Taste the Harmony
Eight food and wine pairings that will make your tastebuds Grüner with envy
November 8, 2018 at 1:45 AM
By: Matt Swanseger
Shortly after Ludwig van Beethoven's death in 1827, an autopsy revealed post-hepatitic cirrhosis of the liver. Genius can be just as much of a burden as it is a gift, and the brilliant composer often turned to the bottle to manage depression and anxiety stemming from an abusive childhood and to relieve the strain of the creative process. Word is that he especially favored red wine.
Musical historians to this day are as tounded by his body of work, which includes a whopping 722 compositions. However, most agree he could have exercised better discretion within his personal life — namely, drinking responsibly. One of the golden rules of sensible imbibing, of course, is to never overindulge on an empty stomach. Doing so leads to nothing but treble, a hangover approaching a fever pitch.
With both this and your cultural edification in mind, the Erie Philharmonic, Mazza Vineyards, and eight area restaurants have teamed up for the "Taste the Harmony" promotion, which pairs a carefully considered culinary creation at each locale with Mazza's Grüner Veltliner (pronounced "GROOH-ner Felt-LEE-ner"). Depending on how exaggerated your German accent was, that might sound like something you'd be scared to ingest. But have no fear, it is actually a dry white wine pressed from a deep green grape native to Austria, wherein Beethoven spent most of his career.
The style has existed for centuries, but its popularity has crescendoed in recent years, especially after knocking off several Grand Cru ("great growth") whites from the much-ballyhooed Burgundy region in France in a 2002 competition. Leading chefs such as Austria's own Wolfgang Puck have espoused Grüner's food-friendliness and versatility, owing to its fine balance of citrus, herbal, and vegetal notes and a high acidity sharp enough to cut through the flavor of richer, heavier fare. Mario Mazza, general manager and enologist at Mazza, echoes the same sentiments. "It's got a lot of things going for it, and it's fitting for the growing conditions that we have ... It melds well with a range of things. Grüner can work equally as well in the summer cafe with a spicy Asian dish or with a lobster mac-and-cheese on a cold winter day."
Mazza's Grüner Veltliner is described as "crisp ... with notes of fresh stone fruit and a fine mineralogy." Its seventh vintage was recently harvested and its sixth vintage is currently in bottles bearing the Beethoven Commemorative label. On October 20, it was dedicated as the official beverage of Year 3 of the Beethoven 4/4 Festival, an ongoing initiative between the Erie Philharmonic and Mazza leading up to the composer's 250th birthday in 2020. It is available for purchase at both South Shore Winery and the Mazza Wine Shop at Fuhrman's Cider Mill and General Store.
Pick up a bottle and weave it into your own home-cooked compositions or sit back, relax, and "Taste The Harmony" with the flavor opuses orchestrated by the following restaurants through Nov. 18 (or while supplies last):
1201 Kitchen, 1201 State St.
The dish: Pan-seared scallops with chorizo, fire roasted eggplant, and grilled corn.
Chef notes: "The sweetness of the scallops is a nice contrast to a big wine, giving the wine an almost buttery flavor of a Chardonnay."
Bourbon Barrel, 1213 State St.
The dish: Cheese and charcuterie board — goat cheese, pecorino, French aged cheddar, prosciutto di parma, genoa salami, and accompaniments.
Chef notes: "One of our favorite ways to get the party started is with a wonderful cheese and charcuterie board, then pop open a bottle of Grüner Veltliner. There are no specific rules when it comes down to it — the various delights on the board match uniquely with the Grüner Veltliner. We wanted to have a good variety to keep everyone happy, even those with picky palettes. Cheers!"
Cloud 9 Wine Bar, 25 E. 10th St.
The dish: Blackened ahi tuna filet served with pickled ginger, wasabi aioli, house made sesame wontons, a citrus ponzu sauce, and chiffonade scallions.
Chef notes: "The crisp citrus tones of the Grüner Veltliner pair very well with Asian spices and seafood. We chose the blackened ahi tuna because it matches all of these flavor components. The acidity of the wine complements the buttery mouth feel of the tuna and results in a delicious early evening bite."
Molly Brannigan's, 506 State St.
The dish: Fish 'n chips — Beer battered Atlantic cod, housemade coleslaw, tartar, Yukon potato, and feta cheese.
Chef notes: "The mild and delicate flavor of our beer-battered fish 'n chips really brings out the floral bouquet of the Grüner. It's the perfect pairing of fresh fish and mineral-forward white wine ... as you are enjoying the fish, you can taste the Guinness in our beer batter and catch hints of stone fruit in the wine."
The Plymouth Tavern, 1109 State St.
The dish: Crab cake appetizer — three freshly-prepared lump meat crab cakes.
Chef notes: "The stone ground mustard and subtle spices of our homemade crab cakes are accentuated by the crisp, refreshing acidity of the Grüner Veltliner."
Room 33 Speakeasy, 1033 State St.
The dish: Lobster ravioli —three large lobster stuffed ravioli, with sage and pumpkin spiced sauce, topped with sun- dried and roasted tomatoes and garnished with Chef's micro-greens blend.
Chef notes: "We chose to pair the wine with our lobster ravioli dish because the Grüner really brings out the flavors of the spices used in our sauce and highlights the seafood while balancing the richness of the sauce."
The Skunk & Goat Tavern, 17 W. Main St., North East, PA
The dish: Lobster mac & cheese — Langoustine lobster, fusilli pasta, white cheddar sauce, and cheddar crust.
Chef notes: "The wine's acidity is a good foil for the rich creaminess of the pasta."
Sneaky Pete's Speakeasy, 6116 Swanville Rd.
The dish: Crabby portabella — housemade crab cakes stuffed into a perfectly seasoned portabella mushroom.
Chef notes: "It's seafood; it's white wine. Pretty simple."
Matt Swanseger can be reached at email@example.com.