How do you pick the wines...
…to go with the food
and other answers to your overheard questions at Juliet, part 1
I have a notebook for wine tasting and pairing notes. Two of them actually, at least; one collecting dust on paper and one, unused but bothering no one, in a forgotten corner of my digital life. I suppose it is professionally hazardous to too freely admit that.
I’m not afraid of the fact, though, and I don’t dislike learning about wine. Ditto this for cheese, by the way. There is something about the typical methods for distributing this information that is just really hard for me to assimilate and retain. Based on the various pop culture jokes and misunderstandings about wine folks...I bet there is a good percentage of you reading this who feel the same.
The thing is, evidenced by the fact that this is being typed up right now...people fairly regularly ask me a bit about wine; pairings, general recommendations, and often, simply about my favorites. I get in real trouble with favorites, because as hard as it is for me to judge the flavor and then remember it, once you want a name...I’m cooked.
Katrina’s in charge of all that, and she’s great at it. Part of what makes her great at it, is that she has designed wine and beverage programs that can be about much more than plotted points on a graph and technical jargon. They can be about those things too, which have their place; in some times, for some people. But in our programs there is really something for everyone. So much that when I get the questions over the counter, despite my supposed shortcomings, I actually have a lot to go on.
A recent wine list featured nothing but rosé [hello summer], at least at first glance. At one point, seven of them by the glass. That’s a lot of rosé to pack into a restaurant with 16 seats serving 30 guests a night.
I was actually about to give myself a little more credit than I deserve. What really pushed me to find comfort in discussing that list was that Katrina left me in charge of the dining room one night. She had to fly to New Orleans to complete a brief internship as part of the package that came with her winning the Legacy Award this year from Les Dames d’Escoffier. I had no other choice, except I guess to lock up early. That is when I discovered something really fun about our pairing.
Over a five course tasting style menu, we paired nothing but rosé, kind of. This might turn some people off if Katrina wasn’t careful. In fact, she was nervous during the first few services. It turns out though, when done right (at least, my opinion of right), a good pairing has as much to do with the joy of discovering something new as it does with plotting points of taste.
The first wine of that pairing cycle was a pretty typical summertime rosé. But it was plotted on the graph here more for texture than just taste. Can a “thin” thing feel “creamy?” And if it can, will it be an interesting contrast to a rich cheese? What if a rosé was made from a grape with white skin? How many people that book dinner here have had an orange wine before? Turns out not that many, about as many that had previously described a wine as creamy. What if you named a red wine Cherry, and then chilled it like it was pink? What if you paired for emotion and experience instead of taste or texture.Could a pairing work just based on “fun”? Aren’t wines full of bubbles fun? Will people laugh, and if so, will they laugh in confusion or more simple joy, when presented with their second glass of alcoholic carbonation in one night?
These are some of the questions that were explored through a recent menu at Juliet. And it's not that we don’t have plenty of taste data driven reasons to back up these forays into simple fun, but if you happen to ask me, these are the kinds of answers I’ll try on you first.