On a recent night at Denver’s Lower 48 Kitchen, sommelier, chef, and wine columnist Kendra “Swirl Girl” Anderson hosted a tasting of wines crafted by woman winemakers. The sparkling, white, pink, red, and dessert wines were paired with courses from chef Alex Figura and manager Mario Nocifera. Anderson posed two questions for diners to consider: could we tell that a woman had made each wine, and how did we experience each pairing?
Anderson described her quest for “soul-mate pairings” where the wine and food make each other better. She said food and wine are the reason she gets out of bed in the morning!
The Lower 48 team welcomed diners with a glass of bubbles: J Cuvée 20 Brut NV by Judy Jordan, a geophysicist-turned-winemaker who founded her winery in 1986. Today winemaker Melissa Stackhouse turns out J’s sparkling and still wines. Bubbles are a great way to start an evening, and J delivered with crisp minerality and a festive air.
About 10% of winemakers worldwide are women. Their backgrounds include earth sciences, chemistry, the arts, and family traditions of food and wine. All of this adds up to talented winemakers producing excellent wines.
* Ponzi Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon, paired with Colorado Peaches & Burrata. The crisp minerality of the wine cut through the fat in the soft cheese, enhancing its flavors. The Colorado peaches added a subtle sweetness. The wine was made by Maria Ponzi; her sister is the winery’s marketing director.
* Lorenza, Old Vine Grenache, Rosé, paired with “French” Scrambled Eggs with American ham, clams, and katsuobushi. This bone-dry wine was made by a mother-daughter team. The wine was 27% Cinsault, 28% Grenache, 25% Mourvèdre, and 20% Carignan, and offered beautiful acidity and a taste of underripe strawberries. The pairing broke a few rules, putting a dry wine with breakfast, where a Mimosa might otherwise fit. #justdrinkpink
* Elizabeth Chambers Cellar Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon, paired with Berkshire Pork Belly, Colorado cherries, mushrooms, and couscous. The nose smelled roasted, or smoky, like a Bordeaux. Anderson invoked Chambers’ description of the wine, calling it “wine with table manners.” Anderson said the pairing was old-fashioned and reliable: “what grows together goes together.” The cherries and mushrooms in the nose appeared on the plate for an elegant match.
* Dashe Cellars, Late Harvest Zinfandel, paired with Lavender Ice Cream and Dark Chocolate Mousse, Colorado cherries, and toasted olive oil cake. Husband and wife Ann and Michael Dashe own the winery. Anderson advised against the common dessert of red wine and chocolate, noting the wine that goes with meat is not a good choice for chocolate because both have tannins. Instead she recommended sweet wine because the sweetness in a dessert wine makes a sweet dessert seem less sweet and more flavorful. In general: for dessert, wine should be sweeter than the food.
To answer Anderson’s questions, the pairings ranged from elegant to rule-breaking. Few diners were able to identify the gender of the winemaker by the taste of the wine. All agreed it was just good wine, made by #badasswomenwinemakers
Until our next adventure in wine and food…
Lower 48 Kitchen
2020 Lawrence Street at 21st Street
Denver, Colorado 80205
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