Camp Schramsberg Part 4: Pairing Food & Sparkling Wines

“Everyone has blind spots in taste and smell,” Holly Peterson announced before a discussion on cause and effect in pairing food and wines. Most tasters agree that red wine paired with asparagus emits a metallic taste, but sparkling wine is a different story, according to Holly. It was at that precise moment I realized our group would learn a lot. With personal preferences in mind, I finally understood flavor interactions involving herbs, spices and sauces.

Camp Schramsberg offered three food and wine seminars led by Holly and an army of servers who marched in with plates adorned with sample-sized tastings. We learned a lot along the way, such as:

  • Herbs and spices last only one year before you should throw them out.
  • If you make an aioli, you can turn it into salad dressing simply by adding water.
  • Lemon oil without acid is made from lemon rind, while the citrus is acidic.
  • The temperature of sparkling wine is really important!

The perception of each chardonnay-based sparkling wine changed with the addition and/or subtraction of certain ingredients. For instance, a 2015 Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc, with its soft bouquet and apple palate, was served with lemon wedges, which cut the acid of the blanc de blanc. This particular wine worked well with a slice of Asian pear and also with scallop crudo with Castelvetrano olive, crème fraiche and dill.

Fun Fact: An Anjou pear works best with Chablis and triple cream cheese.

Next, we tasted a 2012 Schwarze Vineyard sparkling that offered an assertive bouquet and long finish of citrus. When paired with tarragon dipped in crème fraiche, it was tasty, but it didn’t work with that same scallop crudo. Finally, a 2009 J. Schram with an aging bouquet and strong biscuit flavor didn’t work well with pear or smoked salmon but paired quite well with toasted almonds (skin on), as it brought the toast of the Marconi almonds forward.

The next seminar focused on pinot noir-based sparkling wines. Holly began this seminar by stating, “If food is sweeter than the wine, the wine will taste sour because it will be more acidic.”

We learned that a 2014 Blanc de Noirs is flexible and works well with red meat topped with chimichurri. This sparkling wine offered a medium acidity, and was not as long on the palate as the reserve wine. It worked well with compressed watermelon, but I didn’t enjoy it with asparagus panna cotta or with grilled maitake mushrooms topped with smoked salt (overpowered the wine). With the tempura carrot, the wine was too acidic.

Fun fact: An heirloom tomato is higher in sugar and lower in acid, while a Roma tomato needs a higher acidity level in wine pairing.

Next, a 2012 Redding Ranch Vineyard offered a floral bouquet and light, mineral taste of sweet basil and peach/lychee. This sparkling wine worked best with grilled maitake mushrooms topped with smoked salt, as well as the asparagus panna cotta. When paired with the compressed watermelon, the wine became more acidic, and with the tempura carrot, it was acceptable, but not amazing.

A 2009 Reserve was poured next. This sparkling wine had richness in acidity and notes of green pepper. It offered a long finish and calmed down the taste of the tempura carrot. I enjoyed it with the watermelon but was not a fan of the mushroom pairing.