For the last seminar slot on Saturday, I was convinced not to miss Josh Wesson's PB & Jammin' Wines seminar. Josh is co-founder of Best Cellers and has carved out quite a niche for himself as the guy encouraging people to enjoy drinking wine. Josh brings his message to all those who tune in to his Eric Bogosian/Elliot Gould baritone that wine is and should be fun; that you need not spend a lifetime figuring out your particular opinion on reverse osmosis cones to have wines of all types and varieties add to your general quality of life. He pushes the notion that there is good affordable wine out there for everyone and that the industry has done itself a disservice in taking itself far too seriously and encouraging its patrons to do the same. To Josh, wine is just about fun, and if you enjoy sardonic humor, drinking it with him is just that.
In the interest of proving the point that food and wine pairing is a simple thing to both do and comprehend, Josh held a seminar in which he paired six wines to four peanut-butter creations from Peanut Butter & Co in NYC. Josh had assembled a panel of six besides himself, each person somehow related to one of the six wines being tasted, to round out the discussion of pairing notions. Each person on the panel discussed his or her wine, its philosophy, its making, which of the four sandwiches they imagined it would pair well with, and of course why we should all be buying it. We tasted them in ascending order of sweetness as they were discussed. Once all were tasted we then sampled our sandwiches with the wines Josh suggested.
The Heat is On: spicy peanut butter, pineapple jam and grilled chicken
Velvet Elvis: smooth peanut butter, banana, bacon and honey
Classic PB&J: crunchy peanut butter and cabernet jelly
Chocolate Fluffernutter: chocolate peanut butter and marshmallow fluff
The wines and my thoughts were:
Fairview Goats do Rhome Rosé: grass and strawberry with dancing acids, it almost went well with The Classic but I would leave this one for quaffing ice cold in very hot sun.
Three Thieves Zinfandel: actually smelled like simple grape jelly which is what was so surprising about it going well with absolutely nothing.
Rosemont Estate Traminer-Riesling: white flowers on the nose, this was fun in its simple balance of light sweetness and acidity; nice with The Heat.
Domaine Chandon Riche: an extra dry (which due to the beauty of French irony means slightly sweet) sparkler from California, it smelled of roses and grapefruit. Sadly, having lost most of its bead due to the nature of such a huge tasting, it did not dance as well as it probably would have otherwise, but that didn't stop it from pairing well with The Heat, Elvis, and The Classic.
Bertani Recioto della Valpolicella Valpentena: a sweet sticky wine made by arresting the Amarone process with cold while residual sugar remains, it had concord grape, blackberry jam, tarragon, eucalyptus, and clove notes. It paired up respectably with Elvis, Fluffernutter, and The Classic, but at about two to five times the cost of most of the others once you factor in its smaller bottle, it had better have.
Coppo Brachetto d'Aqui: a light pink, slightly frizzante, low alcohol juice that tasted as if someone had washed strawberries and raspberries in Pellegrino water and then bottled it, it had notes of nag champa incense, cranberries, and grass. It tasted quite nice but lacked the backbone to stand up to the fat of the peanut butter.
In general the pairings went much as I expected, but that in no way takes away from the basic fun which was playing with wine and food.
So I spent Saturday morning with a guy I respect as an innovator on the cutting edge of food ideas, and went on to be impressed by a guy who is a master of fusion of a cuisine I am seldom wowed by. Then I joined the throngs to be part of a civilized marketing blitz or as close to such a thing as exists. With my appetite for the wines of Spain and all things pickled well whet, I jumped back in to put sauce with sow and plonk with peanuts, all just to be reaffirmed in my belief that people passionate enough about food and wine to travel to revel in it, or to work hard enough at it to reach the top of their fields, are almost without fail pretty cool people to eat and drink with.