Sparkling Wine Dinner

My mother-in-law loves her sparkling wine, so it only made sense that on Mother's Day, we do a  sparkling wine dinner. Now I have written about sparkling wines before, and hope I made my point that Champagne is a sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne, hence the title of this article. I didn't serve Champagne, but it was a pretty good substitute....more on that later.

The one constant with sparkling wines is that they have bubbles, and they are acidic. The bubbles are great for cleansing the palate. They work great with salty and fried foods, as well as mouth coating foods like eggs, and cheese. For this dinner, my focus was more on the acid. When working with acidic wines, acid pairs with acid.

For the first course, I decided to go with a salad. Strawberries pair well with sparkling wine, but I also wanted a green salad with a vinegar based salad dressing. I found a recipe online for Strawberry Romaine salad, but the key to the salad was the poppy seed dressing made with vinegar and mayonnaise (sounds odd, but believe me, it worked). I paired this with a Gruet Blanc de Blancs.

Gruet is one of those sparkling wines that you need to try (if you can find it). Of all places, it comes from New Mexico, and for about $15/bottle (non-vintage), it is a great value. It is not too yeasty, but is made in the Champagne method, so that autolytic character is there. About two years ago, the Wine Spectator named it #43 in their top 100 wines, and since then it has been a bit difficult to find.

Originally, I had planned on doing a seafood dish for the main course, but my youngest son surprised us with a visit for the weekend, and he doesn't eat fish. With a quick change of plans, I found a pork tenderloin recipe that would work great with the Gruet Blanc de Noirs. Pork is one of those meats that can work with whites or reds, so I went with a white wins, made from red grapes (blanc de noirs). The pork tenderloin was served over mashed potatoes with a rhubarb/currant relish, made with cider vinegar (there's that acidity again). You've got to try this recipe. I would serve this with a Riesling or a cool region Pinot Noir as well as a sparkling wine...great pairing!

I finished the meal with a trifle. I wanted to do something with some lemon in it, but was looking for something a bit different. This recipe is a play on Tiramisu, in that it uses lady fingers (and if you have trouble finding them like I did, you could use Nilla cookies). In this case, the lady fingers are soaked in homemade lemonade. This is a real simple recipe, and really good. I paired this with a Gruet demi sec (semi sweet sparkling wine that works well with a little sugar).

I love to cook (just wish I had more time to do it), and I love to pair wines for the meal. If you are like me, give these recipes a try, and seek out some Gruet (or your favorite sparkling wine). The whole idea is to have fun with food and wine. Enjoy!

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