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Food & Dining // Vino Sense
Roberto Viernes

Pairing Wine With Delicious Vegan Food

I am not a vegan, but I do love really good vegan food. Perhaps my favorite restaurant for vegan fare is Greens & Vines. If you are a vegan or just a fan of truly healthful food, you should definitely make it a point to eat there. I recently did a wine tasting and paired some absolutely delicious food with all white wines.

Why all white wines, you might ask? Summer is in full swing, and my own cravings have been leaning toward whites. Plus, I see vegan food as having a lot more intrinsic bitterness because of the greens and vegetables that are used. Red wines already have an intrinsic bitterness, especially those with high levels of tannin and aged in new oak. So this menu was all whites.

We started with a Lemony Zucchini Bisque, topped with shaved fennel. I chose 2012 La Viarte Pinot Grigio($16). The bisque was creamy but without cream, and the Pinot Grigio, although not tremendously high in acid, cut through the creaminess quite nicely. What was really great about this pairing is that when you took a spoonful of bisque then drank down the Pinot Grigio, there was a remarkable floral character that resulted in their marriage. It reminded me a little bit of lychee. The Pinot Grigio was oh-so-refreshing by itself, but that combination was really terrific.

Next came a green papaya salad, shredded coconut, kaffir lime leaf, mint and grape tomatoes. This was a Thai-inspired salad, but the genius of the dish was the addition of young shredded coconut milk. It had just a touch of heat, and with it I selected 2012 Leth Steinagrund Gruner Veltliner ($15). This indigenous grape from Austria shows some beautiful peach and nectarine notes, with bright acid and minerality. It was not sweet, but the ripeness level of the fruit made it seem so on the palate, which is so important when pairing with a dish that has a little heat. It made a very good pair, but in truth, a Riesling Kabinett would have been better.

A Burgundian-inspired dish of Crimini “Escargot,” Sprouted Sunflower Seed Crouton skewers in a Macnut Garlic Butter with shallots, parsley and microgreens of course had to be paired with some Burgundy. So for this we went with 2012 William Fevre Chablis Champs Royaux($22). Laced with a seashell mineral component along with all the lovely citrusy and acid backbone that is the hallmark of Chablis, it went perfectly with the earthiness of the mushrooms and garlic. It was a seamless pairing.

The next dish was quite unique: Zucchini Gnocchi in an Alfredo sauce with sun-dried tomatoes, parsley and black pepper, laced with truffle oil. This is Italian-inspired, but I went with a French wine in the form of 2012 Champalou Vouvray La Cuvee des Fondraux($25). This is an offdry Chenin Blanc grown in tufa soils in the Loire River Valley. It always reminds me of honey, honeysuckle and beeswax along with apricots and citrus. I thought the sweetness would pull out the sweetness of the tomatoes, but the Alfredo sauce was the majority of flavor here. If I had a redo, I might have chosen something drier. This pair was OK.

I was waiting for kale to arrive somewhere in the meal and that is exactly what came next. A spicy Kale Salad tossed with white wine vinegar sesame oil dressing with ginger and chili, topped with maple candied pecans. The delicious salad surprisingly was not very spicy at all but the ginger and vinegar flavors dominated. I went with 2012 Esk Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($19). This terrific Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand, combines the tropical flavors of fruit from the Wairau Valley with the more mineral and citrusy notes of the Awatere Valley in perfect unison. And together with the greenness of the salad, the high acidity in the wine paired perfectly with the vinegar. This was another really great pairing.

For dessert we enjoyed a truly wonderful Tri-Layer “Cheesecake” of Green Tea, Beet and Calamansi Lime with 2012 Gunderloch Jean Baptiste Riesling Kabinett ($16). The cheesecake was absolutely beautiful in presentation with those bright colors garnished with elderflower leaves and rose petals. The Riesling was beautiful too, but I was wishing for a sweeter one. It was ethereal with medium light sweetness and a wonderfully persistent finish. Alas, the cheesecake overpowered the wine.

In the end, you never know how the pairings will go until you sit down and try them. I look forward to trying them again soon.

rviernes@southernwine.com
Twitter: @Pinotpusher

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