WHAT: Sometimes it is difficult to decide what kind of wine to serve with a meal. The general rule of thumb, of course, is white wine with fish and chicken, red wine with beef, lamb and most other red meat.
That works most of the time, but as with all general rules, there are exceptions that make life so interesting. I have had lighter red wines that taste great with fish. Forty years ago I was introduced to a white wine (Orvieto) that tasted great with sausage pizza.
So sometimes when you try to pair wine with food you have to make an educated guess. On one of our balmy spring nights recently, I made chicken on the grill with barbecue sauce, and I thought a white wine with some body and character would be a good choice.
It turned out I was right and this Educated Guess Chardonnay was excellent with the tangy chicken. The wine is a pretty light yellow in the glass, with mild aromas of apple and citrus.
The taste of this medium-bodied wine is simply delicious, with tropical fruit flavors, pear, spice and a hint of vanilla. The long finish has a creamy mouthfeel. The tastes are the right combination of clean and crisp, complex and smooth.
It all starts with grapes from a great region, Carneros, at the southern end of Napa and Sonoma. It gets the cooling breezes and gentle fog from San Francisco Bay, allowing the grapes to ripen slowly, adding to the complexity of the grapes.
Then the winemaker ferments 60 percent of the grapes in stainless steel, to give the crisp acidity. The other 40 percent is fermented in barrels and undergoes malolactic fermentation, which gives the wine creaminess.
After fermentation the wine is blended and put into French Oak barrels, to give it more body and character. It’s a great formula that produces excellent wine at a good price.
The label might look like something from a high school chemistry class, but it consists of five formula strings from various processes in wine production, such as fermentation and the use of sulfur dioxide.
The winery says the Educated Guess name was the result of a second-bottle-of-wine conversation about winemaking styles, prices and vineyards which led to the “art versus science” aspect of winemaking. After several glasses of wine, Educated Guess became the choice.
The label says when we go to buy a wine, we all make an educated guess based on familiarity with the brand, the appeal of the label or recommendation of a review. Similarly, winemakers make educated guesses about when to pick, how long to barrel age and type of oak, among many other decisions.
Clearly the folks at Educated Guess are making very good guesses.
I also have had the winery’s Cabernet Sauvignon, its first release and flagship wine. It, too, is outstanding, rich and complex. It sells for about the same price.
WINERY: Roots Run Deep Winery is relatively new, opening in 2005 in Napa Valley. Their promise is to produce unparalleled wine at prices everyone can afford. So far they are doing a great job of that.
Owner Mark Albrecht is a 15-year veteran of all aspects of the wine industry, from restaurant to retail, wholesaler to supplier. He buys grapes from growers in Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford and Carneros and lets winemaker Barry Gnekow work his magic.
Albrecht’s passion is making great wine after playing key roles in the planning and marketing of many successful wine brands before starting Roots Run Deep. Gnekow works with several quality brands, including Cycles Gladiator, 7 Deadly Zins and Earthquake. His wines have won many awards.
Educated Guess also produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Hypothesis Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir.
GOES WITH: The Educated Guess Chardonnay was a perfect match for chicken breasts on the grill. I put a commercial spice rub on the chicken and cooked it on a medium-hot grill. The breasts were thick so they spent about 20 minutes on the grill, two-thirds of that time bone side down.
For the last five minutes I brushed on some of my favorite barbecue sauce, Mumbo Sauce (from Chicago), and let it form a light coating. I also dipped each bite in Mumbo while I was eating the chicken.
My wife, Teri, and I loved the way the flavors of the wine played off the spices and barbecue sauce. Some white wines wouldn’t be able to handle the strong flavors of barbecue sauce, especially a sweet one like Mumbo, but the nicely-balanced Educated Guess was up to the challenge.
It also would go well with fish and seafood of all kinds, pork chops, chicken or fish in cream sauces and strong cheese. Chill it well and let it sit out for about 15 minutes before serving.