Shiraz, Salami, Salted Chocolate – It Works

7.09am, Cesar Chavez Avenue, Austin, Texas, USA
I’ve been off the air for a bit – due firstly to being in mourning with all the rest of the St Kilda supporters as we came oh so close but fell short by 12 points – losing the AFL Grand Final to Geelong. So I need to do a bit of a rewind to catch everything up.

Rewind (1) Toronto, Thursday 24/9/09: Reds
I just want to thank the folks at Reds Bistro & Wine Bar for the ongoing support, and they set us up with a long table last Thursday lunchtime so we could show wines to the local press corps. All went well, as we took advantage of the house-produced charcuterie tasting board to show the food pairing strengths of our wines. You hear the term “food wine” a lot really, sometimes justified, sometimes not. We try hard across the board –  from Y series to Octavius & Signature – to make sure that it’s all about balance. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, hence the value of tasting with something like the Reds charcuterie and their amazing cheese list.

Reds charcuterie

Reds charcuterie

Just for the record, here’s what I’m talking about, left to right (everything produced in house at Reds): copatta; cured pork loin; wild leek salami; mortadella; ham hock terrine; squab gallantine; chicken liver foie gras pate; chorizo (Spanish style); smoked ham; sopressata; and pate de campagne.

Reds cheese plate

Reds cheese plate

I’ve also included the three magic Canadian cheeses that I selected for the wines, left to right: – from the goat, Chevre Noir solid and mild; from the cow, Thunder Oak Gouda, sharp in a good way with huge, long flavours; and from the sheep – continuing my love affair with Quebec – Blue L’etoile (organic) sweet salty granuley and creamy.

So we were really able to illustrate the food combo strengths of the wines – thanks very much to the seriously good stuff that the Reds chefs are turning out – Michael Steh, Matthew Swift andAmira Becarevic take a big bow. And don’t forget Pastry Chef Rebecca Rouen. Her peanut butter mousse with cocoa nib coulis, banana gelato and caramelised bananas is worth travelling miles for. And it’s mostly fruit!

Rewind (2) Toronto, Friday 25/9/09: Crush
After the success showing the wines against charcuterie the previous day at Reds, we did the same thing on Friday when we went to see Eric at Crush Wine Bar. We caught up with a journo who, it turns out, used to work with our PR outfit in London many years before I started working the market over there: Carolyn Hammond.

Crush salami and cheese plate

Crush salami and cheese plate

So it was a bit of old home week as we caught up with who was doing what and worked our way through the wines with another stunning salami and cheese plate that the chef put together for us. There’s some real talent at work on these salamis, as the boys at Crush made the capicolla (beef not pork) and the sopressata (spiced salami with peppercorn) on the board, which runs from the top to the bottom in the photo: tallegio; sheeps milk cheese cured with lavender and mint (pungent and weird in a good way); 4-year-old cows milk; capicolla; bresaola; pancetta; and sopressata.

Crush salted chocolate tart

Crush salted chocolate tart

It just sets the wine off beautifully to work with them alongside such great textures and flavours, and just for fun, we tried some of the reds with one of the desserts – salted chocolate and caramel tart with lemon creme fraiche – seeing as chocolate is always a bit touch-and-go with wine pairing. Now this is the wild thing. It shouldn’t work really, but it was the 2007 Y Series Shiraz Viognier that just slid beautifully into the dessert and locked in! An interesting session with a journo, reconnecting on the other side of the Atlantic, and doing something different with red wine and chocolate – mission accomplished!

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