Tama Takahashi
August 14, 2012 | Touring & Tasting Wine Club, Wine & Food Pairings | Tama Takahashi

In Praise of Rosé

Heat waveIt's official: July 2012 was the hottest month on record for the lower 48 states. The record heat wave hasn't abated, it is scorching our cornfields and pressing down on our roofs, blowing blasts of hot air inside when the doors are opened. One needs a chilled glass of wine to soothe the overheated body and to pair with summer meals. All hail rosé! It fits the bill exactly. Made from red wine grapes, but without the extended skin contact during fermentation that infuses red wine with deep color, rosé wines have all the fullness and range of tastes of a red wine, with the added summertime benefit of being properly served chilled. Jewel-like in color, cool and quenching, rosé is the ideal wine for blistering heat.

Chef Lila BrownNot only does rosé quench the heat of hot temperatures, but it pairs well with spicy food. Last weekend, my chef friend Lila came over on a sultry afternoon to teach me how to cook Thai food. She and her husband Jeff travelled around the world for a year studying regional cooking from experts in Mexico, Peru, Turkey, Greece, India, Thailand and Florence, Italy, where she graduated from culinary school in 2001. Wondrous ingredients were piled on my counter, including aromatic kaffir lime leaves, banana leaves, fiery Thai peppers, dried shrimp, red Thai chili paste, limes, pre-shredded green papaya, heads of garlic and purple-edged Thai basil.

During our afternoon preparation, we had sips of cooling Buttonwood Farm Syrah Rosé--a brilliant fuchsia-colored wine with a silky texture, crisp acidity and perfumed cranberry and tropical fruit flavors--that I bought during my visit to the sustainably farmed winery in the Santa Ynez Valley. banana boatLila showed me how to cut circles from the giant banana leaves using a very sharp paring knife and bowl for a template. The leaves have a dull side and a shiny side--one can feel the texture of the ribs of the leaf on the shiny side. Place the dull sides together and pinch the four corners together, securing them with half a toothpick to make a banana "boat". fish curryChunks of firm-fleshed snapper--or in our case, sea bass--and coconut were stirred together with thinly sliced kaffir leaves, eggs, fish sauce, palm sugar, coconut cream and Thai red chili paste. We filled the "boats" with the fish mixture. For visual interest, a bit of rice flour was cooked with coconut milk to make a white paste to brush onto half the fish;  sliced chili and Thai basil leaves were sprinkled on top decoratively before steaming the fish in a Chinese bamboo steamer.

papaya saladLila worked on mashing chiles and garlic for the fresh green papaya salad using the traditional mortar and pestle called a kruk, shown in the top photograph, while I made saffron rice and Pad Thai noodles. The green papaya salad is called som tam which means "sour pounded" and has a balance of sour lime, sweet palm sugar, savory fish sauce and hot chili tastes mixed with the tangy papaya and salty dried shrimp. Garnished with cherry tomatoes and peanuts, it was a marvelous accompaniment to our meal.

summer winesWe carried everything up to the outside deck to serve our families as the temperature cooled and the first comets in last weekend's Perseid meteor shower streaked across the night sky. I had a nice bottle of Castoro Cellars Marsanne from a previous Touring & Tasting wine club shipment. Castoro Cellars was one of the first wineries in the Paso Robles area and they make terrific wines organically and sustainably from their Templeton estate vineyards. It was interesting to note the difference in wine pairing between the Thai food and the two wines. Both were impressive--the Buttonwood Rosé highlighted the savory shrimp and egg while the honey and melon-flavored Castoro Marsanne brought out the creamy coconut and chile heat.

meteorA lovely evening with friends was capped by warm coconut pudding with chunks of mango and a plump and polished port from Jessup Cellars. I had purchased a bottle of their Cabernet Sauvignon Port at their friendly tasting room on our last trip to Napa. Not overly sweet as some ports can be the Jessup Port was thick with sensual chocolate, espresso and dark cherry flavor.

Click here to view another recipe that pairs wonderfully with rosé.


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