Don Reha of Thornton Winery Talks About Their New Champagne Release

Interviews with California's Winemakers, Wine Experts, and Notable Chefs show

Summary: CHAMPAGNE HISTORY A little splash of history . . . No one had to "invent" sparkling wine. Effervescence has always been a natural phenomenon, produced as a result of fermentation. But it took the legendary Dom Perignon, a Benedictine monk in the Champagne region of France, to develop a process that could produce a consistently fine sparkling wine and make it commercially viable. In the late 17th century, Dom Perignon discovered that by blending the wine from several of his best vineyards, he could produce a wine greater than any of its components. Intrigued by its naturally sparkling tendencies and helped along by the introduction of glass bottles and corks, Dom Perignon is credited with developing the méthode champenoise, allowing his exquisite cuvée to ferment in individual bottles. When he first tasted his champagne, Dom Perignon is said to have exclaimed, "I am drinking stars!" Today, most of the practices he developed are still in use by champagne makers throughout the world. While some steps of la méthode champenoise have been mechanized, the basic process has remained the same for all these many years. WINE PAIRING FACTS Rules are Meant to be Broken . . . It has been said that when pairing wine with food that red wine goes well with red meat and that white wine pairs well with fish and poultry. However, this rule fails to acknowledge the complexity of ingredients that make up a dish, as well as the wide range of wines available. There are some basic guidelines that can be taken into consideration when selecting a good food/wine pairing. Generally, the chosen wine should complement the dish. Acidic Wines Acidic wines, such as the Thornton NV Brut and 2001 Sauvignon Blanc are exceptional with sour, acidic, or salty food. Thornton sparkling wines generally pair with salty foods because the acidity cuts the saltiness. Sweet Wines Sweet wines, such as the 2002 Muscat Canelli and Cuvée de Frontignan, go well with sweet foods. The sweetness of the wine and the sweetness of the food will cancel each other out. However, be careful not to pair a wine with food that is sweeter than the wine. Dry Wines Dry wines, such as the Thornton 2000 Reserve Merlot, 2000 Nebbiolo, 2000 Côte Red, have a high level of tannins and will make bitter foods taste less bitter. Tannic wines are also calmed by protein, making rare beef an excellent choice for pairing. Light-body and Full-body Wines There are many other aspects of wine pairing to take into consideration. Try pairing light-bodied wines with lighter food and fuller-bodied wines with heartier, more flavorful, richer and fattier dishes. Also, consider how the food is prepared. Is there a sauce, seasoning or dominant flavor of the dish? How is the food cooked? If poached or steamed, a delicate wine would pair appropriately. If grilled, braised, roasted or sautéed, a more flavorful wine would pair well. Pairing Flavors Match the flavors of the food with the wine. It is important to read the wine notes or the back of the label for information on what flavors are dominant in a wine. For example, the cranberry taste of Thornton Cuvée Rouge goes with holiday turkey for the same reason that cranberry relish does. Try creating new flavor sensations by pairing opposites. Very hot or spicy food works best with sweet dessert wines, such as the 2002 Muscat Canelli. The goal of pairing wine and food is synergy and balance. The food and wine should complement one another, and not be overpowering. The "perfect match" will bring out the nuances and enhance the flavors and unique characters of both the food and the wine. Bon