Pairing Up: A Good Match Makes a Big Difference

  • October 19th, 2009
  • Wine
  • 2 Comments
  • Bridget
Mirassou is the oldest winemaking family in the country.

Mirassou is the oldest winemaking family in the country.

David Mirassou has been in the wine business for as long as he can remember. His family was the first to bring French vines to California, and he grew up in the vineyards. It’s no wonder that pairing wine with food comes easy to him.

That’s why I was excited to have a chance to chat with him a few weeks ago when Tammy and I joined fellow bloggers at Tru for a media dinner hosted by Mirassou, celebrating the 155th anniversary of his winery.

This dinner also came on the coat tails of the meal we had with Ted Allen at Moto sponsored by Robert Mondavi Wines, Mirassou’s direct competitor. Both brands offer affordable selections (from roughly nine to 13 dollars a bottle) that are easy to find at the grocery store or at wine retailers.  It turns out, the two families are longtime friends too.  So, I was curious to see how the two tasting dinners would compare.

The food at both Moto and Tru is fantastic, and after doing some personal taste tests of my own, I’ve concluded that the wine brands are comparable for the price point.

Tru quinoa crusted scallops paired perfectly with the Mirassou chadonnay.

Tru quinoa crusted scallops paired perfectly with the Mirassou chadonnay.

From the very first bite at Tru, it was obvious that with all parts being equal, attentive pairing still makes an incredible difference. Chef Gale Gand and staff worked for months on the pairing menu we had, tweaking or creating recipes to highlight just the right flavors that would complement the Mirassou varietals we sipped. Their effort shined.

The Robert Mondavi pairings we had at Moto were not as well done — with the wine distributors simply picking wines from their line to pair with what was already on Moto’s menu.  We had been lucky enough to have wine pairings selected by Moto at past meals there, which were in a word — spectacular. So in comparison, the Robert Mondavi pairings were particularly disappointing.

So where does that leave us… the average wine buyers… who peruse grocery store aisles and select a bottle of wine just hoping it will pair with dinner? I mean none of us have the folks from Tru waiting in our kitchens at home to tweak the recipes in our cookbooks so they’ll pair just right.  We’re left to pair more sloppily, matching up what’s in the wine rack with what’s on the takeout menu.

Tru's peeky toe crab salad served with sauvignon blac.

Tru's peeky toe crab salad served with sauvignon blac.

I turned to Mirassou, the resident expert, for advice.  He said that pairing correctly comes with experience. Sure, certain wines uniformly pair better with certain foods, but recognizing and pairing the nuisances takes practice.

Often I’m inclined to leave that to the experts myself and to capitalize on their know-how when I can afford to. I said as much to Mirassou, admitting that I’m known as the “microwave queen” or a “crock pot cook” among my friends and that my kitchen is best employed as a podcasting studio.

He laughed. “Well, I had a dinner party last week and made pot roast in our crock pot,” he said with a conspiratorial smile. “Pair it with the Merlot. It really works!”

Who knows? There may be hope for me yet. And practice makes perfect.

Tru's salt-crusted cervena venison paired with merlot.

Tru's salt-crusted cervena venison paired with merlot.

Other takes on dinner:
Chicago Foodies
Gaper’s Block
What’s Cookin’ Chicago?

This was a media dinner. All food and drink were provided gratis.

  1. Angie left a comment on October 20, 2009 at 12:59 am

    I love it when a wine pairing comes together well. 🙂

  2. Bridget left a comment on October 20, 2009 at 11:02 am

    So do I!

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