White wine goes with white meat like chicken and fish, and red wine goes with red meats. So what do you drink the Rose with?” I asked Rene who was from France and now lived in the valley. We were both watching the soccer ball being chased by our sons. “No,” he shrugged. “Pardon,” I said in my clipped convent school English accent. “No, we don’t drink white wine with white meat and red with red meat,” he explained.
With one proverbial shrug of the shoulders, the principle I had followed religiously for years was tossed out. “It depends on the flavor of the food. Sometimes we ‘ave thiz wine sometimes zat.” Surely there must be some identifiable, well defined principle or clearly stated rule that one can follow? I pursued.
“Well it depends on the sauce. If it is too creamy then … if it is light then white wine will complement it. Depends on z sauce you know.” A sigh of what I can only take as relief escaped the vegetarian dad seated beside us. So it is not the meat but the taste swirling around your mouth that dictates which wine will complement which food.
Indian food with its blend of spices and its complexity of flavors, its layers of sweet salty and spicy needed some serious sorting and matching. Could there be one bottle of wine we could order when dining out that would go with every dish? Coconut milk based curries, yogurt and cream based curries, tangy tomato and tamarind laced curries, fresh ginger garlic and onion heavy curries, or tandoori—each needed to be matched up. Or am I destined to order wine by the glass when I am at an Indian restaurant?
The other option, according to Rene, is to pick the wine you want to drink and then adjust your meal so that certain dishes and tastes predominate. The meal could also be served Western style, with one or two dishes at a time. Thus making it easier to coordinate the wine.
Salil, a budding wine aficionado, shared the wisdom he had gathered over many nights of trial and error, “To calm down the spice you can try a sweet wine. Highly tannic wines taste bitter when confronted with chilies and seasonings; the curries strip the fruit flavors from the wine, leaving it too astringent. A low-tannin wine with generous fruit is the ticket with Indian food in general. Additionally alcohol magnifies the heat. So less than 14 % alcohol or thereabouts should be ideal.”
This was the nugget of information that Neeta and Kunal Mittal experimented with when they opened their yet to be launched Rhone-style blend of red wine to accompany their mother’s Bhuna Gosht and cumin, coriander laced vegetable kebabs. The wine helmed by winemaker, Amy Butler, from grapes grown on their vineyard in Paso Robles was a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Tempranillo, a flavor characteristic of the wines of the Westside of “Sideways” country, Paseo Robles. Pleasantly surprised that the garnet red liquid dancing in their glasses matched the spiciness of the food note for note they named their red wine “Rising Tempo.”
“‘Rising Tempo’ is inspired by Nritya (Art of Dance), the third art of KamaSutra”, Neeta, the owner of the vineyard and an accomplished dancer and filmmaker explains. She goes on to explain, “The rich history of KamaSutra unfolds back into the Third century A.D. when an Indian sage, Vatsyayana, composed KamaSutra for the greater purpose of making art and love complement each other. The aim of the Sixty Four Arts of the KamaSutra is to enhance sensual moods and intimacy. Sensuality involved more than the use of the five traditional senses; with awareness and intuition, it went beyond just sensing. Our approach re-frames the entire wine experience as a novel Indian series of events that sequentially awaken the full range of senses to more keenly appreciate wine, frame, and ambiance, all strategically designed for an arousingly pleasurable experience.”
With this enticing invitation I uncorked the first in the series of LXV wines and decanted it waiting for the X factor in LXV to unfold. Ten minutes later “Rising Tempo” was twirling in my glass. The rich garnet color did a jewel dance releasing a “sweet floral and caramel” bouquet. The pleasant smooth taste slipped into my mouth coating my tongue with its promised “fruity texture.” The wine’s medium notes played on my tongue.
The label on the front of the bottle featuring a picture of a sensuous dancer was meant to titillate my senses and told me what the dancer whispered: “I crave the rawness of my bare feet against the earth; my hair, wild and tangled in the music. I become immersed in the space where my human and spiritual world play with one another. For once, I get to indulge in my true self.”
And indulge I did. With a buffet of Indian dishes I dipped and sipped, chewed and slurped, sighed and savored. My taste buds frolicked to the different notes.The wine complemented the Indian dishes. Its oakiness worked its magic with the woody spices like cumin and coriander in the aloo tikki. The mint and tamarind chutneys coating the tikki did not spin our red dancer off the floor. She matched the potato pancake’s spiciness, flirted with the yogurt-laden dishes like kadi pakodi made Punjabi style and kept in step with the parantha rolled with gobi aloo. “We serve it with Reshmi kebabs and layered Malabar paranthas as an appetizer,” said Neeta of her tastings held first Friday of every month.
LXV will open the doors to its tasting room in 2014, but you can visit the vineyard by appointment (firstname.lastname@example.org). The wine priced at $38 is available for purchase through their website (www.lxvwine.com), and the owners are available to offer personal assistance. LXV’s latest release was in November, but the label is kept under wraps.
Ritu Marwah is a resident of the Bay Area where she has pursued theater, writing, non-profit marketing, high-tech marketing, startup management, raising children, coaching debate, and hiking. Ritu graduated from Delhi with masters in business, joined the Tata Administrative Service and worked in London for ten years before moving to the Bay Area.