It had been raining in San Miguel for days. We contemplated the choices. We could brave the outdoors and build an ark. Or we could stay indoors and eat and drink.
We decided that nobody really missed the unicorns after the last time we had weather like this. We’d eat and drink. Invite a few friends over. Host a wine pairing dinner.
Don Day’s Wife made the obvious choice on a theme for a cold and rainy night. It would be comfort food. Cheese and crackers. Vegetable soup. Bacon and eggs. Mashed potatoes and gravy. Chocolate cake. But of course she’d be giving them her magic gourmet touch.
Now it was my job to pair each course with some comfort wines. Comfort wines?
I thought about the meaning of comfort. A state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint. That didn’t help. Every wine brings about that condition. Though sometimes it takes more than one glass.
Then I thought deeper. About what is it about one wine that makes me more comfortable than another wine. And the answer was easy. Price. A comfortable wine was one that costs less than 250 pesos. A more comfortable wine was one less than 200 pesos. And a most comfortable wine was under 150 pesos.
We were set. Don Day’s Wife did one of the many things that she is good at. Cooked. I did one of the few things that I am good at. Shopped.
The table was set, the guests arrived and here are the five bottles that I opened.
The first bottle. The one with the cheese and crackers. Well actually a goat cheese and ricotta terrine with Kalamata olives, sun dried tomatoes, and black sesame seeds scooped up with habañero crackers. Viña Esmeralda. From a part of Spain that produces a lot of white wine. Catalunia in the Northeast. But this wine is a lot different. Most of the wine in this region around Barcelona has bubbles. This one is flat. It’s also what oenophiles call off-dry and wine drinkers call a titch sweet. The grapes are also unusual for this part of the world. Muscatel and Gewurtztraminer with aromas of orange, melon, peach and pear. I bought it at the supermarket La Comer. It’s 169 pesos a bottle.
The second bottle. The second white. The one served with the vegetable soup. Well actually a cauliflower, leek and ancho chile soup with a touch of ricotta cheese. Caliterra Reserva Sauvignon Blanc. From Chile. Because it seems you can’t have a night of bargain bottles without a guest from Chile.
I think the Casablanca Valley is doing wonderful things with Sauvignon Blanc that rivals the offerings from France’s Loire Valley and New Zealand. At about half the price. I’m not sure if it was the mention of that valley or that second glass of wine but I found myself humming “As Time Goes By”. Caliterra is creamy and well balanced with aromas of gooseberries (if you grew up in England and can remember what they smell like) or apples and limes if you didn’t. This is another one from La Comer and priced at $225.
The third bottle. The first red. Though I could have served a white to go with the bacon and eggs. Well actually an arugula and mixed greens salad with cubes of smoked lardons and a poached egg in a bacon fat (yes, bacon fat) and lemon dressing. Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir.
I usually stay away from the heartbreak grape. Because it’s hard to get a good Pinot under 500 pesos. But this is an exception even though it is a little coarse and hot. The aroma had me singing the old Kingston Trio song, “Raspberries, Strawberries, the good wines we brew…”. But then my third glass of almost any wine has me singing. It’s one more from La Comer. It’s priced at $202.
The fourth bottle. The second red. The one served with the mashed potatoes and gravy. Well actually long braised beef short ribs with onions, mushrooms, morels, and carrots over a bed of truffled mashed potatoes. La Vieille Ferme. A French Côtes de Ventoux.
It’s been a house wine at Casa Don Day for about 40 years. Almost half as long as Leonard Cohen lived. Yes, the French wine brought on a Leonard Cohen tribute. Suzanne, Bird On A Wire, Famous Blue Raincoat, and four part harmony on Hallelujah. Well after four wines we thought it was harmony. The classic grapes of Rhône style wines. Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Carignan. With aromas of plums, pepper and a touch of cherry and raspberry. This one from Costco in Celaya. A steal at $110.
The fifth bottle. The third red. This one served with the chocolate cake. Well actually a molten chocolate cake with raspberry coulis and a maple butter pecan ice cream that had been churned that morning in Don Day’s Wife’s kitchen. Beso de Vino Old Vine Garnacha. Back to Spain again but this time a little southwest of Barcelona. A wine that even famous wine writers like Stephen Tasker and Robert Parker, guys that sometimes spit rather than swallow, say is bordering on wonderful for the price.
40 year old vines and a few months in oak barrels. Aromas of blackberries, strawberries, chocolate and a slice of toast. This one from the other supermarket Soriano and $149. This time accompanied by CCR’s greatest hits and proving another health benefit of wine. A dramatic increase in your ability to shine on next season’s Dancing With The Stars.
Don Day’s Wife and I ran the last load of glasses in the dishwasher. We put out a box of dead soldiers that would hopefully be gone before the neighbors stirred. We commented that the rain had stopped. We discussed how we felt. Comfortable. Very, very comfortable. We clinked our imaginary glasses to the pleasures of plonk.