• Two Thumbs Up
• Complex aromas of black cherry, kirsch brandy, smoke, dark chocolate and truffles. Lots of upfront flavors of red cherry, raspberry, black pepper and bay leaf. Not a delicate pinot.
Every wine region has its signature dish, or so it seems. Beef has its Bourguignon. Ossobuco alla Milanese (from Milan, Italy) has the rich wines from nearby Barolo. Oysters have their best friend in the Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine wines found on France’s Atlantic coast, where the briny shellfish are harvested.
But what if your part of the world doesn’t yet have a wine region that can morph its wines to match the local cuisine over the centuries? If you are the Southeast regional wine guru for Whole Foods Market, you go to where the wine is made and come up with your own blend that fits the food. And that is just what John David Harmon, Whole Foods’ specialty coordinator for wine and cheese, did. He also took along Charleston, S.C.’s renowned chef, Mike Lata to come up with a wine that “goes with Southern cuisine.”
The men went to California’s Hirsch Vineyards to come up with Southbound Cuvée, a pinot noir that “celebrates the independent spirits of the Sonoma Coast and the American South” (Their words, not mine). Matching a wine to a famous local dish is one thing, but developing a blend that goes with cuisine as diverse as the South is more than a bit ambitious. At 14.4 percent alcohol, the wine is certainly bold enough to stand up to a smoky, charred slab of ribs, but can it be “the” wine for the many faces of Southern cuisine?
The wine is available for $25 at Whole Foods in Georgia, Alabama and the Carolinas. Why they did not seek out wines from Georgia, North Carolina or at least Virginia (home to the most and oldest vineyards and wineries in the South) is a column for another day. Perhaps as a means to redemption for its slight to Southern winemakers, Whole Foods and Hirsch will donate $2 per bottle sold to the Southern Foodways Alliance, a great organization based at the University of Mississippi that documents, studies and celebrates the diverse food cultures of the American South.
Gil Kulers is a certified wine educator with the Society of Wine Educators and teaches in-home wine classes. You can reach him at Gil.Kulers@WineKulers.com.
Note: Wines are rated on a scale ranging up from Thumbs Down, One Thumb Mostly Up, One Thumb Up, Two Thumbs Up, Two Thumbs Way Up and Golden Thumb Award. Prices are suggested retail prices as provided by the winery, one of its agents, a local distributor or retailer.