Firmly On the Earth I Stand -- Or, A Wine & Food Conversation

First, for a garage-wine update: This long, cold San Diego winter (stop rolling your eyes, Remy) is keeping those natural malolactic fermentations in our three barrels moving at the approximate speed of a grouchy teenager who's been awakened at 5 a.m. 

In other words, malo's going slowly, slowly, slowly; which is fine, because next week it's expected to warm up into the 70s F, and we expect things to take off. The wine tastes delicious right now. The barrels continue to display their own individual and distinct personalities, and some of them even have names. (That's a story for another time. Stay tuned.)

That's the One, Then

My turn to pick wine for the (double) double-blind pairing this week - hooray! The local wine shops are used to me now, I think, ignoring me while I look at everything and try not to talk to myself under my breath. Or make faces as I read lamely pretentious back-label copy. (I'm really working on this one.)

This time, as always, not knowing what Jody was preparing for dinner, and without a firm white-or-red inclination, I went through all the reds without finding a candidate. (This particular shop is quite red-heavy.) So, I headed for the small "Interesting Whites" section located just behind the "Chardonnay" rack (hmmmm) -- ah, there it was. Tonight's bottle.

2007 Bonny Doon Vineyard Le Cigare Blanc, Beeswax Vineyard, Arroyo Seco, Monterey, CA. 64.3% Roussanne, 35.7% Grenache Blanc. 14.6% alc.

Jody said it smelled clean, crisp, green appley. I got lime and honeydew on the nose, and was pleasantly surprised when I sipped by the fact that the nose belied an unexpectedly round palate, with great integration of weight and acid. There was a hint of chalkiness, and a finish of lime and limestone.

It's a food wine, I thought. It wants interaction, dialogue, banter -- it needs to talk. I have a feeling it's going to be all the more exciting when this happens.

Comfort At the Table

Le Cigare Blanc '07 indeed found its match with the menu, prepared, as always, without knowledge of the wine that would be presented for pairing. 

Jody's meal included: roasted chicken with balsamic vinaigrette; melted Brussels-sprout hash with bacon, onion & garlic; and our roasted-root-veg standby (new potatoes, sweet potatoes, blue potatoes, garlic, which were joined this week by broccoli, cauliflower and fennel).

The roasted chicken

The food was hearty, hugely flavored and simply soul-satisfying. The wine wove itself between the flavors, marrying them perfectly and sparking a gustatory conversation in which each bite, each sip, brought something new and delightful to the table, as well as to those who enjoyed the pairing.

The happy pairing

"It's kind of the glue that holds it together," Jody said of the wine, which he'd variously guessed as anything from a Spanish white, to something perhaps Californian and Portuguese made by dear friend Matthew Rorick of Forlorn Hope Wines.

Grounded, Connected

Several days following the meal, as I got the children ready for school, I saw a tweet from Bonny Doon winemaker Randall Grahm, the maker of the 2007 Le Cigare Blanc; original Rhone Ranger; inimitable punster; and champion of terroir, who's being inducted this weekend into the Culinary Institute of America Winemakers' Hall of Fame.

Randall Grahm - Photo by Alex Krause

@RandallGrahm: Daughter comforts herself by continually singing Michaelmas hymn, "Firmly on the earth I stand, Michael's sword within my hand."

As a fellow Waldorf-school parent, I know that Michaelmas hymn well. We sing a lot in Waldorf school, and that's actually my favorite of all the songs; it's sung at the dawn of Autumn when the days first begin to grow shorter, and the tune and words are full of strength and bravery. Randall continued:

@RandallGrahm: I realize that having St. Michael as a comforter is a bit like having an "imaginary" playmate with whom one converses.

Further realize that iPhone/twitter serve more or less the same function as Michaelmas hymn, at least for this grown-up who needs comforting

I thought more throughout the day and week about the wine Randall makes, and the meal with which we enjoyed it, and the fact that in so many ways the combination of the two served as a force of grounding, and connection, and comfort. We all need that comfort; that conversational interaction; that weaving together. The wine called out to the food. The winemaker called out to the world. 

We are privileged both to bear witness, and to participate in the song.

Until next week, friends.