Thursday, February 17, 2011

How-To Pair Food & Wine

By: Michelle Tham -- Last week as a part of Toronto’s Social Media Week, we explored pairing food and wine with Luma Restaurant, Niagara’s Stratus Winery and a little help from our good friend Twitter.  Both Luma (an Oliver & Bonacini restaurant) and Stratus are leaders in their fields not only for their quality food and wine but also in their optimization of social media to reach out and interact with their fans and guests.  This SMWTO event brought together a melting pot of foodies, imbibers and savvy tweeters to discuss the flavours and textural elements that come together through food and wine to enhance the dining experience.   Using a communal hashtag, the real-time discussion was projected in the room – search #foodandwine on Twitter to rehash the conversation.

Chef Jason Bangerter, Executive Chef of Luma and the O&B Canteen (@chefbangerter) prepared a three-course tasting menu designed to complement a trio of Stratus winemaker, JL Groux’s wines.  The decadent menu included a foie gras and duck rillette dressed with sunchokes; Moroccan-inspired lamb tartare with beluga lentils; and braised beef cheeks with arugula and parmesan.   As delicious as these dishes sound on their own, there’s really only one way that makes them taste even better and elevate then to another level...note-perfect wine pairings!  Let’s check out how some unique Stratus blends pair with Chef Bangerter’s dishes and how you can pair them with yours at home.

2006 Wildass White
Part of the Stratus family, the Wildass label is full of personality with rambunctious full-flavoured blends.  The 2006 is a 5-varietal blend that includes chardonnay, viognier and gewürztraminer; a combination that comes together to produce a creamy, deeply aromatic and mouth-filling (and as one Tweeter noted) “man’s white”.  The pairing with the rich and fatty foie gras rillette uses the unique body of the wine to cut the fat to bring focus to the flavour of the marinated duck.  But here’s the beauty of great pairing – the give and take.  Those same elements work backwards; where the richness of the foie gras expands range of the wine’s palate of flavours opening access to the yellow floral and apple notes while smoothing it out.  How can you pair the Wildass White at home?  Try it out with creamed buttery mashed potatoes, pan-seared scallops with seasoned butter or oven roasted Jerusalem artichokes.

2007 Stratus Red
Remember the summer of 2007?  Let us refresh your memory: blissfully hot and dry like summers should be.  And wouldn’t you know the wine grapes love summers that way too.  Those happy grapes produced incredible reds in Niagara including this meritage style blend of primarily cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc.  The beauty of blends allow the winemaker to take the strengths and weaknesses of each varietal and piece together a puzzle that expresses the full picture...something like the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.  In this case, the whole picture is characteristically classical and well-structured with lush juiciness that is darkly fruitful and bittersweet chocolate tannins.  With braised beef cheeks, the pairing philosophy here is simple – pair classic with classic.  The classic stream of flavours from the Stratus Red (think French Bordeaux or California meritage) cry for traditional flavour combinations of familiar friends.  If you’re looking to pair with the 2007 Stratus Red at home, try breaking out your ‘Joy of Cooking’ for some classic dishes like Pot au Feu, beef bourguignon or a juicy steak dinner.

Tips for Pairing Food & Wine 
Pairing food and wine when you’re dining might seem complex (leave it to the sommelier) but in reality all it takes is a little common sense.  And when in doubt...champagne!

Pair regionally.  Spaghetti and tomato sauce goes with Italian Chianti.  It only makes sense right?

Match weights.  Light dishes with light wines and vice versa.  Oysters, meet your friend Chablis.

Acid with acid.  Dishes seasoned with lemons need an equally acidic wine to meet the challenge.

Sweets for sweet.  Go sweeter with the wine than the dish or risk losing the flavours in both.

Tried and true.  Classic pairings are classic for a reason! Try truffles and Barolo or blue cheese and Sauternes.  

Know what you like.  Even the most traditional pairings won’t work if you don’t like it.  Explore!

Visit Luma Restaurant at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, open for lunch and dinner daily with and drinks and light dining in the Blackberry Lounge.  Call 647-288-4715 for reservations and follow @Oliver¬_Bonacini.

Stratus Vineyards is worth the drive to Niagara-on-the-Lake for their contemporary tasting rooms, outdoor terrace and retail gallery.  Call ahead if you plan on visiting 905-468-1806. Stratus Wines are also available at the LCBO (check out for availability and selection), find them on locally-supportive restaurant wine lists and purchase from an exclusive selection online at  Follow the winery @stratuswines. 

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