Editor's note: Each week Dan Dawson peruses Ken Morris's Cooking for Comfort column and finds wines to drink with Ken's recipes.
Fresh off a Fourth of July filled with grilled meat products, much in buns, we turn our attention to another nation’s freedom celebration -- food and wine style. Bastille Day, la fête du 14-juillet en France, is a day for picnics and eating al fresco. What to eat traditionally is less specific than our day of independence when the hot dog is king. If you can eat it outside and it’s French, you’re good to go. It’s a wide net.
Ken’s recipes for Tapenade, Pissaladière, and Tarragon Chicken support the notion of the French variety. I don’t know about you, but I think having all three on my picnic table for Bastille Day would be a slice of gustatory heaven. Might add a Model Bakery baguette, Fatted Calf Country Pâté, and a disk of Chevre from Oxbow Wine & Cheese for giggles. And a six-pack of Kronenbourg.
But what about the wine?
The three Cooking For Comfort recipes (Tapenade, Pissaladière, Tarragon Chicken) have so much wine-pairing crossover I don’t think nit-picking over the subtle differences is doing you a service. That’s why I’m taking a different approach to this week’s set of recommendations.
I’ve asked merchants at local wine shops with a strong French wine selection to recommend one wine from their store to match all three recipes. I asked that their selection be French, under $30, and in-stock/available for purchase today. Finally, I ask each merchant to answer the question, “Why this wine?”
Here are your five French wine pairing recommendations, accompanied by the personalities who chose them. Seek them out (the person and the wine) and let them know my column drew you in. You have eight days until la fête du 14-juillet.
Order of wines determined by drawing of names from an old Loire Valley Wine hat by my daughter.
Bay Grape Wine Shop, Napa
Bonnamy Crèmant de Loire Blanc $16
Josiah Baldivino: “Bubbles are your best friend when it comes to food and wine pairings. Not only do they make people want to party on a Wednesday but they are also versatile with all types of foods. This wine is a blend of Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Franc. It tastes like fresh-baked apple pie, chamomile and has a saline mineral finish that will keep your palate ready to party!”
Oxbow Wine & Cheese at Oxbow Public Market
La Domitienne Grenache Gris, Languedoc 2020, $14.50
Peter Granoff: “When I read through those classic French recipes I found my mouth watering at the prospect — black olives, garlic, capers, more garlic, anchovies — and more anchovies. It all sounds delicious, and I imagined myself craving a zesty Rosé with enough oomph to slice through all that savory intensity. The 2020 La Domitienne Rosé retails for a mere $14.50, and overdelivers at the price.”
Trader Joe’s Napa
(This is my pick. Ask wine manager Brad Bianchini for more suggestions when you visit.)
Vignobles Lacheteau Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, Sur Lie 2019, $7.99
Best under $10 wine I’ve had in I don’t know how long. Muscadet is a wine region on the western edge of Loire Valley, near the Atlantic. Muscadet is classically tangy, low-alcohol, and oh-so food-friendly. In fact, its low price and style make it a popular carafe wine in French eateries. And by the way, it has zilch kinship with Muscat, so zap that thought from your noggin if it’s in there. As for food pairing, the wine has a briny, herbal, lemon zest flavor that rocks with anchovies, garlic, olives, and fresh herbs.
Back Room Wines, downtown Napa
Villa Bel Air Graves Blanc 2016, $27
Tomas Viramontes: “Bordeaux Blanc has an advantage in food pairing for multiple dishes due to the fact that the 65% Sauvignon Blanc will play well with the savory anchovy base in the first two dishes while the 35% Semillon provides a little more weight and structure for the capers, herbs, and olives. The small amount of oak aging will stand up to the bold tarragon and rich chicken course. All of the wine-making decisions lead to versatility in pairing from seafood to fowl.”
Gary’s Wine & Marketplace, St. Helena
Pierre Gaillard Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc "Les Gendrines" $26.95
Christopher Poulos: “This wine has enough acidity and verve to stand up to the strong flavors in the tapenade, and the peaches and verbena to complement the super-savory Pissaladière. Its herby, mineral character will absolutely sing with the roast chicken. I’ve been searching for a Viognier that was expressive, focused, and affordable. I tasted Gaillard's Côtes-du-Rhône and it was BING-BING-BING!"
Notice the recommendations are four whites and one rosé. Makes sense — best for summertime drinking, more food-versatile, more sub-$30 choices. So far, I’ve had the Crèmant de Loire at Bay Grape and, of course, the Muscadet at TJ’s. I’ll have the others soon, purely in the interest of quality control. Let me know how many of these you try.