Discovering Texas Wines
Great Dinners with Texas Wine
By Pamela Slover Percival
When pairing food with wine, branch out from the old "red with beef, white with chicken and fish" rules, get creative and experiment with different flavor combinations.
That's the advice Pheasant Ridge Winery owner Bill Gipson Jr. gave to diners recently at a vinter's dinner to demonstrate how well the Gipson family's Texas wines pair with different foods. Gipson said he makes presentations at about 40 or 50 wine tasting dinners a year and enjoys discovering new pairings for Pheasant Ridge Wines, which are produced by his family near Lubbock, Texas. Pheasant Ridge, which produces about 10,000 cases of wine per year, is one of the oldest wineries in Texas.
"Just experiment and use your imagination," Gipson advised. For example, a home cook planning a wine tasting dinner should taste the wines ahead of time and consider what recipes he or she could use to complement the wines' flavors. Or, people who participate in wine tasting groups can brainstorm as they taste a wine and discuss possible food pairings. "Just play with your senses and come up with food ideas," Gipson added.
Tracy Dees, chef at Fairway Oaks Country Club in Abilene, Texas, the site of one of Gipson's recent vintner's dinners, added to Gipson's wine pairing advice. "Design the menu around the types of wines that you enjoy and the types of foods you like to eat. You don't even have to serve elegant, expensive foods to go along with certain wines. You can get a good wine pairing for chicken fried steak. I think Bordeaux goes really well with chicken fried steak."
One of the most unusual, though successful, food pairings Gipson has seen with Pheasant Ridge wines was his Dry Chenin Blanc, a light, crisp white wine, paired with a tossed green salad and vinaigrette dressing served over a beefy-textured, grilled portabella mushroom. That combination was orchestrated by a chef at The Houston Club in Houston, Texas.
At a dinner in an Italian food restaurant in Waco, Texas, recently, the chef paired Pheasant Ridge Merlot, a red wine, with a dish featuring chicken and bow tie pasta.
"Normally, you'd think of a Chardonnay or a Chenin Blank or Pinot Grigio (all white wines) or something lighter to go with chicken, but this pasta dish was very spicy and the Merlot actually went well with it," Gipson said. "I don't think it's wrong to have a red wine with chicken or fish, as long as it doesn't overpower the particular dish. The key is contradictions, flavors from opposite ends that bounce off each other."
Although the old rules for pairing foods with wines can be bent and twisted a bit, some combinations still just don't work together. For example, a light, flaky poached sea bass just won't hold up when paired with reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. By the same token, Chardonnay, a white wine, won't work with heavier dishes such as lamb, roast beef or a spicy Italian dish.
Learning to enjoy new foods and wines and pairing the two together simply comes with some experience, Gipson said. His own palate began to broaden when he began traveling to different places outside of his West Texas hometown of Midland. "I was raised on meatloaf and mashed potatoes," Gipson recalled. "I don't think I had seafood until I was 12 or 13 years old. But travel developed my appetite for different foods. For example, the first time I was in Italy, I couldn't stand the coffee. Now, I drink that coffee at home."
What Goes with Texas WinesAlthough Gipson appreciates a variety of foods, he maintains that beef steak is probably still his favorite. He also has a list of favorite other foods that pair well with Pheasant Ridge wines.
A good resource for recipes that either use Texas wines as ingredients or pair well with Texas wines is Frank R. Giordano Jr.'s cookbook, Vintage Texas: Cooking With Lone Star Wines (See recipe below.). Copyright 2001 Pamela Slover Percival
Lobster Bisque (Pair with Pheasant Ridge Barrel Fermented Chardonnay)From Chef Tracy Dees, Fairway Oaks Country Club
Chicken a la BourguignonneFrom Vintage Texas: Cooking With Lone Star Wines
Recipe courtesy of Bill Gipson Sr., owner of Pheasant Ridge Winery. Serve with Pheasant Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon.
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