Family & friends, good food & wine are the best pairings

I had the pleasure of a large wine tasting panel on Friday when Barbara and I had nine families and friends over for a Spanish dinner. My daughter Marguerite concocted tapas: prawn seviche, deconstructed Queso Manchego Crostini and Champiñones Rellenos (mushrooms stuffed with cranberries, goat cheese, onion cream cheese and anchovies stuffed with capers). I really liked the idea of ​​deconstruction. The crostini were coated in a mixture of roasted garlic, dried tomatoes, XVOO and the Manchego was served on the side. We had to think about finding food and wine pairings. Realizing there were nine peeps, I decided to go with multiple selections and 2 oz. sherry glasses for preprandial libations.

Upon picking, I immediately broke the theme by serving a 3 oz. glass of Roederer Estate L’Ermitage Brut 2015 Anderson Valley, California, 93 McD, a recent version and available for less than $60. Served crackling cold, the nose was somewhat muted. However, it evolves on the palate with flavors of pear, nuts and yeast. Very dry finish with tangy acidity, a fine palate cleanser. For tapas we had a choice – one was Gonzalez Byass Alfonso Oloroso Seco, tawny in color, aromas of roasted nuts and dried fruit and dry, shiny mouthfeel of orange zest, dried apricot, mushroom, freshly baked bread with a slightly salty and caramel finish, 89 McD at less than $30. The other was the 2018 Nik Weis Weingut St. Urbans-Hof Old Vines Riesling because, in its class, it’s a prime example and can be found for less than $20. I keep some on hand because it is very tasty and will keep for a few years. The recent version, 2021, was written here several weeks ago. 2018 shows pale lemon, a mixed bouquet of apple, pear, grapefruit with floral and apricot notes. On the off-dry palate, a very subtle sweetness is well balanced with lifted acidity and slate mineral notes. It held up to the seviche beautifully and the slight sweetness toned down the acidity of the seviche well. For the garlic toast and mushrooms, I brought the last bottle of Delaplane Cellars Williams Gap Red Wine 2017, a blend of 50% Merlot, 27% Cab Franc and 23% Petit Verdot, which I bought in Virginia in 2020. Small production, it is no longer available.

The starter was a paella with spicy smoked roast pork, chorizo, prawns and scallops. Found some reasonably priced saffron at the Fresh Market. The recipe called for sherry and I knew there would be enough left over from sampling the tapas. Unfortunately, since the death of Hercule Poirot, few people in the United States have even tried sherry. I always have some on hand for the Imperial, the Newberg, the lobster and crab bisques or the onion soup, among others. It greatly enhances caramel flavors. Be sure to burn the alcohol (heat in pan, light with match, make sure fan is off) before adding. Served an Esporao Reserva DOC Alentejo 2018, 92 McD; less than $20 is stealing. The assembly of six varietal juices gives a beautiful dark garnet color. Opens with anise, cherry and a hint of dill. On the palate, look for cherries, many of them riding well-balanced acidity and sweet tannic spine. Think poor man’s premium pinot noir. Famiglia Pasqua Amarone della Valpolicella 2015 kept the cherry theme, 93 McD, $40. Deep ruby ​​color. The nose has cherries, Mediterranean spices; barrel aging brings notes of dark chocolate and vanilla. Full-bodied, dry with good viscosity, good acidity and earthy notes further supporting the cherry flavors. The finish is long and clean with a slight note of tobacco. Normally one would think white with a seafood paella. broth i made from rotisserie detritus, crackers and bones needed the reds. When the paella was almost done, I tossed the prawns and scallops with little olive oil, S&P, then pressed them on top and finished under the broiler. Please use Japonica (Arroz Redondo) rice for best results. Bomba is the best for me. For those using the more typical seafood, clams, mussels and chicken paella, I recommend Godelia, Viognier or Rousanne. Fat Chardonnay works but avoid the more acidic and lean whites; they may present a little bitterness. Lovers of Spanish reds, fresh Rioja Rosé is traditional, but I prefer the Monastrel or Tempranillo/Grenache blend. Kudos to the everyday folks and arenas for showing them off. Entertaining musicians.

About Michael Brafford

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