Californian wines are not always known for matching with food. These often big, powerful drops are so overwhelming they drown out whatever morsels get consumed with them.
On Tuesday, however, the JW Marriott Shanghai Tomorrow Square and ASC Fine Wines are looking to disprove this conception by introducing aficionados to the joys of matching Beringer wines from the famed Napa Valley to the meticulously-prepared fare of the property's executive chef David Burley at JW's California Grill.
The wine estate's Director of Wine and Food Education Jerry Comfort has been assiduously researching wine and food matching programs to bring out the very best of the company's wines.
"He is the world leader in matching food and wine," said ASC Fine Wines' Brand Manager David Andrew. "He studies not only the science but also the physical aspects of the wine and what styles and types of food they match with."
"He does an incredible demonstration focusing on the tastebuds. When you taste different foods, because of the very strong identifiable tastes, when you have a sip of wine you see a marked change that literally impacts whether the wine tastes good or bad. At the end he takes you back to show you what works."
While Chef Burley may not have had the chance to experience the wonders of the workshop yet due to Comfort's pending arrival, he has fully grasped the styles of wine produced by the estate. At a preview for the dinner, the Oxford native nailed every single glass of wine spot on with his incredible dishes.
Californian chardonnay may be considered to be over-oaked by some, but after a bite of the seared sea bass fillet all doubts were dispelled. The oak of the 2004 Beringer Private reserve chardonnay was beautifully integrated and locked horns with the fishiness. The eggplant mousseline and ratatouille jus emulsion were more than an ample sparring partner for the citrus and light apple of the otherwise extroverted wine.
The next course, cider-glazed pork belly with grilled scallops, was an obvious choice with the 2003 Clear Lake zinfandel. This varietal is not an enemy of the faith but rather the US name for the grape known as primitive in Europe. Celebrated for its lushness and fruit forwardness, the cherry notes struck a chord with the subtly sweet meat although the alcohol does hit a tad hard.
Duck is an incredible ingredient to work with due to its fat content and chewy texture. Served with a potato crisp and tangy coleslaw, the pairing of the 2002 Bancroft Ranch Howell Mountain merlot did not disappoint in the least.
Merlot is now a much-maligned varietal since the 2004 film "Sideways" took a dent out of its 1990s popularity. A great varietal wine with complexity, richness and velvety texture in spades, this immense, full-bodied Beringer offering had fattened up nicely in the bottle, suggesting hints of chocolate - just the ticket for our fine-feathered friend.
The meal is definitely aimed at hearty eaters, and with a foie gras-roast beef tenderloin for the main course, diners had better leave some room to accommodate all that superbly-cooked meat. The top-label of the estate is served at this dinner, 1999 Napa Valley Private Reserve cabernet sauvignon - a big, opulent beast of a cab sav that has aged well over the years.
Renowned critic Robert Parker loved it and gave it 92 points.
The hotel has hired a new pastry chef recently, and he certainly has big shoes to fill. The dessert for this meal, however, is the work of Burley, and is a brilliant chocolate crunch with a sweet berry surprise. Matching this meal is the 2001 cabernet sauvignon port. This fortified wine is not run-of-the-mill, instead more like a maury or similar.
The wines are unabashedly commercial, which adds to its compatibility. JW's California Grill is often overlooked when it comes to straightforward meals, but this wine dinner will prove it is right up there with the best.
The dinner starts at 7:30pm and costs 788 yuan (US$103) net.
JW Marriott Shanghai
Address: 399 Nanjing Xilu