Our family has been getting excited for an upcoming ski trip to Tahoe – our first of the season -- and obsessively checking the forecast for snow. Nothing on the horizon yet, but we’re holding out hope!
All the talk of white slopes and mountain air has me thinking of my favorite scene in The Return of the Pink Panther where Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau sucks a parrot into his vacuum cleaner while pretending to be a valet in an Alpine chalet. It also has me looking forward to my favorite winter tradition – the ‘après ski’. There is nothing like collapsing at the end of a ski day with some warming food and a glass of something to ease the sore muscles just before you head to the sauna or curl up for a nap.
Après-ski was the inspiration for this week’s wine selection – two complex and elegant reds with just the right balance of bright fruit and acidity to pair with rich wintery fare, like French onion soup, croque monsieur, or a decadent fondue.
I fear fondue is often sorely overlooked. Originally a way in the depth of winter to use up old cheese and stale bread, fondue is a wonderful means of bringing people together. Bread is just a starting point. You can use sausage, roasted cauliflower, mushrooms, shrimp…basically almost anything as a delivery vehicle for a delicious mouthful of molten cheese.
Vendrell Montsant L’Alleu Clot de L’Abella 2019($28) Already a favorite at Wine Friends, this robust Spanish wine made from Carignan and Grenache warrants another spotlight in today’s email. Grown on clay and limestone slopes south of Barcelona, and harvested by hand, this wine displays dark red fruits, silky tannins and a lovely clarity that can pierce even the richest of foods, including a ‘Spanish Fondue’ – a version that comes from high in the Pyrenees and includes roasted piquillo peppers and chunks of Chorizo sausage.
Moric ‘Reserve’ 2015 ($53) Our dear friend Roland Vellich of Moric turns out his ‘Reserve’, made from 100% Blaufrankisch grown in two iconic vineyards: Neckenmarkt and Lutzmannsburg. The clay from Lutzmannsburg creates edges as smooth as porcelain while the schist in Neckenmarkt adds a crisp, linear quality. Moric never fails to impress, but this wine is ridiculously good. Dried roses, huckleberry, red apple, and minerals all combine in perfection. While you may associate fondue with white wine, a not-too-heavy red with the right acid balance also makes a wonderful partner. Try it and see. Or pair this with lamb, smoked sausages and other rich meats. While drinking beautifully now, it could be cellared for up to 20 years.
We tested the compatibility of melted cheese and the Moric Reserve this weekend with a baked cauliflower and chard gratin - it was a winner!
If you are heading to the snow, or just want that 'après ski’ feeling, gather your Manchego, Cheddar, or Gruyere -- maybe even a little Stilton -- slice up a baguette, and open one of these wines while the pot of fondue bubbles away on your table. Just remember, if you are wearing Lederhosen, use a napkin because molten cheese on bare legs stings like anything…trust me, I know!