Wine Pairing Extravaganza

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First Course: Cheese with Amarone and Viognier
We had a selection of three cheeses: Humboldt Fog, Italian Aged Gouda, and Camembert Bleu Cheese. These came from the nirvana of formaggio, the Cheeseboard Collective in Berkeley.

I paired the 1997 Allegrini Amarone with the Italian Aged Gouda on baguette slices, with honey, walnuts, and black grapes. Everyone thought this combination worked very well, because the sweetness of the wine contrasted nicely with the sharpness of the cheese.

I then paired the 2004 Peay Viognier with Muscat grapes and Humboldt Fog, and with Camembert on a baguette. While we expected the Viognier to be round and creamy with these cheeses, it turned out to be too sharp. This highly acidic wine should instead be paired with a richer cheese, such as a triple-cream brie.

Second Course: Pork with Pinot Noir
Everyone thought the 2001 Kistler "Kistler Vineyards" Pinot Noir tasted more like a Southern Rhone wine—big with a hint of mountain berry fruit. My idea to pair this wine with the pork tenderloin wrapped in phyllo was to create a contrast of flavors between bitter, sweet, and tart. Unfortunately, it wasn't as elegant a Pinot Noir as I hoped, and would have been better suited to a richer dish, like venison, quail, or other game.

Third Course: Chicken with Merlot
The 2001 Atalon "Keyes Vineyard" Merlot was a hit: we all enjoyed this wine very much, and it was a perfect match with the organic chicken stuffed with Italian sausage. I was surprised by how good the wine tasted without any decanting. It had a saturated purple color, and displayed an intense, lush, and ripe flavor with wild berry aromas and a well-integrated oak profile. This was definitely one of the best Merlots I've come across in a while, and I really enjoyed its expensive texture and wonderfully sweet, long finish.

This wine pairing extravaganza is not quite done. Go to Page 3.

This article was written by Sam Chen, Echelonwines. Copyright © 2006-2007. Not to be reproduced without express written permission.

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