How many of you actually really enjoy a glass of White Zinfandel or Moscato, but are afraid to tell your friends in fear of being judged for having a "beginner's taste" in wine? Probably a lot of you (including myself).
Wine & Food Week 2013 began on Monday night with the Wine Wizard Kick-Off Event where Tim Hanni, this year's Wine Wizard, held a seminar discussion about how to choose the wine that you like, followed by a five-course sit down dinner with wines from Dr. Konstantin Frank and food from Executive Chef Lawrence Fogarty of the MAIN Restaurant at MainStreet America.
Hanni explains the three concepts that contribute to why you enjoy certain wines: understanding, embracing and cultivating personal preferences of wine. The purpose of his seminar was to prove how we need to create a new conversation about wine; we need to stop embarrassing people about their choice of wine rather than understanding that genetics and experiences play into how you choose the wine you like.
"Your memories, your learning, combined with your physiology creates why you like the wines you like," Hanni says.
During the seminar, Hanni provided everyone with four different wines, a Riesling, Spanish Verdejo, Pinot Noir and a Red Zinfandel. We all took a sip of each wine and raised our hands if we liked it and if we didn't like it. Just as you would suspect, the room was split among all four wines. Hanni explained that if this were a room of 40 wine experts, the same thing would happen.
"The more you learn about wine, the less it actually is about the naturalness of liking and disliking things," Hanni says. "The more it is in your head."
Everyone has a taste sensitivity quotient, which sounds scientific and complicated, but basically this is the number of taste buds each person has, which has an effect on how certain foods taste to someone.
"Some people have less than 500 taste buds and other people have more than 11,000," Hanni says. "It doesn't mean you are a good taster or a bad taster, it just means that you're physiologically different."
For me, the Riesling tasted the best the first time we all tasted the wines. However, the Pinot Noir was too bitter and was my least favorite. After we played with our wine and food, my perspective on the wines I didn't enjoy the most changed.
To demonstrate how you can make a wine taste better, we sprinkled a lemon with salt and took a small bite, then drank the wine we thought was bitter. I took a sip of the Pinot Noir and it became more sweet, rounder, fruitier and much less bitter.
Hanni proved that bad wine and food combinations don't exist. This proves that a little squeeze of lemon and adding more salt to the food you are eating can make the wine more enjoyable. We should understand that each person enjoys certain wines that others may find less appealing. The premise: help people choose the wine they want, not the wine they are supposed to have.
Following the wine seminar, we sat down to a five-course meal provided by the MAIN Restaurant at MainStreet America, where special guest Denman Moody, author of The Advanced Oenophile explained the background and reasons he selected each wine to pair with our courses. Although we were told to un-pair wine with our food, the wines paired with each course definitely worked well.
The first course paired a sparkling Chateau Frank Blanc de Noirs 2007 with two miniature grilled cheese sandwiches; one with melted brie, delicately smoked salmon, dill pesto on toasted black rye, and the other with melted aged cheddar and bacon jam on toasted brioche.
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We were then served a beautifully designed salad mosaic with cubed watermelon, cucumber, heritage tomato with spicy gulf shrimp on top and green goddess vinaigrette dressing scattered over the plate. The salad was paired with a semi-dry Dr. Konstantin Frank Riesling 2011.
For the next course, a Salmon Run Pinot Noir 2011 was paired with a roasted vegetable stack of a portabella mushroom sitting underneath zucchini, yellow squash, oven-dried tomatoes and spinach, dressed with a balsamic vinegar reduction and basil oil.
The main course, paired with a Dr. Konstantin Cabernet Franc 2010, definitely hit the spot. Executive Chef Lawrence Fogarty created the restaurant's famous meatloaf with angus beef, house-smoke bacon, topped with a tomato-tarragon jam, which sat on top of whipped garlic mashed potatoes and roasted, salted marble potatoes. The plate was decorated with a roasted tomato butter which pulled the mashed potatoes and meatloaf together perfectly.
Finally, we concluded the night with a sweet Chateau Frank Celebre NV and what the chef's mother calls crack and we could see why. The burnt caramel custard topped with black sea salt satisfied every sweet and salty craving you could ever have. Once you broke into the glass shell, you dove into a creamy, luscious caramel custard that was smooth, sweet and absolutely divine. Adding a hint of black sea salt to each bite sent this dessert over the top.