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StarChefs
top pairing

Top Pairs Vol. 14: Food and Wine Pairings from DC

by Francoise Villeneuve with photos by Antoinette Bruno
Vol. 14
July 2010   
Restaurant
Who
  • Sommelier Ramon Narvaez
  • Sommelier Ramon Narvaez maintains a list of about 500 bottles at Adour. Even in the elegant setting of the restaurant, Narvaez has learned over his two-year tenure to balance some of the priceless bottles at his disposal with a more economically-friendly array of wines. He does this by picking and choosing less expensive gems from the less well known wine sub-regions throughout the world—he makes the shrewd observation that customers are more open to purchasing wine freely in large quantities if the per-bottle ticket is smaller. In 2007 Narvaez earned his certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers. He has an impressive history in DC sommelier circles, spending time at both the Park Hyatt Hotel and Osteria Goldoni restaurant before spending six years running the wine program at Marcel's.
Wine
Domaine Georges Vernay Viognier, Cuvée le Pied de Samson, Rhone Valley, France, 2008
Dish
Summer Vegetable Cookpot: Tagliacci Olives, Tomato, Zucchini, Zucchini Blossoms, and Eggplants
Pairing Note
Ramon Narvaez pairs this rich, full-bodied and complex Viognier with Chef Julien Jouhannaud's seasonal vegetable cookpot, successfully balancing the wine and the dish's two notorious wine "enemies:" tomatoes and artichokes. Tomatoes and artichokes usually pose a problem when selecting a wine pairing, but the acidity of this Rhone Valley white acts as a compliment to the acid of both vegetables, and its spices and exotic fruit are complex enough to take this pairing beyond the straightforward. This bottle also boasts a long finish and more weight than the average Viognier. Conventional sommeliers might choose a lighter-bodied white for this dish, but the vibrant and lively acidity of this recent release balances its heavier density and mouthfeel to create a balanced partner for the delicate elements of the dish, like the zucchini blossoms, and the more robust elements like the brinier olives and smoky eggplant.
Restaurant
  • Proof
  • 775 G Street Northwest
  • Washington, DC 20001
  • (202) 737-7663
  • www.proofdc.com
Who
  • Sommelier Sebastian Zutant
  • Wine Director Sebastian Zutant carefully built the list of over 1,000 selections for Proof. He is consistently active in educating the staff about wine, conducting tastings with them daily. Zutant graduated from the College of Charleston in South Carolina with a BA in Photography in 2000. He then moved to DC, working as a server at first at Chef Geoff’s. He would soon discover his passion for wine while working at Nectar, which is known for their quirky list. He even helped Chef Johnny Monis open Komi in 2003, after which Zutant was entrusted with choosing the international wines. After two years he became the sommelier at Rasika, where he was faced with the challenge of pairing with both sweet and spicy elements of Indian cuisine.
Wine
Verdelho Blandy's Madeira, IVM, Portugal, 1968
Dish
Pan-Roasted Veal Sweetbreads, Celery Root, Watercress, Smoked Bacon, and Black Pepper-Caramel Jus
Pairing Note
Sommelier Sebastian Zutant is completely off-beat in every way—from his wine list structured by the glass to his attire—so it should come as no surprise that he selected a Madeira to pair with Chef Haidar Karoum's luscious sweetbreads. This stunning and seductive amber elixir incorporates intense aromas of vanillin and toasted nuts (or as Zutant puts it "crème brûlée and almond") that underscore the sweetness of the bacon fat-enriched black pepper-caramel jus. But as a Madeira it naturally has a significant bite that cuts the richness of the dish and stands up to the mild spice of the black pepper in the jus. The viscous texture of the Madeira with the silky sauce of the dish and the puddingy interior of the sweetbreads works well against the contrasting caramelized exterior of the seared sweetbreads. Against such a strong flavor profile, the celery root is more of a back note, but cuts the syrupy medium nappe of the sauce with a hint of earthiness.
Restaurant
Who
  • Sommelier Michael Scaffidi
  • Scaffidi’s passion for Madeira ignited during his time at French Laundry, where he became fascinated with older wines that still tasted amazing. He calls Madeira the “Incredible Hulk” of wine, because it can’t be destroyed. “You can open a bottle now, and in 50 years it will taste the same,” he says. Due to the nature of the wine (during the winemaking process, the wine is “cooked”), its shelf life after opening is almost infinite compared to other fortified wines. Hence the tastiness of a 300-year old wine.

    When he started the Madeira program, Scaffidi sought out the legendary Mannie Berk, of The Rare Wine Co. Once he had proved his dedication to a successful Madeira program, they worked to build the stellar Madeira collection that still shines at The Jefferson today.

    And don’t worry about remembering what you drank from visit to visit. Scaffidi’s dedication to excellent service includes registering the wines you try during your visit into their reservation system. So you can sip something different on your next visit, or they’ll remember the wine for you, if you want it again. The host or maître d’ also gives the guest a printout of their selection(s) to take home.

Wine
Zilliken Riesling Sarrburger Rausch, Spatlese, Saar, Mosel, Germany, 2004
Dish
Vol-Au-Vent of Caramelized Sweetbreads, Seasonal Baby Vegetables, Bittersweet Apples, and Madras Curry Infusion
Pairing Note
Sommelier Michael Scaffidi selected a late harvest Riesling from Mosel in Germany, which is very low in alcohol and has a delicacy that compliments Chef Damon Gordon's sweetbreads. Both petrol and fruit are apparent on the nose, with the typical apricots of a Riesling immediately apparent. But unexpected passion fruit and crisper fruits like fresh green apple and pear offer a balance to the marked sweetness of the late harvest wine. The seemingly endless dry, crackery finish makes for a balanced wine that plays up the spices of the Madras curry vol-au-vent sauce. The raisiny sweetness of the dried apples and heat of the curry sauce benefit from this sweet-dry contrast and the dish is allowed to sing as a result; Scaffidi generously emphasizes the food in this pairing, rather than trying to top it with an overwhelming wine pairing.
Restaurant
Who
  • Sommelier Brent Kroll
  • Brent Kroll combines the roles of sommelier and mixologist at 2006 DC Rising Star Tony Conte's The Oval Room with grace and aplomb. Before that, his first taste of the DC area was when he came to develop the wine and bar programs at Ardeo and Bardeo. Kroll honed his bar skills under the tutelage of the legendary Madeline Triffon M.S. in his home state of Michigan, while with the Matt Prentice Group from 2003 to 2007. He also spent time with two Michael Mina properties (in the MGM Grand in Detroit, and Fairmont Turnberry Country Club Isle and Resort in Aventura, Florida) that helped shape his approachable and unpretentious tableside manner. Although relatively new to The Oval Room, and a youthful addition at that, Kroll has tailored his wine selections loosely on varietal recognition, and still included some impressively esoteric labels in The Oval Room's collection that compliment Chef Conte's artful and elegant dishes.
Wine
Falesco Roscetto "Ferentano", Lazio, Italy, 2006
Dish
Brown Butter-Poached Lobster, Vanilla, Spiced Rum, and Braised Endive
Pairing Note
Young Sommelier Brent Kroll pairs Chef Conte's buttery lobster dish with an atypical pick, steering clear of a commonly made California Chardonnay and lobster pairing. Lazio, near Rome, isn't acknowledged as a great wine area, but this varietal takes on the weight of a Chardonnay, so it mimics the complimentary weights of this traditional pairing for lobster. However, the apricot and orange peel character of a Condrieu, in Kroll's choice add complexity to the sweeter characteristics of the dish, like the vanilla and spiced rum. A slight note of truffle in the wine helps play up the mild bitterness of the endive. No malolactic fermentation comes into play as it would in a Chardonnay, so the weighty though delicate lobster is nicely balanced with the minerality and earthiness of the wine. And as it is bottle-aged, it gains more secondary notes with time.
Restaurant
  • Againn
  • 1099 New York Avenue Northwest
  • Washington, DC 20001
  • (202) 639-9830
  • www.againndc.com
Who
  • Sommelier Caterina Abbruzzetti
  • Beverage Director Caterina Abbruzzetti of British Isles-inspired bistro Againn updated the restaurant's international selections and plumped up the organic and sustainable wine cache to pair with Chef Wes Morton’s charcuterie-heavy cuisine. Abbruzzetti was born in London, and worked as a bartender at The Davy’s Gastro Pub and Wine Merchants in London’s Crown Passage before becoming Sommelier at Michelin Two-Star restaurant, Le Gavroche. In the States, she spent time as Corporate Beverage Director Consultant for Fireman Hospitality Group and worked as Hotel Wine Director for the Willard InterContinental Hotel and their properties Café du Parc and The Willard Room restaurants, as well as RAMMY Award-winning 2941 in Falls Church, VA. Morton and Abbruzzetti worked together at both The French Laundry and Citronelle. Among her many certifications is The Wine and Spirit Education Trust of England's Master of Wine Advanced Level in 2006. Abbruzzetti works now to foster an appreciation of British cuisine with her beverage program. The impressive rare Scotch program and selection of American and international beers are just a few of the elements that set her beverage list apart.
Wine
Hamilton Russell Chardonnay, South Africa, 2008
Dish
Pan-Roasted Loch Duart Salmon, Globe Artichoke "Stew," Pearl Onions, Fava Beans, Spring Garlic, and Baby Carrots
Pairing Note
Beverage Director Caterina Abbruzzetti selected a South African Chardonnay from the most southern part of the country to pair with Chef Morton's salmon from Loch Duart. The family-owned vineyard's coastal location lends great terroir of stone soil similar to Burgundian slate to this wine. The pear and apple aromas make the plump and fatty salmon really sing, and the wine's crisp acidity emphasizes the spring fava beans, carrots, and other vegetables of this dish. Pungent garlic is often a challenge for sommeliers, but the slow-cooked garlic in this dish acquires sweetness over time and as the artichokes in the stew are cooked with oil rather than acid, they don't present the same foil for wine that tangy lemon would. Aged in French oak, this small production wine shows how rewarding finds from this often over-looked region can be.
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