Castle and the ridiculously well-to-do: If each millionaire financially adopted each of the restaurants they regularly eat at (just for the shelter-at-home duration), everyone's favorite places wouldn't have to close down after the quarantine.
Moving on to the Old World style estate grown Talley Vineyards 2017 Arroyo Grande Valley chardonnay. We go the "overachievers" route and pair the wine with a poached egg with a medley of mushrooms sautéed in a white wine reduction with garlic and shallots. The chardonnay's nose is of lemon tart and jasmine, with Meyer lemon and nectarine on the palate. I am a big fan of our Talley Farms box of weekly veggies, which always comes with tips and recipes, so my mind goes to this: The internet brought to us any recipe from any blog on Earth, yet for some reason during this quarantine, some of my well-intentioned family members find it perfectly acceptable to resurrect the annoying chain letter, aka the recipe exchange. None of us need that kind of pressure. Delete.
Next, we take Adamo's suggestion to pair the bold, spicy Wrath Wines San Saba Vineyard 2017 pinot noir with an English muffin pizza. The wine, made solely from grapes from their Santa Lucia Highlands estate, tastes deep and dense, with a spice box of aromas, opening to dark fruit and layers of pleasing earthiness. After a nice, long finish, and the buzz turning my usual self-loathing into an unnatural burst of self-confidence, I took to heart the words of Bill Murray: Every pizza is a personal pizza if you try hard and believe in yourself.
On to the Presqu'ile Winery 2016 Santa Maria Valley pinot noir. Paired with a tuna sandwich and dill, it makes perfect sense: The wine is all about sandalwood spice, bright fruit, and a silky mouthfeel. It's elegant, like tuna, but balanced and low-key, like a tuna sandwich. It got me thinking about pairing different kinds of food with wine, but there still are some you will never see at a wine pairing—namely energy bars, Lunchables, and iceberg lettuce salad.
- Photos By Beth Giuffre
- THE SIP-CERTIFIED LINEUP Somm's Kitchen teamed up with SIP-certified wines for this virtual pairing ... meaning this tasting was a grand slam. Every wine was amazing.
I'm already a devoted fan of the Niner Wine Estates 2017 cabernet sauvignon, but OK, chef Adamo, I'll do my best to try it with a grass-fed, grass-finished Templeton beef hamburger with tomatoes and cheddar. I may be seriously buzzed at this point, but I can still appreciate the beauty of this wine—mostly cab (92 percent) with cab franc (4 percent), and petit verdot (4 percent). This classic vintage of hand-harvested estate cab brings on the dark chocolate and cherry flavors, powdery tannins, and juicy acidity. As the wine gets darker, so do my thoughts: "The crows seem to be calling his name, thought Caw." —Jack Handey.
Last on our virtual wine tasting journey: The Pisoni Family Vineyards 2017 Lucia, Soberanes Vineyard syrah, paired with a BLT, is a match made in isolation heaven. Named California's best single vineyard, by Steve Heimoff of Wine Enthusiast, this is my first taste of a Pisoni wine, which has a huge cult following. The limited production Santa Lucia Highlands syrah is a true treat: inky purple complexity, with notes of black peppercorn, bacon, and cedar leading into soft, elegant tannins and dark berries. Fun fact: According to foodreference.com, the BLT is the second most popular sandwich in the U.S., just after the simple ham sammy.
Chef Adamo went from one seating a night in his small place of only a few employees (who he is working now to pay their salaries to keep them on). He was doing darn well, filling each seating ... so much so, the native New Yorker has been booked two, three months in advance. Now the loyal public is still helping by ordering food to go from his lineup of wineries and dishes that are mouthwateringly intriguing.
"I'm always learning every, every night, and I'm super thankful for it," Adamo said. Δ
Flavor writer Beth Giuffre is thankful for all the wine industry folks who are learning every day. Send shelter-at-home treats to firstname.lastname@example.org.