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Dan Dawson, Dan the Wine Man: Peachy Wines With Peachy Dishes

Dan Dawson, Dan the Wine Man: Peachy Wines With Peachy Dishes

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Dan Dawson

Dan Dawson 

Ask a skilled sommelier or wine merchant to pair wines with a dish heavy on the fresh fruit and wait for the wince. Pairing wines with dishes that have a lot of sugar, from fruit or other sweet ingredients, is a challenge.

This week’s “Cooking for Comfort” recipes from Ken Morris have a lot of natural fruit sugar from peaches plus varying amounts of white or brown sugar. Time to get my thinking cap on. Here are the recipes accompanied by my wine suggestions which I’ll write about in a few.

This Week’s “Cooking for Comfort” Food & Wine Pairings

-- Georg Albrecht Schneider Riesling Niersteiner “Hipping” Spätlese 2018, $20 at Back Room Wines with Grilled Peach, Onion and Bacon Salad with Buttermilk Dressing

-- Meiomi Pinot Noir 2019, $16-$20 at various markets with Pork Tenderloin with Peach Salsa

-- Fortunati Viognier, Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley 2019, $38 winery-direct with Jalapeño Peach-Glazed Chicken

From a wine perspective, I like that A) there are no desserts here (I’ve skipped Ken’s Peach Compote), and B) the recipes have ample savory ingredients like bacon, buttermilk, peppers, onions and herbs. C) They all have salt. I don’t like, from a wine perspective, that all three recipes call for more sugar. There are reasons for the sugar, and if you’re not having wine with these dishes then it’s all good. If you ARE going to try my wine pairings, however, I suggest some recipe tweaks.

Before we get into the wines, let’s run through some pairing basics. You may already know these “rules.” If you do, and you’re like me, a refresher from time to time is helpful.

1. Match the sweetness of the wine with the sweetness of the dish. This is why you see sweet dinner wines, like certain Rieslings and Gewurztraminers, suggested with sweet Asian sauces and fruit-heavy dishes. If the food is sweeter, your wine will taste tart, thin, un-fruity, and if red bitter and astringent. My wine picks all have some level of sweetness to them.

2. Match wine’s and food’s acidity, too. That’s why salad vinaigrettes and very dry and tangy whites are a match, ditto oysters with a squeeze of lemon and extra brut Champagne.

3. Salt is the champion equalizer. Wines taste better if the food is generously yet judiciously salted.

4. Acid and salt counteract sweetness in a dish. Think of a squeeze of lemon in a 7-UP, or a sprinkle of salt on a pre-bake chocolate cookie. You don’t sweetness quite so much, right? Wine also thinks less about sweet when salt and acid are involved, opening up more pairing possibilities.

I could go on, and on. But I won’t. I hear your collective “whew!”

The Grilled Peach, Onion and Bacon Salad with Buttermilk Dressing feels as if it came straight from either Germany or Alsace, France. Took a bit of searching to find the perfect wine from either place, but I found it at Napa’s Back Room Wines: Georg Albrecht Schneider Riesling Niersteiner “Hipping” Spätlese 2018 ($20). It’s loaded with peach-ish fruitiness, has a kiss of spice and a sweetness on the same level as the peaches, brown sugar bacon and grilled Vidalia onions. If you’d rather have a drier wine with the dish, I suggest you roast or fry the bacon without the brown sugar to cut down the sweetness a bit. Buy the Schneider Riesling “Hipping” Spätlese at Back Room Wines in Downtown Napa.

I went on the hunt for a fruity, soft, light red wine with a little sweetness to pair with the Pork Tenderloin with Peach Salsa. After making the rounds through wine esoterica with no luck, I’ve landed on one of California’s most popular wines, Meiomi Pinot Noir, California 2019 ($16-$20 depending where you shop). A departure from my typical wine recommendations, Meiomi Pinot Noir is a great choice because it’s soft, fruity and a little sweet. At 6 to 7 grams per liter of residual sugar, it is right at most folks’ sweetness threshold and on par with the sweet/salty pork brine and fresh peaches. The grill flavor of the pork complements the vanilla latte-like flavor from Meiomi’s oak influence. You can find Meiomi at most grocers and liquor stores in the area.

It's a 180-degree turn in case production for my last wine. The Jalapeño Peach-Glazed Chicken is roasted wings and drumsticks (chicken thighs would be good too) with a caramelized, sweet peach glaze. I want an aromatic white wine with at least a suggestion of sweetness, and for that I steer you to Fortunati Vineyards for their Fortunati Viognier “Estate” Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley 2019 ($38). One of Napa’s few Viogniers, and possibly the best, the Fortunati smells like a Hawaiian fruit stand with all its pineapple, mango and citrus goodness. Exotic, floral and heady at 14.5% alcohol, the Viognier is full of flavor and, at 2.5 grams/liter residual sugar, it is below our sweet-sensing threshold, but that sweetness and full body makes it a fine partner with sweet, spicy roast chicken. If you’re going to try this pairing, and I hope you do, I suggest dropping the sugar from 2 ¼ to 1 ½ cups. The glaze will not be as thick, but dropping the sweetness is worth it. If you are comfortable using corn or potato starch as a thickener, use enough to get that plate-sticking consistency that Ken advises.

Buy the Viognier winery-direct at FortunatiVineyards.com. Pick up at their by-appointment tasting room on Salvador Avenue in Napa. If you want to make a friend, bring a batch of Jalapeño Peach-Glazed Chicken with you and offer some to Gary Luchtel, Fortunati co-owner and winemaker. He really wants to try this food and wine pairing.

Taste with me tomorrow afternoon

If you’re free tomorrow from 1 to 2:30, I’m hosting a tasting of two local wineries, Quigley Family and Stellareese, at Silverado Cooking School in Napa. Taste their wines, learn about them from the winemaker, and enjoy the snacks I’ll be putting together before your eyes. Cost is $12 to attend. Not a typo: 12 dollars. Quigley and Stellareese will be taking orders for their wines, should you like to purchase. Which you will. Email me, dan@dawsonwineadvisor.com, if you’d like to attend. Love to see you!

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Dan Dawson is a former Napa Valley wine merchant and sommelier. These days he helps small California wineries connect with folks who want their wine but don’t know it yet. You can reach Dan via his website, DawsonWineAdvisor.com and @dawsonwineadvisor on Facebook and Instagram.

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