“myWine – Meat’s Best Friend

Food and wine, in general, go well together. So well, and in so many ways, that some very fortunate people have spent a large portion of their lives in search of the ultimate pairing. Unlike other epic quests, such as the search for the Holy Grail, Golden Fleece, courage, brains or a heart, the worst fate that could befall someone hot on the trail of the ultimate food and wine pairing will look a lot like eating and drinking. Not bad, really.

This is only one of the reasons that this particular quest is as popular as it is. With this in mind, I thought it would be interesting to ask a few of our favorite sommeliers and restaurateurs what their favorite wine and meat pairing is. After all, these individuals have combined an almost fanatical interest and enthusiasm in the subject with years of professional experience and effort, along with an obligation to their clientele to offer the best of the best. Here then, are their responses.

Sylvain Denis, General Manager and Co-Owner of Le Mistral

“Le Mistral’s 12-ounce dry-aged Prime ribeye with green peppercorn-Cognac sauce, French fries, Béarnaise and garlic French green beans paired with the 2003 Hermitage E. Guigal from the Northern Rhône Valley in France. An almost 100 percent Syrah, this wine is inky black, with layers of rich flavors. It is creamy, rich and dense, has deep black fruit, tobacco and chocolate, with the juicy and exuberant finish that makes Hermitage so fantastic.”

Frank Crapitto, Owner of Frank’s Chop House
and Crapitto’s Cucina Italiana

“That is, believe it or not, a tough question to answer since I am such a carnivore. I even graded meat when I was at Texas A&M – years ago, needless to say. If it is okay, I will give you two choices…since it is a hard decision. At Frank’s Chop House, I prefer our dry aged Certified Angus Beef sirloin strip, and I like it seared rare, with a warm center…I pair it with Marietta Zinfandel, Alexander Valley appellation. Marietta is family owned and has been making great wines, only reds, since 1978. If I am at Crapitto’s my choice of meat is osso buco paired with Le Volte dell’ Ornellaia, a reasonably priced Super Tuscan.”

Guy Stout, Master Sommelier and Corporate Director of Beverage Education at Glazer’s Family of Companies

“I love a Slab and a Cab. That is close to a pound plus of simmering beef, pork, lamb or venison. I prefer beef rare to medium rare, but not blue, as the French prefer. I like it where, “a good veterinarian can get ‘em up and walkin’.” Pepper is my favorite seasoning and I can’t get enough of it. My preferred side dish is mushrooms. The Oscar version is weird for me (crab and steak?) unless I am still drinking white wine. Cheers!”

Rafael Espinal, Sommelier at Prego

“My favorite pairing is Prego’s lamb chops with the 2008 Bouchard Père & Fils Beaune du Château Premier Cru, a red Burgundy. The lamb chops are marinated in brown sugar and mustard and then grilled over pecan wood, which adds a smoky flavor. It is an elegant wine in which the fruit, acidity and tannins are well integrated. The wine does not overpower the dish, but rather enhances the flavors of game and spice. Your palate is left with the subtle nuances of the lamb as the wine’s richness lingers on. For me, this is a match made in heaven.”

Tim Neely, General Manager at Rainbow Lodge Restaurant

“I like elk paired with ‘right bank’ Bordeaux-Style reds. A good example is our grilled North American elk chop with sweet potato mash and a peach-almond-bourbon sauce that pairs exceptionally well with the 2007 Palazzo Napa Valley Red (68% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Franc and 8% Cabernet Sauvignon). The Merlot complements the elk and the sweet potato mash and the Cabernet Franc knocks it home, bringing the floral quality and spiciness that goes with the cooked peaches and brings the whole dish together.”

Matthew Pridgen, General Manager and Wine Herder at Underbelly

“I love lamb, and my favorite wines to pair with it are from the south of France. This past week we were featuring whole roasted lamb shoulder at the restaurant. I paired it with a 2008 Chateau d’Or et de Gueules from Costieres de Nimes. This wine is made from 80-year old Carignane vines and has exceptional complexity with black fruit, minerality and garrigue that pair perfectly with the richness of lamb. A pretty classic pairing that never gets old to me.”

Randy Evans, Chef and Co-Owner of Haven

“I love an app we do called crispy phyllo tête de cochon with cucumber-cherry-tomato salad and house-made mint marigold taziki. I like to serve it with the Von Buhl Pinot Noir out of the Pfaltz region in Germany. This great little wine sees very little oak since it’s fermented in stainless steel tanks, then aged in large wooden casks. This makes it very light in flavor with wonderful acidity while really showcasing the cherry/berry flavors of Pinot Noir. The acid cuts through the fatty pork amazingly well.”

Keith Thompson, General Manager and Sommelier at Mockingbird Bistro

“One of my favorite food and wine pairings is Mockingbird’s steak frites, a Certified Angus New York strip steak with wild mushrooms, watercress, shallot and red wine reduction and, of course, Mockingbird’s famous frites, paired with 2007 Provenance Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from Oakville, California. 2007 was an amazing vintage for Napa Valley Cabernet, and To Kalon Vineyard is one of the most famous vineyards in California. This Cabernet is full bodied, powerful and complex, with chewy tannins, and it just begs for a big, marbled steak.”

Anibal Calcagno, Wine Director at Brenner’s Steakhouse

“My most recent favorite meat and wine pairing is Chef Brian Miner’s slow braised beef short rib with the 2007 Tolaini Valdisanti Super Tuscan. This is a very concentrated meat dish and needs a wine that can stand up to those explosive flavors. Godiva liquor and red wine in the braising liquid pair well with the Cabernet Sauvignon in this blend. Dried cherries and the richness of this dish scream for the cherry flavors and the palate cleansing acidity of the Sangiovese. We see obvious flavor connections between this dish and the wine, but the unexpected contrasts of flavors make this pairing sing.”

Jamie Zelko, Owner and Executive Chef of Zelko Bistro

Chef Zelko pairs her southern & slaw sandwich (“Texas peach BBQ pulled pork with scratch slaw, potato salad and three onion rings on top”) with the 2009 Fiddlehead Cellars Oldsville Reserve Oregon Pinot Noir. “I adore this vineyard and wine maker, Kathy Joseph: owner, winemaker, natural farmer, biodynamic artist and chemist…This sandwich was created with this Pinot in mind and the pair is dynamite! The wine notes are complex aromas, sachet of delicate dried herbs, sweet pipe tobacco and rose petals. (It’s) immediately approachable with silky, smooth tannins. Fiddlehead Cellars is a favorite to Zelko because the wines are amazing and the entire brand is designed to create focused wines of luscious texture, true to the varietal and devoted to sustainable farming and non-invasive winemaking.”

Chris Paul, Owner of Brasserie Max & Julie and Café Rabelais

“That’s both a very simple question to answer, but a hard one to come across. Let me explain: the wine is called Vin Jaune, which is not an appellation per say but rather a ‘type’ of wine. It comes from the Alps in France and more precisely, only four appellations have the right to produce these wines: Côtes du Jura, l’Etoile, Château-Châlon and Arbois. It is a late harvest wine made with 100% Savagnin (a white varietal) that is left on lees, without topping off, in the same barrel for 6 years, 3 month and a day minimum (although most producer will wait even longer). The result is simply magic! It’s reminiscent of a dry Sherry enhanced with green almonds and hazelnuts. Sweet to the nose and bone dry on the palate. Unfortunately it is very hard to get, even in France. Should you ever have the chance to come across one of these jewels, do not hesitate to match it with sautéed chicken and a creamy morel and black trumpet sauce. Sounds hard to believe but the sweet taste of the cream and chicken combined with the mushrooms and the ‘whiplash’ of the wine is one of the ‘perfect matches’ of the culinary experience…I only know of a couple of producers available in the US market, but the best are Domaine Mâcle, Château d’Arlay, Alain Labet, Domaine Berthet-Bondet, Domaine Grand, Domaine Rolet and Jacques Puffeney.”

Russell Masraff, Co-Owner of Masraff’s

“Through various incarnations, lamb has always been a staple here at Masraff’s. The richness of a beautiful medium-rare lamb chop paired with our pickled garlic and herb pesto just screams for a big savory red wine. Recently I discovered a perfect match in Gerard Bertrand’s 2007 Minervois ‘la Liviniere’ from southwest France. It’s mostly Syrah with a little Grenache and Carignan and is chock full of rich red fruits like currant, raspberry and stewed cherries. It has just the right balance of sweet and savory elements to lift the flavors and ready the palate for the next bite.”

Joe Abuso is the chef/owner of Recipes & Rotations – Real Food for Mom and Dad, menus, recipes and associated tools to senior-living communities. He is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and has cooked at some of the country’s best restaurants.