The Art of Wine Pairing… PAZAZ™ Style!

As in any art there is a wonderful learning curve that combines the assimilation of knowledge with the drive of passion. Each bend around the perverbial corner of access to the treasure trove of wine expertise gives way to the ever present reality that, “The more you learn about wine, the more you realize, the less you know.” If the subject is expansive (meaning it grows like a Chia Pet on the head of a bald man… the best approach is to keep it simple soldier.

Lets start with the basics. When finding out what wine someone would enjoy you must ask, “Red or white, dry or sweet?” This filter combines simplicity with the expertise of direction. If they answer, ” Sweet white”, then you must ask to what degree of sweetnesss? From the semi-sweet Kabinett which is from the Mosel region of Germany exhibiting high acidity with floral notes and hints of slate and minerality in cooler regions (there is a dry Kabinett also). Then there is the very sweet sautern (there are also dry sauternes) with the majority being found in France, Germany, Austria, and the United States.

The higher the Brix content (sugar) the sweeter the wine. If you are enjoying a semi-dry to sweeter riesling (white wine) then you will typically be enjoying spicy savory dishes. The sweeter the wine the closer you are to desert which would be paired with (if you can afford it) a Chateau d’Yquem 2011, 100 point wine from the Wine Spectator. The dryer the wine the more potential for a wine higher in acid which pairs perfectly with richer savory dishes. The higher the brix content like the afore mentioned wine then you would enjoy this superb complement to everything from a creme brulee to a baked Alaska.

If the answer to the original question is a dryer white wine then the typical question would be, “Do you like barrel aged (oaky, buttery) white wine or more austere stainless steel fermented white wine? If they have no idea what you just said then ask them what they are enjoying for their meal and take it from there. Sancere from the eastern part of the Loire valley in France is perfect with shellfish. Chardonnay is an excellent pairing with the full bodied flavor of salmon or the more delicate sea bass, halibut or black cod.

There are many varietal alternatives to both red and white wine. For this exercise in wine pairing I will now move to red wine featuring two very popular red varietals, cabernet and pinot noir. The most popular cabernets come from two different appelations which are distinguished with specific geographical and climatic origins.

The Bordeaux region of France and the Napa valley in California are famous for cabernet.

There are many other countries and regions that produce wonderful cabernets but these two are marketed as the most popular and significant. Typically the distinguishing difference between the two are as follows:

France – Old World – Earth First

California – New World – Fruit First

When pairing a cabernet you must decide if you want a quaffable wine that offers simple structure and a smooth finish or if you want a more complicated higher in acid cabernet that pairs more suitably with rich/savory dishes. The smoother finish cabernets would be perfect with pork or lamb while the richer cabernets would be perfect with beef.

The Napa valley from its southern very famous district/town of Oakville featuring the wineries of Robert Mondavi, Heitz, Silver Oak Napa, Opus one, Far Niente, and Plump Jack. Further north you’ll witness the legendary Screaming Eagle, Beringer, Chateau Montelena, and Stags Leap Wineries. In the famous “Judgement of Paris” the most famous red wines from France and California competed against each other. The red wine victor was the 1973 Stags Leap Wine Cellars winning over first growth wines Chateau Mouton Rothschild and Chateau Haut-Brion. This was quite a blow to the French as really they are most famous for their wine.

Bordeaux wines are typically driven by the terroir/earth highlighted by velvety tannins, delicious creme de cassis notes, and an intense minerality. These structured wines pair handsomely with rich savory dishes. When pairing wines like these which have higher acidity the wine makes the food taste better and the richness from the savory dish makes the wine taste better.

Now we get to Napoleans favorite wine… pinot noir. Napoleans favorite pinot came from the region of France known as Chambertin. The beauty of pinot noir is its elegance. The elegance comes from its earth, fruit, and finish. After studying California pinot I can honestly say there are really two regions that stand out from the rest… the Russian river region located in Sonoma County and the Santa Maria valley located east of Santa Barbara. The pairing of pinot is very versatile, probably more than any other red wine. The pinots I recommend are Byron and Toretti Family Vineyards. These two never disappoint and always offer exceptional wines that stand the test of time.

Pinot is my favorite wine. Serve pinot with salmon, pork, lamb, beef, and pasta. The spectrum of flavors of course varies from each pinot but to me the two pinots listed above offer a rich raspberry/cherry glow finished with a hint of basil and a whisper of cranberry. These wines will bring that inner smile which only comes with the satisfaction of excellence highlighted by the expertise of experience.

Christmas Recipe and PAZAZ™ gift Ideas

We are closer to Christmas than one would consider. With Thanksgiving within a weeks time we enter the holiday gauntlet of Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Years Eve. Since most items have been purchased (God willing and the creek don’t rise) for Thanksgiving dinner we now enter the planning stage for Christmas dinner. Planning ahead is the key to ease the stress that comes with the last minute everything consistent with the mind set reflected in our memory banks during this time of year.

Our typical family dinner began on Christmas Eve. This signified the very special opening of the presents followed by Christmas day which was the unveiling of the very special gift I’d been waiting for months to enjoy. Our Christmas Eve dinner was anything but typical.

Christmas Eve dinner consisted of onion soup and a wonderful bay shrimp salad made with my favorite hand crafted thousand island dressing. My mom made the best thousand island dressing consisting of just the right amount of ketchup, mayonnaise, and relish. This simple meal always makes me think of what was to follow which was the opening of our presents around the fireplace next to the Christmas tree.

Honestly the Christmas season was about so many very special emotions I now reflect upon with great warmth and sensitivity. First there was the easing of academic homework, tests, and of course the vacation time. Secondly, there was the searching for gifts and cards that reflected the very special connection with those you were purchasing gifts for. Third, and the most important was the wonderful heart-felt relationships connecting the best part of family and friends. All of this pointing towards the second most important dinner of the year after Thanksgiving, the Christmas dinner.

I’ll be honest, Christmas dinner was the one time a year we enjoyed prime rib. This was a very special treat that we appreciated and realized how blessed we were. The following recipe now should only be executed with the finest of culinary tools, i.e, the complete set of PAZAZ™ kitchen tools (Heavy Duty Aluminum Sheet Pan, the Silicone Baking Mat, and the Steel Mesh Heating and Cooling Rack) for the discerning chef. Before we start the recipe portion of this blog please go to to purchase these culinary tools for either the Christmas dinner or a very special gift to those you love and care about.

First, what is Prime Rib?

Prime Rib claims center stage during the holiday season for a very good reason. It is the King of beef cuts. A bone-in Prime Rib Roast is rich in flavor, juicy, and tender. It is a cut of beef from the primal rib, one of the nine primal cuts of beef. This Prime Rib will consist of anywhere from two to seven ribs.

Now the Prime Rib recipe:

This recipe is designed to achieve that inner smile only validated by the perfect execution with the proper culinary tools (PAZAZ™).

Start with the oven at a very height temperature to achieve excellent browning on the outside of the roast . Rub sea salt and pepper into the Ribs to accentuate the flavor profile. Place Prime Rib in oven on top of the PAZAZ™ Sheet pan, Silicone baking mat, and resting on the Steel Mesh Heating and Cooling Rack… starting at 500 degrees for 15 minutes or until the desired browning on the outside has occurred.

Prime Rib is best served rare pluse to medium rare. Any other temperature above that and you should be eating pot roast, hamburgers, or hot dogs…. with chips and a Bud Light. For a rare roast the temperature should be 115 degrees, Medium rare 120 degrees, and medium 130 degrees.

A 10lb roast at 350 degrees should take between 25 to 30 minutes per pound. So between 2 to 2 and 1/2 hours plus another 20 minutes to rest the meat to achieve the perfect juicy meat profile.

The juice and meat by products should be crafted into a wonderful gravy over hand whipped Yukon gold mash potatoes. Then add your favorite side dishes such as green beans with bacon, yams, mac and cheese and a beautiful Waldorf salad. This will satisfy your hunger, provide instant gratification, and become a meal you will not forget because of the wonderful opportunity for left overs.

A rich bold wine should be paired with this holiday meal, a recent discovery of mine, an Idaho winery voted the best in the Pacific North West (Clear Water Canyon Winery). Try the malbec for a very satisfying and palate pleasing alternative to the cabernets from the Napa Valley you usually reach for.

Enjoy this holiday meal while living in the moment reflecting upon the very special gifts we are blessed to enjoy with family and friends.