Pairing: Donuts against Pinot Noir. | Food blog


You have an open bottle of wine. Maybe a movie or a book to help fill the day. Everything is so serene until the leftover morning donuts start to tempt you – so sweet, so shapely …

It’s almost impossible to resist the siren call of a donut or three. But sommeliers are wary of the pitfalls that can result from a food and wine pairing.

It’s not that the subject comes up often. Few donut stores have a wine list, after all, and few sommeliers are on duty before noon. Let’s just assume the pairing gives them adjustments.

Now, a jam topping or chocolate coating would definitely provide direction. The maple bacon flavor can also lead to some clear options. Navigating the tricks of a simple frozen donut, however, turns out to be more intimidating.

There just isn’t much. Dough, yeast, sugar.

“You want something that can resist the sweetness but not overshadow the donut,” observed Claire Sutton, sommelier and owner of Sovino Wine Bar & Merchant in Monterey.

Remember a moment ago when we hinted that there isn’t much going on in a plain frozen donut? Take it back. It would indeed be a loss if the half-dozen brought back from Dutch Door Donuts to Carmel were the victim of a gale force wine.

Hand-shaped, fried to order, Dutch Door makes delicious pillows with hints of malt and custard emanating from the dough, a light toasted essence in the crust and a sweet vanilla frosting.

But they still present a challenge. A big cabernet? Too much boast. A fruity Zinfandel or Sangiovese? They might tip over into the sweet crust. And Sutton warns that the coating could destroy many white wines as well.

“The first wine I think of is pinot noir,” she says. “It has an earthy quality that will go well with bread” – a donut, after all, starts out as a ring of bread – “and the pinots from this region have a dried fruit appearance.”

Luckily, she has a bottle of Mansfield-Dunne 2018 Pinot Noir with grapes from Monterey County’s famous Santa Lucia Highlands. Juicy and floral on the nose, it promises a floating wine with notes of sage, plowed land and spicy vanilla.

Yet one sip reveals a richer and much more intriguing wine than the bouquet allows. Raspberries and black cherries carry a deeper hue. There’s a moody mood – damp earth, weathered sticks, blackstrap – that’s feathered and scrambled by vanilla and falling petals.

It’s easy to see why sommeliers might hesitate to pair wine and donut. Even Sutton covered himself up a bit, going over the perceived threats to different varietals before confirming Pinot like this.

The wine takes on a spicy tone, like ginger and cardamom. A toasted mist rises from the foundation of the Mansfield-Dunne Pinot Forest Road. Otherwise, the fruit remains dense and opulent. And the donut seems to be enjoying it.

The feeling of vanilla and custard in the donut transforms into something chewy that lingers comfortably on the palate. The sugar softens, letting the vanilla emerge for a creamy impression. A second serving of both becomes a welcome thought.

So maybe the police officers on duty should stick to the cafe with their donuts. But the next time we pass by Dutch Door at Carmel Plaza, ask for their wine list, then walk through the door under the questioning gaze of the staff to see which tasting rooms open for breakfast.

As Sutton says, “Pinot just works. “

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