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By The Glass


Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Many red wines make
a good match with seafood

Every dining experience can be enriched with a great bottle of wine. I happen to be partial to red wines. Given my position as general manager of a steakhouse, I often stun my guests with a radical thought: pairing red wine with seafood.

My point is there is no right or wrong when it comes to food and wine pairings.

In my line of work, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to taste and experiment with a wide variety of wines. These three reds rate high on our list for aroma, taste and value:

1999 Rutherford Hill Merlot, Napa Valley ($15): Merlot is immensely popular because it is so easy to drink. It is mellow, medium-to-full-bodied, moderate in tannin and fruity, with plum and chocolate nuances. This merlot is medium-bodied, slightly earthy. I have found it enhances a broiled veal chop by bringing out the chop's smokiness. The wine also pairs well with a filet mignon with bearnaise sauce. I particularly find smoked salmon to be an exquisite accompaniment to this wine.

1999 Domaine Drouhin, Pinot Noir, Oregon ($35-38): I'm told a good pinot noir is hard to make, which makes it an interesting wine. Pinot noir is bright in color and usually very fruity, with varied berry flavors. The earth and spice in this bottle only add to its complexity. Scallops wrapped in bacon is my top pick to go with Drouhin. Swordfish and broiled salmon are also a good match. Wow!! If you want to make the most out of pinot noir in general, chill it slightly before serving.

1998 Groth Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, Napa Valley ($45): Cabernet, a good one at least, is a noble grape. It grows well in many climates and has the reputation of producing a solid and robust wine. Its characteristics often include black currant, black cherry and cassis.

Occasionally, cabernet sauvignon is blended with merlot, cabernet franc, melbec, petit verdot or other grape varietals -- to soften its intense tannin. A ribeye steak, due to its well-marbled nature and infamous flavor, is perfectly suited for the Groth cabernet, which is able to hold its own against this formidable opponent. A porterhouse is a great match with this wine as well. You would be amazed to find how many guests are extremely pleased with this wine, regardless of who ordered what.

A final note about red wines: The basic rule of thumb is to serve red wines at "room temperature," but this refers to the rooms in French chateaus a few centuries ago. Obviously room temperature in Hawaii is much warmer than that. Therefore, I recommend a serving temperature of around 65 degrees

Cheng Hsiao is general manager at Morton's Steakhouse.

This column is a weekly lesson in wine
pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals.
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