I begin with the necessary disclaimer: I’m no foodie. I was a picky, horrible eater as a child, and never did bother to learn to cook well. I’ve read about wine, and did attend a sort of wine tasting party for a wine-of-the-month racket, but am otherwise unacquainted with the finer points of vinicultural appreciation. Oh, and I did watch Sideways and James May’s various road trips with Oz Clarke, along with too much old-school Iron Chef and Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. This exhausts my knowledge of anything and everything food-related beyond my accidental preferences.
The purpose of this little blog post (the first in a series) is to think about food and wine a bit — I am a philosopher, after all, and it’s part of my schtick to think about stuff. It recently occurred to me that it would be funny to try to write reviews of Iowa-made wines, mostly because in my experience they’ve all seemed to be sad shadows of Manischewitz rather than proper wines. I know this can’t be entirely true, but I haven’t had enough of the good stuff (whatever that might turn out to be) to be sure, so I decided to learn. As I learn best by doing, this means I’m going to be drinking a lot of Iowa wine.
I figure that if I’m going to be drinking the wine, I’m going to need to eat the foods that might go well with it (whichever wine it is), and so the idea for these (probably infrequent) blog posts on the subject of food and wine came to fruition: I eat, then I drink.
Today’s wine is the American Brianna from Santa Maria Vineyard and Winery in Carroll, IA. According to its maker, the American Brianna variety is a “crisp and delicate” semi-sweet white wine “with sun-drenched notes of pineapple, apricot, and peaches on the nose.”It is meant to be served “chilled with fresh fruit or all by itself as an aperitif.” I decided to take the maker’s suggestion seriously and chilled the wine, with the intention of serving it with a mix of fresh-cut melons (canteloupe, honeydew, watermelon). As it is primarily intended to be something other than a meal wine, I had dinner first and then cleansed the ol’ palate before hopping to the wine. I know, I know, I should’ve done the wine first, but I was starving, and wine doesn’t sit well with me on a mostly empty stomach.
Dinner, in this case, was another food experiment — a sort of wannabe bruschetta. I cut up slices of a Hy-Vee made Asiago cheese bread, spread some Laughing Cow light mozarella with basil on the slices, and soaked some fresh tomato slices in garlic-infused olive oil for a bit while I warmed the bread and cheese in the nukebox. Then I put the tomato slices on the bread and added oregano. It was, no joke, pretty darn delicious. I imagine it would be brilliant with freshly-made bread and less processed cheese.
Once I was done with that yummy, yummy stuff, I got down to the business of decanting the wine and getting the fruit ready.
What I discovered about the wine is this: It lives up to its basic description, more or less. It’s a decent little semi-sweet white, in my book, although I don’t really agree with the description of the nose of the thing (Hah. Fat lot I know about it.). It is, perhaps, a little sweeter than a semi-sweet wine ought to be, but I expected that, and it wasn’t unpleasant in any case. I think that this impression might have been caused in part by the fact that I definitely chose the wrong fruit to go with it — this wine needs citrus, not melon, in order to blossom on the tongue. A nice, tart apple would go with it quite beautifully, I think — a good Granny Smith might do the job, although a Honey Crisp might be excellent, too, but might go too far in the sweet direction. A Golden Delicious would definitely be a mistake — too sweet. The melon, in the end, just wasn’t tart enough, and it tended to exaggerate the sweetness at the expense of the very real bite that this wine actually has.
As an aperitif, I’d actually avoid drinking it by itself. If you could find the right cheese/cracker/amuse bouche combo, maybe, but there’s just something a little off-putting about it without the fruit to complement it, and I’m not sure it would aid the appetite the way an aperitif should. I’m not sufficiently well-versed in cheeses to know what would go well with the American Brianna. The danger of either the wrong fruit choice or the wrong cheese choice is in the wine’s aftertaste, which goes from sweet to Coyote Ugly Morning After pretty damn fast.
For a $12 wine, not too shabby. Certainly not as horrid as some I’ve tasted!