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by Fred McMillin
Salad and Wine by Design
Mrs. Margrit Biever Mondavi has a prodigious menu memory. For example, my wife conducted a cooking lesson at the Mondavi winery some time ago. At a luncheon seven years later she recalled the menu. "The entree was Game Hens Armagnac with Flaming Liver Toast." Consequently, when she talks about menus and wine-food pairings, I listen.
As for that luncheon, Margrit had invited just the two of us to try some dishes with appropriate Mondavi wines. Salads have always been difficult, so we were particularly interested in what Margrit and winery Chef Michael Chipchase would do in the opening course. Here's the delicious answer.
Margrit's explosion of flavors was provided by a three-year-old Reserve Mondavi Chardonnay. My 17 tasters just tried the 1994. It topped a group of rival $30 California Chardonnays by a substantial margin. The grapes were primarily from the cool Carneros. Here are the details that explain how Winemaker Tim Mondavi produces that rare spectrum of flavors.
In the Vineyard—Grapes that are candidates for
the Reserve are harvested by hand and pressed
immediately on-site while still cool. This
maximizes fruit flavors.
About improving the compatibility of salad and wine, Margrit taught my wife something that day that she used in many subsequent cooking classes; select a cheese with compatible flavors and sprinkle a light coating on top of each dish of salad. We all know wine and cheese go together.
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