Wine, Winter Pairings, and A Personal Tour of Virginia Wine Country
Christian Borel is the sommelier at L’Auberge Provencale in White Post, VA. A luxurious inn that features a farm-to-table restaurant renowned for its award-winning cuisine and wine list, as well as some exceptional wine experiences. Here are his tips on wine & food pairings for winter plus some insights on experiencing Virginia Wine Country.
Winter Wine & Food Pairings per Sommelier Christian Borel
What are three basic rules of thumb for food & wine pairing with the heartier dishes served in winter?
1) When we think of hearty, there are a couple different avenues the dishes might take. For rich dishes that might have a cream-based sauce, perhaps a sherry cream sauce pasta dish with mushrooms and apple, sparkling wines, such as champagne is or a Spanish cava brut, is a fantastic pairing. The bubbles do a great job to cut through the rich sauce.
2) Alternatively another theory, just as valid, would be go with a red wine with big but velvety tannins, such as a Châteauneuf-du-Pape from the south of France. The red wines from that region offer a lot of diversity in the different grapes that they are allowed to use and really become the Swiss army knife of wines that go with an enormous amount of food, from hearty fish dishes to gamey red meats such as lamb and venison.
3) Generally one of the first things you should consider with choosing a wine, especially for wintery type dishes, would be to consider if your dish might have a higher “fattiness” to it. Having a high amount of fat on the dish, such as a ribeye steak, you would want to pair it with a wine with high amount of tannins, which is the tactile “fuzzy” feeling you get with certain wines. A wine with generally high tannins would be from the Bordeaux region, especially from the Right Bank. If price was no object, I would suggest a personal favorite of mine, Cos D’Estournel from St.-Estephe, Bordeaux.
RELATED: Learn More About Tannins
Some people lean toward more reds during the colder season, but there are plenty of whites that are ideal during this time too. What are some of your favorites, and why?
Many people do not see the potential for great food pairings from white wines during the winter months, especially with dishes that include red meats and rich sauces. My favorite white wines during the winter months are usually Chardonnays from Burgundy, especially from Upper Premier and Grand Cru Vineyards. Sadly, most of these wines do not come cheap, but I assure you they are worth it.
Specific favorites that I have had in recent memory would be the Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru from Domaine Leflaive, 2012. This vineyard is located in the Cote de Beaune subregion in Burgundy. This wine had it all. Concentrated flavors from all directions, lemon, apple, then the overtone of oak spice comes in with a VERY long, big, rich finish of sweet texture. I may never forget that wine. Also if in doubt, drink champagne – it makes everything better.
A Sommelier’s Perspective on Virginia Wine Country
The inn offers an exceptional, personalized tour of Virginia Wine Country. What inspires you about the region, and what has guest reaction been to the experience?
The biggest inspiration that I take from the Virginia wine region is the collection of small, dedicated people that make up most of the higher-end wineries in the state. People, very hard-working people, are what make up the success in Virginia as far as wine. The fact that many Vintners share information to better the progress of good winemaking is something I don’t think you find in all areas of the world, especially in Europe.
Virginia is still finding its true identity as far as what regions do what wines best, but huge strides have been made in the last 15-20 years. The wine is almost unrecognizable to what it once was, save for a very few wineries. The quality has gone up so much, I am very excited to see where it goes for the next 15 years!
Guest reaction almost overwhelmingly has been of amazement, especially if they are not from the area. If they let us know what sort of wines they typically enjoy, we can really tailor our tour to make sure they experience the best wines possible. They usually are shocked at the quality of each wine. What we offer at the inn with our tours is a personalized experience that showcases the best of what the area has to offer.
Because of our position in our industry, we are very familiar with who offers the best wines and best atmosphere for each guest and what they are looking for. If our guests, like dry, classic wines, reminiscent of European wines, we will show them the best of northern Virginia in that regard. If our guests like sweeter, maybe more approachable wines for someone who is looking to get into wine for the first time, we will have a very fun day exploring the wines together.