We gathered round last night for our annual Wine Geek Dinner–a tradition started by my dear friend and local owner of wine distributing company Elysium Fine Wines, Trevor Martin. Each year, he sharpens his retired knives, retrieves the remnants of techniques learned back in the days of culinary school and working the line, and delivers one of the most sensational meals my tongue will taste but once every 365 days.
All we have to do is bring the wine.
As Trevor starts his sauces months in advance, we begin to decide what wine will come out of the cellar or what gems might exist in the market. While my favorites that evening no doubt were the 2000 Cos d’Estournel (drinking so damn beautifully right now), the 1989 Borgogno Barolo and the 1987 Olga Raffault ‘Les Picasses’ Chinon (a rare find, as it was discovered only recently at the winery itself–only 150 bottles in CO and an absolute steal at $68), the best pairing was unexpected. Despite the lovely 2004 Chateau Fonsalette (baby Rayas for those who have the bug) and its natural place beside the duck confit, it was the sherry that shook our taste buds into a world of violent serenity.
The Gonzalez Byas ‘Del Duque’ Amontillado was a brilliant choice to compliment the duck–an impressively thought out move by Natalie Guinovart, owner of Wine for Thought, LLC as well as the main administrator of the Wine and Spirit Education Trust here in Denver, under whom I teach the Level 2 Certificate. She instinctively knew the natural salty, nutty characteristics of this fortified delight would fold itself into the fatty, crispy goodness of the waterfowl.
Amontillado refers to a style of sherry that begins its life as a dry, crisp, youthful Fino, however during production begins to lose its flor and gives way to oxidation. Though its pristine, virgin-like demeanor is gone, it grows older, wiser… sexier with the introduction of oxygen. Breathing depth and deliberate prudence into the personality of this style, oxidation after a brief stint of biological aging makes Amontillado one of the more insightful, pleasurable sherries with or without food. Because it is exposed, it is also fortified to a higher alcohol so that it might not spoil.
This pairing had me falling in love… Honestly, why don’t people pair with sherries more often! Having had a Palo Cortado as well as this unforgettable Amontillado, I was blown away by its versatility. And I am only to eager to experiment with other dishes!
If you have had a similar experience pairing sherry with food, chime in! I want to hear more about these savory, solera-aged wines…