Last night, for a birthday dinner for a friend, I was asked to bring some Champagne to go with the dessert course. Now, for any wine pairing with a dessert, you must know the simple rule that the wine should always be sweeter than the food. If you get it wrong, it makes both the wine and the dessert taste bad. The most common example of this understandable error is at weddings, when dry Champagne is served with wedding cake. No wedding that I have ever attended when this faulty pairing has occurred has ever resulted in a successful marriage. It is why, at my wedding, we avoided cake altogether.
I recently had the good fortune of taking my first trip to the famed Pisoni Vineyards of the Santa Lucia Highlands, above the Salinas Valley. Gary Pisoni was the visionary vineyard planter who put the region on the wine map. He's also a legendary wild man, part Dionysus, part Loki, Pan, you name it. Let's just the man knows how to have a good time.
This new invention might just have legs . . .
Apropos of Earth Day (my wedding anniversary, BTW), let's talk about the growing movement toward organics and, especially, biodynamics in wine production. Many wine producers think biodynamics is a load of mystical hooey, but it's hard to argue with the satisfaction that so many producers have gained by converting all or some of their vineyard land to this kind of farming. It's also hard to argue against it when some of the most august estates in France--DRC, Domaine Leroy, M. Chapoutier--are doing it, not to mention top California producers like Araujo, Benziger and Robert Sinskey.
I rather like this idea of selling wine in ever-smaller packages. After all, I'm a huge fan of the half-bottle. But this is a great idea for self-education, allowing drinkers to sample, in 2- or 3.5-ounce doses, wines from many different regions. (Two ounces is about one large "shot," while 3.5 ounces is about 70 percent of a normal single-glass pour of wine.)
This question came up while I was lucky enough to be having dinner with Rajat Parr at his house. Rajat is the wine director for the metastasizing Michael Mina Group, which seems to have a new restaurant going up somewhere in the world about every 15 seconds. Known as a miraculous blind taster and to have a deeply knowledgeable mind about wine, Rajat--and this is unknown to many--is also a world-class chef who graduated from the CIA in Hyde Park before deciding to devote his life to pairing food with wine instead of cooking it.
Last week, I had the opportunity to have lunch with the irrepressible Jean-Charles Boisset, the French owner of many wine companies worldwide. In California, he owns Deloach Vineyards, the venerable Russian River produce; we met at the winery. J-C is doing many interesting things, including changing the entire style of Deloach's Pinots and Chardonnays to a style much more subtle and French than most of what you'll find in California. It's a bold move, but the wines--given their price and their market penetration in supermarkets--have the potential to really help turn the tide for more tasteful and elegant California wines (especially in the Chardonnay department). Bravo.