I have a confession to make: I drink red Bordeaux with everything. I am the nightmare of the sommeliers at Le Bernardin, and many times they are embarrassed for me.
OK, I am exaggerating a little bit. I do enjoy Pinot Noir, Syrah, and a variety of white wines. I collect wine, and support many wineries, like Araujo and Bryant in California, Brick House in Oregon, and Wölffer on Long Island. But I have a serious weakness for first, second and third-growth Bordeaux, which I have enjoyed since I was a teenager.
And there are times at Le Bernardin where red wine is appropriate with the food. In the winter, I use more earthy ingredients like red wine, meat stocks, foie gras, black truffles, mushrooms and root vegetables to create rich seafood dishes with full flavors. Right now we're serving a pan-roasted monkfish with a truffled potato emulsion and a red wine and brandy sauce. We also have wild Alaskan salmon with a black trumpet and porcini mushroom pot au feu.
No matter the season or the species, fish is a delicately-flavored food, and we have to take care not to overwhelm its subtle flavors with wines that will overpower them. For our two tasting menus, in which each course is paired with a different wine, I work closely with Le Bernardin's team of four sommeliers to ensure the wines are in harmony with the menu and to meet the challenge of incorporating red wine into the experience. When serving reds, it's obviously easier to recommend Pinots and other elegant wines over robust Cabernets. For example, with our baked lobster on the chef's tasting menu, we're serving Bodegas Muga's Rioja Prado Enea Gran Reserva 1996, which the sommeliers feel complements the sweetness of the squash and candied ginger garnish, and the piquancy of the lobster, Port and tamarind reduction that it is served with. We even exercise restraint when pairing dishes with white wines, looking for ones that have moderate alcohol levels and are not too oaky. We pour Kistler's 2005 Chardonnay "Les Noisetiers" from the Sonoma Coast with our warm sea urchin ravioli, osetra caviar and sea urchin emulsion, because it is a foil for, rather than a bulldozer of, the food on the plate.
There is a world of information and advice about wine pairing available, but the best advice is this: if you have a little bit of knowledge about wines, follow your curiosity, your instincts, and your palate.
Gary Cohn — Cardiff by the Sea, Calif. — March 2, 2007 5:11pm ET
Karl Mark — Geneva, IL. — March 6, 2007 8:55am ET
Scott Cheney — Michigan — March 12, 2007 2:21am ET
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