Holiday Wine Pairings, Carolinas Style

by Jeff Harding
Antoinette Bruno
December 2013


Our recent travels in search of Carolinas Rising Stars inspired a Carolinas-themed holiday dinner, featuring some of our favorite chefs with wines paired by top (Sherry-loving) sommeliers in the region. Our dream meal covered a few locales, but this is the version of fantasy football: imagining favorite dishes from all over, in one sitting.

At The Fearrington House in Pittsboro, North Carolina, Chef Colin Bedford’s Chanterelle Risotto is a stunning example of robust flavors and top-notch technique. Paired with four different beverages, it shows how a classic dish can be interpreted many ways. With an imaginative mind that never rests, Chef Nathan Allen takes a suckling pig in new directions, though our trio of somms suggests going even further. Finally, Daniel Benjamin takes the sweet potato out of the casserole, and spins a dessert wonder that is supported by pairings we suggest you stock up on for whatever holiday meals you have planned.

First Course

Chanterelle and Carolina Moon Risotto with Foie Gras Snow, Golden Raisins, Zucchini, and Chives
Chanterelle and Carolina Moon Risotto with Foie Gras Snow, Golden Raisins, Zucchini, and Chives

FIRST COURSE: Chanterelle Risotto, Carolina Moon Cheese, Foie Gras, and Apple Espuma
from Chef
Colin Bedford of Fearrington House – Pittsboro, NC

Wine Director Maximilian Kast of Fearrington House – Pittsboro, NC
Kast chose Cesar Florido, Cruz del Mar, Oloroso, Chipiona, Jerez, Spain, from the coastal town of Chipiona. “This Oloroso Sherry brings strong aromas of orange peel, caramel, and walnuts, and on the palate it has a rich mouth feel. It’s dry, but has a nice balance of fruit and umami flavors. It’s that balance that makes this an ideal pairing for the risotto, with the umami playing off the earthy element of the chanterelle mushrooms and the richness standing up to the Carolina Moon Cheese and foie gras.”

Beverage Director Michael Maller of Mateo – Durham, NC
Maller gets to wear two hats, pairing wine at Vin Rouge,(where he is the general manager and beverage director), which is a product-driven, traditional French bistro and at Mateo, a Spanish tapas bar with a Southern inflection. At Mateo, Maller would pair Foggy Ridge Serious Cider, while at Vin Rouge, he would pair Domaine Huet Vouvray Pettillant, 2009. Maller explains, “Both [beverages] have plenty of acidity and a bit of carbonation to stand up to the richness of the foie gras and the cheese.  The fruit flavors in the cider and the petillant Vouvray will enhance the subtle fruit-like character of Chanterelle mushrooms as well as the apple espuma.”

Service Director Felix Meana of Cúrate - Asheville, NC
Meana curates a list composed only of wines from Spain, and would pour 1991 Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Blanco, “Gran Reserva” Rioja. “The aroma and flavors of mushrooms, earth, citrus, and green apples in the wine reflect those same notes in the dish.” He explains, “The wine works well with the cheeses too, and having some age, that will go well with the foie, too. An incredible white, aged but still fresh!”

Main Course

Suckling Pig Stuffed with Chili Cornbread, Roasted Chestnuts, Buttermilk, and Crown Pumpkin
Suckling Pig Stuffed with Chili Cornbread, Roasted Chestnuts, Buttermilk, and Crown Pumpkin

MAIN COURSE: Suckling Pig Stuffed with Chile Cornbread, Roasted Chestnuts, Buttermilk, and Crown Pumpkin from Nathan Allen of Knife and Fork – Spruce Pine, NC

Kast picked a Barboursville Nebbiolo, from Monticello, Virginia. Since this dish has a lot flavors involved, it’s important to have a wine that can stand up to not only the pig, but the cornbread, chestnuts, or pumpkin. In this case the Nebbiolo (from one of Virginia's best wineries) has both high acidity and higher tannins, which with its red plum, dark berry, and leathery aromatics is a wonderful counterpoint to all the flavors. “If I were drinking white wine, I would pair the Heymann-Lowenstein, Riesling, Schieffer Terrassen from Winningen in the Mosel. It’s dry, but fruit forward, with richness on the palate, and apricot, slate and cream aromatics, which I think would bring this dish to another level. In fact I might have to try that!”

At Mateo Maller would pour a Guiterrez Colosia, Sangre y Trabajadero, Oloroso Sherry with our choice of main course. This savory, dry Sherry screams for roasted meat. Its nuttiness will pair seamlessly with the chestnuts and it can handle the heat of the chiles, the acidity of the buttermilk, and sweetness of the pumpkin.

Over at Vin Rouge, he picks a Coudert, Clos de la Roilette, Fleurie, Beaujolais, 2012. A fresh, lively, fruity Cru Beaujolais will work with the savory suckling pig and its low alcohol won’t clash with the spice.

Meana chose the 2004 Cims de Porrera, “Classic,” Priorat. This wine is smoky, earthy, and spicy, with a hint of chocolate. It definitely needs the suckling pig and the chile cornbread to go with it, while it’s very smooth to go with the buttermilk and pumpkin. A beautiful blend, with a lot of character; here you have the perfect red!


Sweet Potato Soup, Pickled Raisins, Cake Toast Sour Cream, and Pecans
Sweet Potato Soup, Pickled Raisins, Cake Toast Sour Cream, and Pecans

DESSERT: Sweet Potato Soup, Pickled Raisins, Cake Toast Sour Cream, and Pecans
from Pastry Chef Daniel Benjamin of Herons at The Umstead Hotel & Spa – Cary, NC

Kast chose the Rare Wine Company, New Orleans Special Reserve, Madeira. “You cannot have a holiday celebration in the Carolinas and not have Madeira.” This is a blend of Terrentez and Malvasia, which is medium in sweetness. It has aromas of toffee, orange liqueur, smoked chestnuts, and cinnamon; on the palate it is full-bodied, with very intense acidity balancing the sweetness that will add character to the pairing, particularly with the cake toast sour cream.

Back at Mateo, Maller goes for Cesar Florido Moscatel Especial Sherry. This Sherry with Arope (reduced grape must) is fairly sweet and full of umami. It won’t overwhelm the sweetness of the sweet potato and will help to tame the acidity of the pickled raisins.

At Vin Rouge he prefers the Etienne Dupont Cidre Givre.This low alcohol apple cider is chilled at the domaine to form ice crystals which are then removed from the liquid.  The process leaves a sweet nectar balanced by bright acidity.  It is the essence of fall and makes a perfect finish to this fall feast.

Meana prefers the Toro Albalá Don PX “Gran Reserva,” Montilla-Moriles, 1985 for the dessert course. The wine has dark, viscous, intense, flavors balanced with a sweet complexity and a nice depth. “[This wine] definitely goes well with the pecans and raisins; I love Pedro Ximenez, and when thinking of a dessert wine, it’s impossible not to think about this guy!”