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Wine Paring Wednesday|Butternut Squash Soup/Riesling & Pear Strata/Chardonnay

New name!

In an effort to make my wine education more complete and more interesting, I decided to try different wines (something I know little about) with foods (something I know quite a bit more about).  I noticed that just drinking wine, my thoughts were on the thin side, and I’m hoping that putting different wines together with food will allow for more discussion.

I love road maps whenever I start anything new.  As I was noodling on how to get this particular new venture started, my husband had the idea of taking the book I’d bought to guide me through pairing wine with food:

Making the recipes, pairing them with the wines and reporting back here.  Genius!  So that’s what I’ll be doing here on Wednesdays moving forward.

I’m not sure yet exactly how this is going to work, so we’re just going to dive in and let it take it’s own shape as we go along.  Ready?

The wines:

We don’t drink a lot of white wine around here.  It’s mostly reserved for cooking or for the occasional guest who likes it.  Sometimes we have a glass or two, very cold, in the (to us) intense heat of the Los Angeles summer.  But red is our standard.

Riesling is particularly foreign to me.  Incorrectly, I had assumed that it is a very sweet wine – particularly so when the recipe called for a late harvest sweet Riesling.

Sweet it is not.  It is is bright, crisp, tangy and really on the dry side – it tasted a lot like champagne without the bubbles, but it didn’t taste flat.  It just had a lot of the characteristics of the champagnes (admittedly not top-shelf) I am used to drinking.

Chardonnay is a wine I’m slightly more familiar with, although not of late.  I drank a lot of Chardonnay in large bottles when I was in college, but I’d hardly count that as being a connoisseur of the stuff.  One thing I did find interesting about this particular Chard – the book called for pairing the recipe with a “non-oaky” chardonnay, which, it turns out, is very difficult to find.  This says something interesting to me about the general taste of the American wine-drinking consumer.  Apparently, we like our oak.  Of the hundreds of bottles we have at work, only three Chards even contended for “non-oaky” and the one selected was hands-down the clear choice.

It was very clean and crisp, and did not taste like what I generally expect a Chardonnay to taste like.  My memory and palette being what they are, I’d need to do a side-by-side test, but overall I liked the lightness of this wine.  The price is nice – $6.99, although I believe it’s only available at Trader Joe’s and only in California.  I’ll definitely be looking for this one again next summer.

On to the food!

The book recommended pairing these wines with a Butternut Squash Soup and a Pear and Gouda Strata.

The Butternut Squash Soup was made with Granny Smith apples, giving it a sweet-tartness that went along perfectly with the Riesling.  This was a bit of a revelation – the wine did taste better with the soup, and vice versa.  We enjoyed the flavors of the soup, the velvety, earthy-but-sweet squash taste and texture of the butternut combined with the tangy, sweet brightness of the apples, and the wine supported this flavor combination without overwhelming it.  I’d definitely eat the soup on its own – and we did have leftovers for lunch – but I wouldn’t recommend eating it with our standard red wine.  In this case, the wine pairing was…if not perfect, then exactly what it should be.

The Pear Strata pairing with the Green Barn Chardonnay was a bit less spectacular, although this was no fault of the wine.  The wine has some fruit overtones that would have gone nicely with the pear in the Strata…except that the pears in the Strata didn’t taste like much.  This was my fault.  In shopping for ingredients, I didn’t buy the pears with enough time to let them properly ripen.  They were soft, but not sweet or “peary” enough  (the couple I had leftover did ripen into beautiful pears that made an excellent Tart Tatain, which also would have gone pretty nicely with this wine).  Lesson learned.

Ratings Recap:

Joseph Händler 2010 Riesling

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Paired with Curried Butternut Squash Soup
(pg. 106 in Wine, Food & Friends by Karen MacNeil)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Green Barn Chardonnay

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Paired with Pear-Cheese Strata
(pg. 106 in Wine, Food & Friends by Karen MacNeil)

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Until next week!


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