Thursday, February 26, 2015

Pairings for a Typically New York Treat

By Liza B. Zimmerman


While I wasn't as lucky to grow up at The Plaza like Eloise, I did get to spend a nice, long snowy weekend at the Waldorf Astoria this month for an Italian wine tasting. As a matter of fact, the legendary salad is still on the menu there and a great way to start off a meal. The hotel even serves mini versions at brunch!

The salad's sweet, tart and fruity notes when mixed together can pose a challenge when choosing a wine. So I spoke to the Bull & Bear steakhouse's sommelier Jessica Fusco to come up with some suggestions. She said that, "The best wines to complement these flavors would be ones with a balance between fruit and acidity. An off-dry Riesling or a Vouvray Sec would be two very strong contenders. Both have bright acidity, fruit-forward flavors and just enough residual sugar to complement the fruit components in the salad."

Uniting Many Ingredients
A well-chosen wine pairing will also help to unite the many ingredients and flavors and to help bring them together with the wine. "Naturally, the larger the quantity of ingredients, the more difficult if is to identify the dominant flavor/s. With the Waldorf Salad, there is one component that shines through despite its complexity. Acidity! As long as you select a wine with prominent acidity, you cannot go wrong."

Sauvignon Blancs from as close as California and as far afield as France and Chile would also work well with this salad because of their acid structure.

The many fruits and vegetables--such as the raisins, apples and celery--in the salad, can be very hard to pair with certain types of wines because of their green flavors. Fusco suggests focusing on one dominant flavor to guide you to select the wine, which for me would be the sweetness of the apples and dusty crunch of the walnuts. 

Extreme Flavors
If this not so simple salad didn't have enough going on with its basic ingredients, it also has a touch of lemon, yogurt and mayonnaise in the mix. "One must be careful when pairing with these ingredients. For example, a full-bodied wine with oak treatment would create sour flavors on the palate. On the other hand, a light-bodied wine with acidity and a degree of residual sugar on the finish would compliment the tartness of the lemon and the richness of the yogurt," said Fusco. My suggestions might be a slightly off-dry Riesling or a white Rhône, such as a Viognier, with a hint of sugar.

Fusco says that both the Old and New World offer many great pouring options for this salad. "As long as one is selecting a light bodied, fresh and fruit forward white, the options are vast. A Vouvray Sec from the Loire Valley or an off-dry Riesling from the Finger Lakes region of New York would both work well and create the untimely enjoyable culinary experience."

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.
Photo credit: Waldorf Astoria NY

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