It was a comfort meal with an Asian twist. Grilled game hens had a peanutty, sweet-sour, understated marinade and glaze of light soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, sugar-free pancake syrup and some dark sesame sauce. The fried medium-grain brown rice was dressed with light soy sauce, sesame oil and bits of scrambled egg.
Judy’s brother Rusty had just given her an “American riesling” from the Winery at Holy Cross Abbey in Canon City, Colorado. I looked it up online, discovering that instead of the sweetness the word “American” suggested, it was made in what the winery called a German style. The label and the online note made me think it was probably Alsacian in style–just barely off dry, and nicely acidic, and that it would go well with this meal. Indeed, the wine, in a slightly off-putting dark cobalt-blue riesling style bottle, was Alsatian and was, to my taste, perfect. The nose and taste are unmistakably riesling. Thanks, Rusty!
I’d bought a Smoking Loon sauvignon blanc for this meal. But from somewhere there appeared a Spiral Wines Napa Valley 2008 chardonnay; why not try it? (Possibly the chard had been in the baker’s dozen case of wines Ron and Sherry Dumont had given me last Christmas? Somehow I hadn’t labeled its source; Judy may have picked it up at Trader Joe’s.)
Anyway . . . the chardonnay was good all by itself, and with the meal. It had enough viscosity so that Judy’s sister Barbara, who wants chardonnay to be “buttery,” approved of it; it had enough crisp acidity and apple and pear tastes to please me. I’d figured it might work out okay with the game hens, and it did; but it was fine with the fried rice, too. It’s a pretty versatile bottling.
I’d planned to drink a French Cotes du Rhone (Grand Veneur Reserve), but as the food was cooking I could tell the wine might overpower the subtle rice and poultry seasonings.
So I switched to trustworthy Rodney Strong Sonoma County 2006 merlot, which made a good match–rich, round, smooth, fruity in a general sense rather than an expected dominating cherry. I think this was one of Ron’s Christmas gift case of mixed wines.
I was pleased, though, that I’d opened two whites, because in spite of all you’ll hear and read, they were great with this meal.
I haven’t mentioned the ringer in this little saga. The vegetable was steamed green beans, al dente with a sauce of butter and a bit of chunky ground peanuts (nothing added, courtesy the grinder and peanut bin at Raley’s). Beans are best matched, perhaps, with sauvignon blanc. But having garnished the beans with butter and peanut butter, to match the other parts of the meal, all bets were off. It turns out that both whites worked with the beans a lot better than the soft, rich merlot.
–Bob Cramer, The Fearless Taster.