s the American palate for wine and food,separately and together, continues to evolve,smart chefs and sommeliers are making sure thatpairings are broad, deep and coherent.They’re searching out more Old World wines to matchtoday’s lighter, fresher fare, hosting wine dinnersdeveloped through kitchen-cellar collaboration,participating in special events and promotions showcasingvintages beyond award-winning powerhouse wines andstaying attuned to what customers really want.
DEFLECTING FRUIT BOMBS
Chefs and sommeliers are putting less emphasis on old-fashioned wine dinners, especially those where acelebrated vintner might appear before a handful of gueststo unleash massive, potent Cabernets and Chardonnays;the rich vanilla oakiness of these wines often forces chefsto reach for the butter to help dishes stand up to a wine’sfruit-bomb intensity.“The biggest change in the past 10 years has been thepalate of the average guest,” says Andrew Sutton,executive chef of Napa Rose at Disney’s GrandCalifornian Hotel & Spa at the Disneyland Resort inAnaheim, Calif.American cookery is now far less reliant on cream andbutter; Sutton estimates that his sauces use 70 percentstock and only 30 percent butter these days, much lessthan when he trained, more than two decades ago. As aresult, intense, concentrated and fruit-forward New Worldvintages, while still attracting lots of praise, are taking aback seat to wines that make more harmonious matches.Michael Jordan, master sommelier and general managerof Napa Rose, recalls the not-too-distant past, when “youcouldn’t give away the great European wines in SouthernCalifornia. All [customers] wanted was oaked Chard andCab; that was the limit of their taste and experience.”But now that Americans are better traveled and moreaware of the world of international ﬂavors, they expecttheir restaurants to reﬂect a worldview, in terms of bothcuisine and wines, Jordan says. Meanwhile, sommeliers areturning away from classic, rote matches that actually maynot have worked.
EXPLORING NEW REGIONS
For some restaurants, building a pairing program withspecial dinners works to keep the kitchen and servers freshand to build guest loyalty and trafﬁc. Every Thursday,Castagna, a Mediterranean restaurant in Portland, Ore.,explores lesser-known wine areas of the globe and winesfrom smaller organic and biodynamic producers, bothdomestic and international, who work with traditionalgrape varieties. Each wine is accompanied by a dish fromthe same region, offered as a four-course menu or a lacarte. Flights are priced at $15 for three 2-ounce pours.
Chefs, sommeliers and winemakers look beyondcolor-coding to create worldly, taste-drivenmatches for food and wine
BY JACK ROBERTIELLO