Chicken and Morels paired with a German Pinot Noir

Pairing:  Chicken and Morels paired with a 2012 Burkheimer Winzer Schlossgarten Spätburgunder Rotwein

Food:  This is a fast, simple, but delicious meal to create. Dredge some boneless chicken breasts in some flour seasoned with salt and pepper, dusting off the excess. In some butter, sauté some minced shallot until just slightly browned. Turn up the heat a bit and add the chicken breasts to the pan and sauté until nicely browned and just cooked through. Remove from the pan (keep warm in a low oven), deglaze the pan with a glass of white wine (saving a few swallows for the chef). Reduce the liquid until most has evaporated, then add the halved morels (or any other mushroom you enjoy). Turn the heat down and cook until mushrooms are just done. Add a few Tbs of cream, heat through and adjust for seasoning. Melt a pat of butter and spoon the finished sauce over the chicken and any accompanying rice or pasta.


Wine:  When one thinks of German wine, one immediately thinks white wine … and the white wine is Riesling. Germany produces arguably the finest Rieslings in the world in its famed Mosel wine region. However, Germany also produces some fine red wines, notably Pinot Noir. Baden, located in the southwestern corner of Germany not far from both the French and Swiss borders, is known for its red wines particularly Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir). Pinot Noir is the most widely planted grape in the Baden region and Baden is the third largest wine-growing in all of Germany.


Tasting Notes:  A pale red, transparent wine, almost the color of a rosé. Aromas of sweet red cherries, with some subtle hints of earth and leather. On the palate, one gets a delicate flavor of cherry cola (yes, this is a desirable trait in many delicious Pinot Noirs). Layers of red cherry and fresh earth are also present. In a blind tasting, I’d guess this wine to be a New Zealand or California pinot due to its prominent flavors of ripe fruit (“fruit forward”). Of course, I’d be wrong! The point is that this German Pinot Noir tastes much more like a New World wine rather than the more nuanced flavors of an Old World wine one might expect from a German wine. The morels in the dish bring out the subtle earthiness in the wine.

Other Wines That Pair Well with This Food: Pinot Noir from New Zealand and California, Chardonnay, Red and White Burgundy.

Other Food That Pairs Well with This Wine: Game, Mushrooms, Roast Turkey, Pork

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Remembering Perigord … Drinking Cahors

Pairing:  Périgordian Cuisine and 2011 Clos La Coutale Cahors.

Food: Twenty years ago we were fortunate to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary in the Périgord region of southwestern France. While there we enjoyed a memorable dinner at a tiny bistro called Chez Tarrade. Arguably one of our best meals ever … multiple courses; delightful chats with Madame, the seventy-year old chef; an unnamed local red wine that went with everything… heavenly. This is our attempt to recreate that amazing dinner. We’ll take it course by course. Then select a wine to go with all of it.

For the first course, Madame served Pâté de Fois Gras with Truffles, accompanied by Pain de Maïs (a baguette made with corn). For our version, we had Chicken Liver Pâté made with chicken livers, onion, garlic, cognac, heavy cream, nutmeg, thyme, salt & pepper.


The second course was a cêpe omelette. Madame used fresh cêpe mushrooms. We made our omelette with dried porcini mushrooms.


The main course at Madame’s was a simple 1/2 inch thick pan-seared Bistro Steak served with Potatoes Sarlat (Our version consisted of thinly sliced potatoes, each slice dipped in melted duck fat, seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic. Then stacked the slices in three-layer piles in a heavy saucepan and baked at 450F for about 20 minutes.) For a perfect medium rare steak, cook on a hot grill pan, hum the first verse of The Marseilles, then flip the steak and hum it again. I’m serious. No need for a timer!


The steak and potatoes were followed by a simple salad and a plate of assorted cheeses.

And, finally, for dessert we enjoyed homemade Neapolitan Ice Cream (a block of raspberry, pistachio, and chocolate with chocolate chunks).


To complete the illusion of dining at Chez Tarrade and capture some of the ambience of this charming bistro, we ate at a table in front of our own fireplace. Very special!


Wine:  Cahors is a small wine-growing area that surrounds the city of Cahors located on the Lot River in southwestern France a little ways south of the Périgord region. Here, Malbec is by far and away the mostly commonly grown grape. Many people will immediately associate Malbec with Argentina where it is widely planted. However, it is this lovely little corner of France that is the birthplace of Cot which is the original name for Malbec. Wine-making in this locale dates back to Ancient Roman times. This wine from the Clos La Coutale winery is 80% Malbec and 20% Merlot.


Tasting Notes:  The predominance of Malbec (80%) in this Cahors wine produces an extraordinarily deep dark red, almost black, color. (Note:  Tiny amounts of Malbec are often added to Red Bordeaux wines to darken them.) On the nose, one enjoys blackberry and earth. The palate is a big, robust, complex melding of blackberry fruit leather, tobacco, earth, and hints of licorice and chocolate. The earth notes in particular go beautifully with the pâté, the mushrooms, the beef, and even the chocolate components of the dessert. Amazing how one wine can pair so nicely with a multi-course meal such as this one.

Other Foods That Pair Well with This Wine: Cassoulet, Roast Duck, Duck Confit, Mushrooms, Roast Lamb

Other Wines That Pair Well with This Meal: Bergerac, Red Bordeaux, Tempranillo, Côte du Roussillon

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Pasta Rustica with Primitivo (Italian Zinfandel)

Pairing: Pasta Rustica with 2009 Leone de Castris Primitivo di Mandoria Villa Santera

Food: Pasta Rustica is a favorite meal of ours that we enjoy frequently (on Wednesdays … of course!). It is made with turkey or chicken sausage, canned tomatoes, herbs, and three cheeses … ricotta, fontina (or mozzarella), and Parmigiano-Reggiano. A link to the recipe can be found here. Although the recipe calls for penne, almost any shaped pasta can be used. We prefer tortiglioni. Our dish is accompanied by toasted olive bread and Italian green beans.


Wine:  The vineyards of the Leone de Castris winery are found near the tiny village of Salice Salentino on the Salento Peninsula in Puglia, the southernmost wine region in Italy. Think of the “heel of the boot” when looking at a map of Italy. Savvy travelers know this to be among the prettiest coastal areas in all of Italy and not nearly as touristy as other more well known regions of the country. The Primitivo grape is widely planted across Puglia. Fairly recent DNA testing has revealed that Primitivo and Zinfandel (grown widely in California) are genetically the same, both grapes tracing their origin to the Crljenak Kastelanski, an ancient Croatian variety. We like to think of Primitivo wine as Zinfandel with “elbows” (our own term), a desirable roughness found in many Italian wines.


Tasting:  This full-bodied wine is a deep reddish purple color. The nose is rich in blueberry and cherry notes. On the palate, flavors of dark fruit, cinnamon and cloves are present. There is an overall gentle sweetness to this dry wine that goes well with the sweet tomato sauce and cheeses used to make the Pasta Rustica.

Other Wines That Pair Well with This Food:  Chianti Classico, Barbera d’Alba or d’Asti, Valpolicella

Other Food That Pairs Well with This Wine:  Aged Cheeses, Grilled Chicken, Sausage, Pasta with Spicy Tomato Sauce

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Tuscan Roast Chicken paired with a Super (Duper!) Tuscan Red Wine

Pairing:  Tuscan Roast Chicken with 2008 Arcanum Valadorna Toscana

Food:  Most of the time, we plan out what we want to eat over the course of a week, then decide which wine in our inventory would make for a good pairing. Occasionally, however, we start with a wine that we have been looking forward to drinking and construct a dinner that we think will showcase the wine particularly well. The Arcanum Valadorna has been sleeping quietly in our cellar for a few years. It seemed that now might be a good time to enjoy it. Knowing that the wine is from Tuscany, we looked for flavors that help define that local cuisine. Chicken is a good canvas to work with, especially a home-grown hen.  Rosemary, garlic, olive oil, and lemon all are staple ingredients in a Tuscan kitchen. So we made a paste using a generous amount of chopped fresh rosemary (about 3T), garlic (4 cloves), olive oil, salt and pepper. Tucked some of the paste under the skin of the breast and thighs, and rubbed the rest all over the outside of the chicken and sprinkled it with some additional salt and pepper. We then stuffed the cavity with four sprigs of fresh rosemary and a quartered lemon (squeeze each quarter a little bit before putting each in). Roast at 425F for an hour (check after 45 minutes and bast with some of the juices). Let stand for about 15 minutes while you make a simple sauce with the pan juices, a bit of wine, and a little butter. Mind-blowing how good the chicken is prepared this way!


Wine:  Speaking of mind-blowing, we now come to the Arcanum Valadorna.  It could be said that this wine defines a Super Tuscan, or at the very least is a wonderful exemplar. 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc, both key components of French Bordeaux, which the Italians are showcasing in a Super Tuscan. Some Tuscan winemakers would say that they are showing up the French by beating them at their own game (but I’m not going to go there!). Arcanum’s vineyards are located in the southeast corner of the Chianti Classico wine region, bordering the ancient town of San Gusmé not far from the city of Siena. The Arcanum website linked below showcases the stunning estate, vineyards, wines, and region.


Tasting:  Wow … where to begin. First note that this wine benefits from decanting about 1.5 hours before the meal. Medium to dark ruby in color. One gets leather, black currant, chocolate and coffee on the nose. The palate presents flavors of sweet red cherries, red currants, rich earth, and spices. The extraordinary depth and layers of flavors are what stand out in this wine. One can almost sense the rosemary from the chicken on the finish. Anyone who has been to Tuscany surely catches the overwhelming smell of rosemary in the air. Hedges of this herb are everywhere … an important part of the terroir. This is a very special wine … perhaps to be served on a very special occasion. One of the best wines we have tasted.

Other Foods That Pair Well with This Wine: Grilled Meats (especially Steak), Roast Lamb, Roast Pork, Pasta with Meat Sauce

Other Wines That Pair Well with This Food: Chianti Classico, Brunello, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Red Bordeaux (especially Saint-Émillion)

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