FOOD & DRINK
Building a Bridge
Stock your pantry with spices, herbs and other ingredients that highlight cabernet sauvignon’s charms
By Tina Caputo
Cabernet sauvignon was made for food. Layered and complex, it pairs seamlessly with dozens of dishes, from steak au poivre to herb-crusted lamb. Along with the classics, cabernet can also be an excellent match for foods such as pork, chicken and duck, which are not normally associated with such a deep, rich wine. The trick is to use bridge ingredients to connect elements in the food with those in the cabernet. This may be as simple as adding a sprinkle of chopped fresh herbs to a dish just before serving, or introducing an earthy element that enhances a similar note in the wine.
Todd Knoll, Jordan’s executive chef, is a master at conceiving unexpected pairings for the winery’s complex, elegant cabernet sauvignon. While some may think of pinot noir as the go-to wine for pork, he says, “There are numerous things you can do to make it even more compatible with cabernet.”
Starting with a pork chop from Sonoma County Meat Co. in Santa Rosa, for example, Knoll created a dish accented with ripe peaches and a syrup of reduced coffee kombucha. “I use a tablespoon each of butter and reduced kombucha to finish the carrots in a sauté pan. The naturally sweet carrots take on a familiar bitterness and more acidity, bringing the dish in balance with the wine,” he says. To further connect the dish with the wine, he incorporated other cabernet-friendly ingredients such as fennel pollen, fresh herbs and black pepper.
When putting together dishes to pair with cabernet, Knoll adds, “The ingredients are either going to complement or contrast with a component that’s in the wine.” Because Jordan’s Cabernet Sauvignon tends to lean toward darker fruit flavors, Knoll often includes blackberries, black cherries or currants in glazes.
For an older vintage cabernet that has lost some of its fruitiness, Knoll gravitates toward earthy bridge ingredients. “If I use bright fruit in the dish, I risk overpowering the fruit in a wine, particularly in the case of an older cabernet sauvignon, while subtle notes are fading and precious,” he says. “Instead, I would go with something like mushrooms, so I’m not competing with the subdued fruit in the wine.”