Monday, January 14, 2019

Walla Walla Reds that You Should Drink and Pair with Chinese Food

If you are looking for high-quality red wines, the Pacific Northwest is a destination you shouldn’t skip.  I was fortunate to taste a lot of excellent red wines in the #WBC18 trip in October 2018, and was extremely impressed with the five red wines that I love from the Walla Walla, Hood River and Columbia River Gorge areas. Let me walk you through why these five wines are worth every penny, and mostly impressively will pair well with the Chinese food I recommended.  
2015 Cathedral Ridge Winery Hillside Zinfandel Reserve ($27) is an award-winning wine that is at the entry-level price for the region. What makes this 100% Red Zin really stands out is its concentration of blackberry flavors, thicker tannin and a streak of expresso, in addition to the typical fruity-forwardness that presents in most Zins. The subtle characteristics complement well with Chinese BBQ meat which is marinated in hoisin, oyster, soya sauce and honey.  Once these marinated pork, chicken wings or chicken giblets if you fancy them are being BBQ in the charcoal or regular oven, they are a tad sweet, moist, smoky, charcoal-fragrant and are bursting in flavors. These flavors interact really well with this complex Red Zin that is fresh to the palate but is interesting with the dark fruit and coffee notes.  Crispy pork belly, which has the cracker-like crispy skin when done, is another dish that will make this Zin dance. The salty pork belly, with 60% lean meat and 40% fat, needs the Zin’s fruitiness to lighten its somewhat fatty texture.     
2013 g. Cuneo Nebbaro Red ($35) is a blend of Nebbiolo and Barbera, which style is not typically made in Piemonte, the Northern root of these Italian grapes. The combination of these two grapes is sought-after in the US as it embraces the best of both worlds a wine can offer…significant structure empowered by Nebbiolo, with the finesse, color and fruit notes coming from Barbera. This blend provides a food friendly unity that allows a wide range of food pairing options including some famous Chinese beef dishes.  The five-spice beef shank is braised in mijiu (rice cooking wine), soya sauce, anise and of course five-spice to fork-tender. After it is cool off, it is sliced and is served at room temperature as appetizers. Nebbaro’s fresh fruit notes won’t overpower the warm spices, but rather makes the lean shank slices taste juicier.  One of the world’s most famous noodle soups is Taiwanese Braised Beef Noodle. The beef chunks are cooked in dark soya sauce, dry spices and fresh herbs for a long time until the chopsticks can pull the meat apart. The beef is deeply flavored which may “bully” any weak reds such as Pinot Noir or Beaujolais. The Nebbiolo in this wine can definitely deal with this aromatic hearty beef.  
Poultry is another most used protein for Chinese cuisines after pork.  Ducks are undoubtedly pricier meat that is served in special occasions.  Flattened Roast Duck or Pei Pa Duck, a cousin of the Peking duck – similar preparation, is a seasoned duck that is butterflied to the shape of an ancient Chinese music instrument called Pei Pa (the shape of a tennis racket) prior to roasting. The skin of the duck becomes very crispy due to its larger exposure to the oven heat. The 2011 Maryhill Sugarloaf Vineyards Mourvedre ($40) looks crystal garnet in the glass, smells musky on the nose, but tastes young yet earthy on the palate. The youthfulness comes from the berries like raspberry, strawberry, cranberry, black berry and plum. The earthy notes draw from the limestone, smokiness, warm Asian spices, tea, coco powder and coffee notes that show up every now and then depending on what food you pairs it with.  The medium tannin and vibrant acidity of this wine accentuates the meaty/fatty duck.  This red blend will also pair really well with the Soya Sauce Chicken which has the most juicy and glossy golden brown skin and tender meat that impresses anyone’s taste bud! 

As a red wine drinker, I’m deeply in love with the 2012 L'ecole #41 Seven Hills Vineyard Perigee Bordeaux Red Blend ($50). This Blend has over half Cabernet Sauvignon with the balance of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. It is a memorable red blend that is full of aromas of herbs, barrel spices, and dark cherry.  This Bordeaux style is to impress the drinker who craves for instant gratification, but can decant the wine at least an hour prior to a pour they have been anxiously waiting for. Or to reveal its full aging potential, it can be cellared for 10 to 20 years. It’s richness and polish structure does reflect on the price tag. The heavy and long grip of this wine provides many pairing options for heavier Chinese comfort food that is served in the winter.  Chinese Braised Lamb Stew in Fermented Beancurd (small chucks of tofu) is a lamb stew that is cooked in aged and deeply salted beancurd. The aged beancurd produces a spicy piquancy, buttery and tangy flavors, which mimics blue cheese in texture, taste and smell. After the lamb chunks and rehydrated tofu sticks smothers in the beancurd for a few hours, it comes out to be creamy, rich and not gamy. Serve immediately with some chopped fresh dill. This Bordeaux red blend does the magic to the moist skin-on lamb chunks. Asian-style Braised Beef Short Ribs can also be coupled with this red with ease and harmony. 
2012 Woodward Canyon Estate Reserve Red ($75) has equal part of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, adding an ample dosage of Petit Verdot (18%). The mix of fruit, savory elements, with notes potting soil, green coffee beans, fresh herbs, generous barrel spices and licorice is why this wine can fetch this price.  The long finish of this wine clings to your palate, making the wine and the food memorable. The Braised Dark Soya Sauce Pork Belly with Chinese Preserved Mustard Green is a heavy dish that showcases the pork belly with intense earthy root flavor that comes from the salty preserved vegetable.  
Aging Potential 
What Chinese Food to Pair
2015 Cathedral Ridge Winery Hillside Zinfandel Reserve ($27)
Best to drink now
Chinese BBQ (Recipe courtesy of
Crispy Pork Belly (Recipe courtesy of
2013 g. Cuneo Nebbaro Red  ($35)
Best from now to 2020
5-Spice Beef Shank Slices (Recipe courtesy of
Taiwanese-style Braised Beef Noodle (红烧牛肉面) (Recipe courtesy of
2011 Maryhill Sugarloaf Vinegards Mourvedre ($40)
Best to drink now
Flattened Roast Duck (枇杷鸭) (Recipe courtesy of
Soya Sauce Chicken (Recipe courtesy of
2012 L'ecole #41 Seven Hills Vineyard Perigee Bordeaux Red Blends ($50)
Best from 2020 to 2030
Chinese Braised Lamb Stew in Fermented beancurd Paste (南乳羊肉) (Recipe courtesy of
Asian-style Braised Beef Short Rib (Recipe courtesy of
2012 Woodward Canyon Estate Reserve Red ($79)
Best from 2020 to 2030
Braised Dark Soya Sauce Pork Belly with Chinese Preserved Vegetable (梅菜扣肉)(Recipe courtesy of

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