Ugly pumpkin meets its match in Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Ahhhh, those blissful food and wine pairings... A dinner at a friend and avid gardener's gave me renewed faith in mankind! - especially the portions of mankind who grow their own edible gardens in the SF South Bay and those that make wine in Chateauneuf-du-Pape (in the Southern Rhone region of France). They are co-conspirators in one of world's great pleasures, and are indeed a match made in heaven, of which yours truly was the benefactor last night.

The day before, I had been tasting 2007 Chateauneuf-du-Pape's at Vineyard Gate - they clearly had lots of food-friendly qualities, which at the same time made them hard to enjoy on their own - a lot of spice, pepper, exotic dry flowers, berries and herbs, a touch of sweetness, and refreshing acid - all those great things we've come to expect from Chateauneuf. Tasting those wines had transported me to the South of France where this past December I visited many of the area's great wine domaines, and predictably made me think spicy pork or herb-crusted roasted poultry, game or lamb.

So when last night my friend A.C. served up delicate Indian-spiced pumpkin-stuffed ravioli with garlic-tomato-herb sauce on top, the thought of Chateauneuf-du-Pape did not immediately enter my mind. We tried a Chablis -- too weak; then a Saint Joseph (Northern-Rhone, syrah-based) - too strong. Both clearly unpleasant combos with the food. Then the light bulb went off: the ravioli is slighly sweet from the pumpkin, slightly spicy from the Indian spices, and slightly tangy from the sauce - guess what?!: Chateauneuf! - sweet, spicy, tangy - VOILA! I had brought several bottles from Vineyard Gate - high-caliber babies at $50-100/btl (high-end Chateauneuf isn't cheap) - but boy, did they do the magic trick!

A month ago, I discovered a liver pate + Cotes du Rhone (less expensive wine in the Southern Rhone) pairing that was an eye-opener for similar reasons - where the basic taste elements in the food are like the elements in the wine. But last night, boosted by the sheer brilliance of A.C.'s cooking force that transformed an ugly pumpkin into a silky beauty, combined with classic 2007 Chateauneuf-du-Pape styles from Moulin-Tacussel and Grand Veneur, just for a brief moment, I felt all was alright with the world! And that, my friends, was priceless!


half_bottle said…
That dinner was reminiscent of dining at Chez Panisse with Alice Walters -- the simplicity, ultimate fresh ingredients and unpretentious home-cooking at its fanciest. Thanks AC and JJ!!

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