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Horses for Courses

by Tejal Rao with photos by Antoinette Bruno
Vol. 6
May, 2007   
  • Sommelier Gregory Cheval
  • After Gregory Cheval was asked to leave college, "for undisclosed reasons", he got into dishwashing and bussing at restaurants. Cheval met master sommelier and mentor Ira Harmon and everything changed, “he told me to meet him in the wine cellar and he would teach me everything he knew!” Cheval took him up on the offer. Now at The French Room in The Adolphus in Dallas, Texas, Cheval’s pairing philosophy is to not over-think his choices and instead focuses on one or two individual flavors to pair. “I think it’s important to think outside of your own palate and get out of the whole wine ‘geekdom' thing.” It’s an unlikely philosophy at The French Room, a grand dining room of gilded sconces and Venetian glass chandeliers, where one would expect a stuffier sort of service under the 18 foot tall cherub frescoes. But Cheval, in his three-piece suit, still picks reasonably priced, exceptional bottles.
Sparr, Pinot Gris, Alsace, 2005
Fluke Wrapped in Foie Gras Terrine with Rhubarb Sauce and Wasabi Sprouts
Pairing Note
Jason Weaver’s dish is a light and dainty take on foie gras and Cheval’s wine pairing is equally bright, mineral-y, and Spring green, with very soft floral-honey notes. Cheval balances out the sourness and piquancy of the dish by introducing some complex sweetness.
J Wilkes Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County, 2004
Hickory-Smoked Salmon, Hackleback Caviar, Horseradish Cream, Crispy Taro Root, Thai Basil, and Brioche
Pairing Note
Weaver’s salmon is gently smoked and served with aromatic garnishes. It's an unusually composed plate of smoked salmon with acoutrements and the full-bodied Pinot propels the quirkier flavors of taro and basil with its rich, smooth, and slightly spicy notes.
Footbolt Shiraz, McLaren Vale, d’Arenberg 2004
Arctic Char, Soy Lacquer, Truffled Edamame, Baby Bok Choy, Crispy Potatoes, Ginger Butter, and Shiso
Pairing Note
This Shiraz, named after the d'Arenberg founder's favorite horse is an appropriately meaty and muscular wine. It compliments the bright Asian flavors of ginger, shiso, white truffle and reduced soy with bold peppery notes, but doesn’t overwhelm the delicate char or the mild edamame puree.
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