Wine Pairing by Happenstance
what you find in the fridge could be a match made in heaven
words & photos by Michelle Nystrom
The noise from the lawnmower outside my apartment window, tossing up the smell of fresh cut grass, immediately brought me back to summer! I began to anticipate visiting some of my favorite wineries again. I’m looking forward to adding a few more to my list. I feel blessed to live in a state that takes pride in everything they do – from cheese, to bratwurst, to beer, to wine! I didn’t realize Wisconsin has more than 80 wineries. Wondering if any were open yet, I grabbed my laptop and began to search the internet – something had to be opening soon.
In the middle of my search, two clangs of the neighborhood church bells told me it was 2 o’clock. I still have shopping to do and somehow the day had gotten away from me. Since the Eau Claire Downtown Farmer’s Market at Phoenix Park doesn’t open for a few more weeks yet, I decided I would go to a local organic food store, then off to the florist for some flowers to keep the summer smells going. I should probably eat something before I leave.
A quick check of the refrigerator led me to a half-eaten egg salad sandwich from Woodman’s, or was it from Festival? OK, egg salad it is. Out of the corner of my eye I saw an almost empty bottle of Frozen Tundra White wine from Parallel 44 Vineyard & Winery in Kewaunee, Wisconsin. “What the heck,” I thought to myself, “it is Saturday. I’m going to have that last little glass. Besides, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere right?!”
After a bite of the sandwich and a sip of the wine … no way! This tastes fantastic together! Who would have thought? The creaminess of the eggs and the tropical fruit notes of the wine completely reminded me of Sunday breakfast buffet, with eggs as you like, and an array of fresh fruits like cantaloupe and pineapple. It all came together perfectly.
I’ve always been interested in wine’s versatility – that interest led me to obtain my Wine Professional certification in 2011. Thinking of the classic food-and-wine combinations such as Chardonnay and shellfish, and Pad Thai with Riesling, I’ve realized that sometimes it’s all about what we have yet to come across.
I must add this new pairing to my notebook! Now where is my pen?
Finally, a long weekend! I was looking forward to kayaking with my girlfriends, when my parents called and invited themselves over. I never say no because I don’t see them often as I’d like. They’re still so active, but at 79 years young, my mother has lost most of the hearing in her right ear, and I’m concerned her hearing aids have been working overtime lately. I also worry about the long drive for them down from Superior. “I hope you guys remember to take Business Highway 53 into downtown,” I told Mom over the phone.
Raising my voice louder I said, “Tell Dad to remember to take Business 53 into downtown or you’ll end up in La Crosse!”
Thinking about dinner for later, I decided to make my favorite duck breast dish, so I went to my wine rack and grabbed a Chaos Red from Door Peninsula Winery. It reminds me of the Barbera D’Asti I had in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy in 2018. A semi-sweet medium-bodied wine with notes of cherry, plum, and grape. These flavors will complement the gaminess of the duck perfectly! I’ll admit, I was excited to show off this dish to my parents. They eventually arrived safe and sound. “Are we ready to eat yet?”
I folded caramelized onions into mashed potatoes and served them alongside the duck, then topped it with the grape and red wine reduction.
“Mother, can you grab the silverware?” I asked.
“What?” she said.
It didn’t take us very long to finish the meal. “That was so good!” they said. Afterwards Mom asked what was for dessert. “You know I really don’t eat dessert, so I didn’t make anything,” I reminded them. A blank stare from both parents prompted me to get up out of my chair and head into the kitchen wondering what the heck I could throw together.
Inside the freezer I found a box of New York Vanilla ice cream. Now I need something sweet. Darn it, I’m out of Hershey’s syrup – now what?! Deeper into the freezer I spotted a bag of frozen peach halves. I glanced over at the saucepan of the grape and red wine reduction. There was plenty left, so I swiftly dumped the peaches into it, added a sugar cube and threw in a cinnamon stick - mixing it all together to warm it up. As I spooned the new creation atop scoops of the vanilla ice cream, I could smell the cinnamon. “Wow, this might actually work!” I proclaimed.
We eagerly lapped up this wonderful dessert, unable to produce any sounds but “Mmmm.” The cold of the ice cream and the warmth of the wine-soaked peaches melted in our mouths. This is one certainly for the books!
“Mother would you mind handing me that notebook over there, I have to write this new pairing down.”
Michelle Nystrom of Eau Claire is a certified wine professional who loves to share her own wine and travel experiences.