Tuesday, October 10, 2006

What to Serve with Lasagne?

BrooklynLady made a wonderful lasagna the other night, with goat cheese and fresh ricotta, turkey sausage and homemade tomato sauce - she used the really tasty San Marzano tomatoes. Jonny Bongos was having a "last dinner at our place before he moves to California," and I wanted to uncork something nice for the occasion.

I realized that the only bottles of Italian wine I have, both 1999 Brunellos, are buried literally on the bottom of the wine fridge. Even though I will miss Jonny Bongos terribly, I was not about to take every bottle out of the fridge and then re-stack them. So...what to serve with lasagne and salad? How about a Fleurie or some other cru Beaujolais...but I forgot that I opened my last bottle a week or so ago. I have a nice 2001 Palacios de H. Remondo Rioja, but although delicious, I remember it as weighty at 55% tempranillo and 45% grenache.

Then I realized I had a perfect excuse to try a 2004 wine from one of my favorite Oregon producers, St. Innocent. Hopefully the wine would be light enough to work well with lasagne but assertive enough to shine through the tomato sauce and stand on its own. Pinot noir with lasagna, though? I had just finished telling JB about my new wine blog, and now I'm smiling meekly as I tell him "yeah, this should be good with the lasagna."

I'm no wine pairing expert, but the combination worked fine by my taste. The bright red cherry flavors in the wine complimented the acidity of the tomato sauce, and the velvety texture of the goat cheese was echoed in the smooth mouthfeel of the wine (I hear cheese will do that to tannins in wine).

This got me thinking - many tasting notes speak of cherries and earth, whether they refer to Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, or other varietals. Maybe they pair in a more versatile way that I think. I know that it makes more sense for Italian wine marketers to associate their wines with classic Italian foods. And for Oregon pinots to be paired alongside Pacific salmon and other local cuisine in their ad campaigns. This makes perfect sense - local food goes well with local wine. But we as consumers should be encouraged to try our own, possibly counter intuitive pairings too. not everyone keeps wine from all over the world at their fingertips, and dinner should be served with wine. Everyone wins if I open an Oregon pinot with my lasagne (except for Tuscan wine producers, I guess, but they'll win next time when I open a Montevertine with my New Zealand lamb chops).

2004 St. Innocent Temperance Hill, $25
Synthetic cork, which always interests me when the procuder says the wine will age only a few years (3-5 in this case). If the synthetic cork preserves wine better, why not use it for your ageworthy wines? Anyway...this is a somewhat simple wine that delivers pure simple pleasures. Clear red color, right to the rim, with fresh red cherry and some light vanilla scents. Flavors of bright red cherries with faint earth underneath. There is not much in the way of complexity here, but that's okay - the flavors are clean and sweet, and very food friendly. A pretty good value at this price too. Although Temperance Hill grapes say nothing about the quality of White Rose, Shea, or Seven Springs grapes, the quality of this wine bodes well for the other 2004 St. Innocent wines that I have yet to taste. And it was great with goat cheese lasagna.


Dr. Debs said...

Brooklynguy: Thanks so much for visiting my blog, and for the link to yours. We're clearly sympatico in the wine department--I loved your Oregon Pinot Report!

Dr. Debs

Brooklynguy said...

Thanks for your comment, I have enbjoyed reading your posts too. i linked to your blog already...have fun!