By Tammy Quackenbush
On July 10th, a Sonoma Winery and San Francisco based Korean restaurant held a wine and food pairing event as part of the Outside Lands Festival.
The Outside Lands Festival is a three-day festival of music, food and wine held in Golden GatePark,
San Francisco. As part of the lead up to the event on Aug. 12-14, the organizers and Chow online food magazine have created a four-part culinary series pairing San Francisco restaurants with wineries in Sonoma and Napa county.
Part two of the series matched Namu restaurant in San Francisco and Scribe Winery on the vintner’s estate near Sonoma,California, on July 10.
Fifty guests attended the wine and culinary event, pairing Korean, Japanese and Old West “New Californian” cuisine with Scribe’s food friendly wines. The main course was Korean barbecue wraps, (쌈 ssam). The choice of meats were roasted pork, roasted duck (Muscovy and Peking), locally caught fish, halibut or black cod. Namu served the lettuce wrap ingredients buffet-style. Hungry attendees wrapped diced white meats in lettuce leaves slathered with Namu’s own barbecue sauce, 쌈장 ssamjang, a traditional sauce for wraps.
Ssamjang is usually made from 된장 dwenjang (fermented soybean paste), 고추장 gochujang (spicy red pepper paste), garlic, onions and has a touch of sweetness. Chrysanthemum flower greens worked well in my ssam.
Namu’s crew brought their custom-built smoker, stoked with apricot and olive wood. Apricot wood is a sweet and mild wood, producing a smoke that matches well with pork and fish. Olive wood has an aroma similar to, but lighter than, mesquite. Italians commonly use olive wood for grilling beef. Smoke isn’t a typical Korean flavor profile, but it is an important component to American barbecue.
The side dishes (반찬 banchan) were bountiful and presented buffetstyle, so no one had any excuse to leave hungry (or thirsty, since Scribe winery were generous with the wine tasting). The banchan included pickled Japanese cucumbers, collard greens braised in bonito flakes and rice wine vinegar, coleslaw marinated in Japanese mayo, Korean chili paste and black sesame seeds and mung bean sprouts bathed in a soy-sauce centric sauce with sesame and onion.
Scribe complemented Namu’s menu with barrel samples of their 2010 Sonoma Carneros pinot noir / Cabernet Sauvignon blend and their 2010 Sonoma Carneros Chardonnay ($38/750 ml bottle). The winery was just established in 2007 and all their pre-2010 vintages were made with grapes purchased from other growers. They have faced criticism for their “high” prices because of this but their 2010 vintages, which are the first made with grapes grown on site should dispel those complaints.
The Chardonnay is fermented with wild yeast (no commercial yeasts added), half in neutral tanks and half in American oak. The oak was a delicate background player, rather than the star quarterback position played by many chardonnays. It had some tropical fruit and floral notes on the nose with a smooth finish. Those characteristics made for a hanshik-helping chardonnay, which is a rare species. Most American chardonnays are too dry and oaky to get along well with spicy Korean foods. The heavy oak, in combination with Korea’s spicier fare, would intensify the already heavy oak to the point that the more subtle flavors in the food and the wine would be lost. Scribe’s Chardonnay had just enough oak to let you know you were drinking Chardonnay, but it was not overwhelmingly toasty.
The pinot noir / cabernet sauvignon blend, a 50/50 blend created specially for the Namu event, complemented the fatty duck well. There were dark cherries, cocoa and a hint of oak. It wasn’t overly tannic. The long finish was smooth and silky. Strong oak and tannins can clash mortally with Korean barbecue. I was pleasantly surprised that both wines complemented Namu’s duck, pork and white fish ssam.
Scribe is located on just three miles east of the city of Sonoma Plaza. It’s the second life of one of California’s oldest vineyards and wineries. Its first incarnation was as Dresel & Co Vineyard . Emil Dresel, a German immigrant, and his brother, Julius, made it one of most celebrated wineries of its time. The winery dominated California’s wine industry from the 1850s, just after California joined the U.S. In 1919 prohibition killed the winery and many others like it in California. The property then became a turkey farm for many years. Kristof Anderson, Andrew Avellar and Andrew Mariani bought the property and brought back the vineyards. The main hacienda from the Dresel days is still on the property and is being restored.
The next two summer pairings will be held on July 24 and August 7. July 24th’s party will match up Tres Sabores winery’s 2010 Sauvignon Blanc and 2008 ‘Porque No’ red wine blend with pulled pork chipotle BBQ sandwiches and Moroccan carrots with citrus slaw. The summer pairings finale on August 7th features a pairing of Kermit Lynch’s rose wines and grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup.
All of the Summer Pairing parties endeavor to tear down food and wine paring stereotypes and prejudices. The Namu and Scribe food and wine pairing tore down one of my most deeply held stereotypes about what kinds of wines to enjoy with Korean food. Before this event, I never would have considered serving a California Chardonnay with a Korean meal as most California Chardonnay’s are heavy on the oak. I would usually stick with safer, sweeter wines such as Reisling or Gewürztraminer. My trip to Sonoma has taught me to look beyond Chardonnay stereotypes.
Tammy writes for her own blog, Koreafornian Cooking and for Zenkimchi Food Journal as ZenKimchi’s San Francisco Bay Area editor. She has also written articles about Korean cuisine for Plate Magazine and her recipes have been featured on Slice.com (Serious Eats), Foodbuzz.com, New Asian Cuisine.com and Marxfoods.com