As holiday gatherings and feasts unfold around us, it is a great time of year to try new food and wine combinations. I encourage you to take advantage of abundant buffet lines and previously untried potluck offerings to exercise your taste buds this holiday season. While the pairing I’ve chosen for this month’s column seems anything but new and exciting, it does help demonstrate that we are at the pinnacle of the year for choices of food and drink combinations. Even though roast beef and Cabernet Sauvignon can certainly be considered a classic pairing, I suggest spending a little bit of focus and effort identifying how well you think the wine interacts with the other parts of your meal as well. How does it meld with the spice and fruit components of the red pepper cranberry sauce? How about Grandma’s famous gelatin mold? I’m thinking that the lime and lemon gelatins will clash with the wine, while the cherry flavored version might match up pretty nicely. What about your Aunt’s green bean casserole? Have some fun with it!
Cabernet Sauvignon is one of several grape varieties that are grown in the Bordeaux region of France and which are blended there into some of the most highly regarded wines in the world. Here in parts of Sonoma and Napa counties, we are also able to very successfully grow these grapes. Indeed, our local Cabernet Sauvignons are considered to be among the best available anywhere. Other important regions that produce Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux grapes and wines include Australia, Chile, South Africa and Washington State. Here, just as in Bordeaux, there are often varying percentages of other grape varietals blended into the final product to provide depth and complexity. If a local label lists the varietal as “Cabernet Sauvignon” you will know that at least 75 percent of the grapes are indeed that varietal. If the label has the more generic “Red Table Wine,” “Red Wine Blend,” or some similar terminology, then there is probably no single varietal that composes more than 75 percent of the wine.
Cabernet Sauvignon is considered a classic companion to roast beef due to its substantial structure and depth, which can hold up to the rich beefiness and fat in the meat. But, since many of the other guests at your gatherings will have (hopefully) brought other bottles of wine, you will have the opportunity to try looking at this food from a few different angles. Try a little Pinot Noir with the main dish. While the wine may not have the tannins to fully help you power through the beef, the fruit flavors and acid could marry very well with the sauce. Someone else brought a Riesling or a Gewurztraminer? Great! Try a little taste as these white wines might offer a nice contrast to the heat from the red pepper flakes in the sauce. Take advantage of the bounty of the season to try some new things and maybe find some new favorites. Your taste buds will thank you!
Jeff James is the founder and co-owner, with his wife Judy, of Stony Point Vineyard and James Family Cellars. Their Cotati vineyard and winery have consistently produced award-winning wines. Jeff can be reached at info@JamesFamilyCellars.com or www.JamesFamilyCellars.com