Thursday, March 3, 2016

WOPN Shares Pinot Pairs

Sure it's very hard to think "poor you" when a person says, "We did, of course, subject ourselves to a couple-hour session of tasting nearly 20 cheeses with the three wines up in downtown SLO a few weeks ago." But given the results of all that "work" means a better event at the World of Pinot Noir, the better that is for all of us attending.

The speaker of that quote was Matt Kettmann, senior editor at the Santa Barbara Independent and contributing editor for Wine Enthusiast, who will be moderating two panels Saturday morning, Myth-Busting: Pinot, Cheese and Chocolate. For cheese he will be able to lean on the expertise of Sophie Boban-Doering and Paul Doering (both pictured above) of Fromagerie Sophie in SLO; for chocolate the mad skills of Jessica Foster of Jessica Foster Confections.

"The umbrella term 'cheese' is almost as broad as saying 'food.' There are so many different types of cheese in the world that Sophie has access to, you could find one to go with anything you're drinking, from soda water to a root beer float," Kettmann points out. "Which is to say, pairing wine and cheese is much easier than wine and chocolate, simply because there are so many wildly different possibilities, from light and crisp to unctuous and gooey." 

Boban-Doering was more than pleased with all the possible pairing options for Pinot. "Each Pinot is unique because of terroir, wine maker prerogative, weather, etc. Typically, the nose of a Pinot will guide me on what cheeses to try," she explains. "Some Pinots are peppery, others more fruit forward, some have a darker fruit flavor, while others have red cherry notes…in addition the texture of a wine can help dictate which cheeses to try; is the wine smooth or acidic, heavy or light? Pinots are fun to pair since they are so varied (it’s a tough job but someone has to do it)."

And while the usual two basic types of pairings are to complement or to contrast, Boban-Doering sees it in a more complex way that should make Saturday fascinating. "The moments when the cheese and wine pairings are transformational are my favorite," she says. "By transformational I mean that a flavor emerges from the pairing that I can’t attribute to just the wine or just the cheese. Transformational pairings result in flavors of anise or tobacco or some other herb or spice. So much is going on that it makes me think of what I’m experiencing. Then, out of nowhere, a complexity between the cheese and wine dances in your mouth and finishes beautifully."

 Of course pretty much nothing finishes as beautifully as chocolate with wine, but people need to think before they drink. "Dark chocolate can be bitter and biting, while milkier chocolate tends to be lush, scene-stealing, and even cloying," Kettmann spells out. "That may go well with some dessert wines and very rich, cocktail-style Cabs, but even those are harder to pair with chocolate than you would think. Pinot can be more versatile depending on the style, but chocolate really demands its own space on your palate. So yea, it's no piece of [chocolate] cake."

Of course it's not like WOPN will have you sucking on a Hershey's kiss and swigging Two-Buck Chuck. "Luckily, in the case of Jessica Foster, we are pairing amazing truffles that feature a range of spices, fruits, and other fillings and toppings," Kettmann points out. "That really opened up the possibilities, and I think we've found some nice combinations for the three wines, which are, incidentally, a sparkler from Oregon, a rose from Sancerre, and a regular red Pinot from Sonoma.

"And if you don't like the pairings, we've got some cool backstories on the producers and the locally sourced ingredients in each truffle to keep you interested. But really, with fine hand-made chocolates and fine hand-made wines, what's not to like?"

It doesn't hurt that both seminars feature winemakers who have particular affinities for their food subject--for instance Jim Klein from Navarro, Anderson Valley's fine producer that also makes cheese, too--so the only question after the seminars will be: did I learn more or like more?

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