I received the following email from a reader,
"Hi Alpana - our neighborhood wine tasting group is having our annual holiday dinner and I am in charge of selecting the wines. I would love to read your comments/recommendations. We want to have 2 whites and 2 reds. We have a budget of $20 per person, so I was thinking of one higher-level wine of each type ($25), with a more modestly-priced choice ($15) to balance it out. Thank you" - Rick
Rick provided me with the menu so let's see what pairings we could come up with.
First Course - Almond-Apricot Roasted Sea Scallops with Sautéed Spinach & Amaretto Cream
Considering the use of sweet apricots and amaretto cream, this preparation reads more like a dessert which means we need to balance sweet with savory. A high acid wine such as a Sauvignon Blanc or steely French Chardonnay will do wonders for the minerally scallops and nutty almonds but it will make the apricots taste sour. What we need here is a white wine with a fat round texture to match the richness of the cream and a hint of tropical sweetness to compliment the apricots but still be refreshing enough to allow the flavor of the scallops to come through. A nice ripe Alsace Pinot Gris should do the trick.
I recommend 2006 - Domaine Zind Humbrecht Pinot Gris Calcaire $30 - sometimes Pinot Gris from Alsace can run a bit lean but ZH is known for it's over the top fatness and explosion of fruit flavors which should meld beautifully with this dish.
Second Course - Grilled Asparagus, Sun Dried Tomato Cous Cous, and Goat Cheese Crostini with Orange-Basil Sauce
I know Rick wanted another white wine but this dish screams dry rose to me. In general, I find high acid whites such a Sauvignon Blanc, Albarino or Gruner Veltiner to be suitable matches for asparagus as well as goat cheese but the sun-dried tomato cous cous and orange basil sauce take me to the South of France where dry rose wines are very popular.
I recommend 2008 Domaine de Gournier Rose Costieres de Nimes, France $9 - fresh and juicy with plenty of tart cranberry flavors to match the Provencal features of this dish. Also, drinking rose during a Chicago winter is a great way to bring a dose of much needed sunshine to the dinner table.
Third Course - Salad of Mixed Greens
Finish the first two wines
Fourth Course - Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Garlic & Asiago Mushrooms, Horseradish Potato Croquette and Bordelaise Sauce
Beef and a heavy, rich tannic red wine go together like, well there are just too many analogies to pick from. Rick indicated in his email that he was thinking about a Bordeaux but was not sure he could find one under $25 and his list of possibilities for the second red included something from Spain or an Argentine Malbec. Since this is a wine tasting group, I'm thinking we could have some fun here. I would recommend doing a comparative tasting, perhaps blind if possible between a French Malbec, AKA Cahors - an appellation located in the South West of France, not too far away from Bordeaux proper - and an Argentine Malbec. The Appellation Controlée regulations for Cahors require a minimum content of 70% Malbec in wines produced from the region. In general, Cahors is very rich, darkly colored, tannic and powerful wine and is stylistically quite different from the fruit forward, plummy and chocolaty Malbecs from Argentina. The differences between the two should provide for a very nice comparative tasting, especially for a room full of wine enthusiasts.
Rick expressed an interest in Ben Marco Malbec from Argentina which I can absolutely agree with. For the Cahors, I would recommend 2005 Domaine la Berangeraie Cahors Cuvee Maurin which sells at Binny's for around $16 a bottle.