Asian Tuna Tartare with Chardonnay from Sonoma, CA – Pairing Rating: 9.0 out of 10.0
Spring Asparagus Soup with 2009 Meursault – Pairing Rating: 7.0; with Chardonnay from Central Coast, CA: 8.5
Grilled Sea Bass, Black Olives & Blood Oranges with Pinot Noir from Sonoma, CA – Pairing Rating: 9.5
A trifecta: wine-loving guests, killer wines and a great menu! So why wasn’t I thrilled? Here’s how it came down.
The Asian Tuna Tartare from the Le Bernardin Cookbook was great with the Kongsgaard Chardonnay 2009 ($110). The wasabi/jalapeño kick was elegantly mild, outclassed by the ginger and sesame, so the acidity and fruit of the Cali Chardonnay worked just fine. So far so good. We then sat down to Spring Asparagus Soup from the Da Fiore Cookbook. Always a crowd-pleaser, this soup uses onion to heighten the freshness of the spring asparagus, and incorporates a little potato for body. No asparagus pairing problems here. And no cream, just a creamy texture . . . a creaminess I thought called out for Meursault.
I chose the Mikulski Le Genevrieres 2009 ($95), where memories of the 2002 vintage of that wine still do it for me. But unlike the 2002, the 2009 is fat, not acidic enough for the soup. Together, there was no music. The guests spoke only of the soup, and said nothing of the wine. Let me reassure you, this is a very fine, well-crafted Meursault! But like a couple on a blind date, the two didn’t really speak to each other. My fault, not the wine’s. Next time I will serve it as a cocktail wine and let it share the stage with no one.
The main course was Grilled Sea Bass with Black Olives, Blood Orange and Basil from Fall 2012 Weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal.
I was undecided on the pairing: a bright cherry Pinot Noir from Williams & Selyem 2010 Rochioli Riverblock ($125) or an earthy Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru 2001 from Dugat-Py ($175). I had the Rochioli before, and with that wine my confidence ran high. But the previous Dugat I opened (18 months ago) was “bretty” – a bacterial infection that makes the wine smell like a barnyard. A little “brett” is fine, giving the wine a distinctly earthy character, but this was over the top. I opened the Dugat 2 hours before serving – no barnyard this time. My plan was to serve both wines side-by-side and let the guests decide which they preferred.
When it was showtime, I chickened out on the Dugat: the flavors weren’t knitting together. The wine just seemed out of balance, unfit for duty. I poured it back in the bottle, pumped it, and grabbed a 2006 Felsina Chianti Classico Rancia ($64). No time to let it breathe, but still a better option than the Dugat.
Bottom line: the Grilled Bass, the salty, black olives and the sweet blood oranges were exquisite with the Rochioli Pinot. For those who have not had the pleasure, these Pinots are light on their feet with a bright cherry acidity, more sweet than tart. I think they complement light fare like Sea Bass better than Napa-style Pinots which can have a heavier texture and less brightness. I serve those Pinots with pork or lamb. The Chianti was good, but clearly not as popular with the crowd; earthiness lost out to brightness.
To summarize: A crisp, lightly-oaked Chardonnay from California’s Central Coast with the Spring Asparagus Soup, and a lighter-style California Pinot Noir with the Grilled Sea Bass w/Black Olives, Blood Orange and Basil.
PS: the Dugat-Py Gevrey-Chambertin the next day was great. It just needed time, but would still have placed second to the Rochioli Pinot in the fish pairing.