More than one month ago, when winemakers were still in the thick of harvest, Kaena producers Mikael and Sally Sigouin took a night to celebrate grenache and food. After all, Sept. 15 was International Grenache Day, and Mikael Sigouin IS the King of Grenache.
The couple and Janet and Jeff Olsson of Industrial Eats hosted a Kaena winemaker dinner to demonstrate just how well wine can and do pair with spicy vegetables and meats.
When a pairing of spicy food and wine is left to amateurs, yes, it’s true — fire-spice laden foods can “flatten” even the most robust of wines. But on this night, we were in the care of professionals: Two couples that are innately familiar with the others’ offerings, and made the flavors of the food “sing” with the selected wines.
As Jeff Olsson and his staff plated our various courses and began serving, the Sigouins poured both current and library releases for each dish.
Kaena General Manager Chloe Redmond told me that a few seats were added at the last minutes, and the evening was a complete sellout.
Seated near the Sigouins were John Belfy and his wife, Debbie. Belfy owns Buona Terra Farming, the company that manages many of the vineyards from which Mikael Sigouin sources fruit, among them Tierra Alta.
Sigouin lauded Belfy, noting how the latter’s passion for farming grapevines results in consistently good fruit for his clients.
Sigouin founded Kaena Wines in 2001 to focus on his passion: Grenache. His colleague and fans nicknamed the winemaker “The Grenache King,” and while Sigouin also produces syrah, sauvingnon blanc, viognier, riesling and grenache blanc and a couple of blends, his focus has and will continue to be grenache.
Our six-course meal featured the first two paired with grenache blanc and rosé, respectively, and the remaining four with various grenaches.
The evening’s second course paired Olsson’s dish of tomatoes, melon, green chile and grilled ciabatta with Mikael Sigouin’s 2016 Grenache Rosé, and it was spectacular. The rosé stood up to the spice of the tomatoes and the flavors melded perfectly.
My second favorite pairing was the third course: Pork shoulder “ bo saam style,” with gems, herbs and kimchi, which the chef and winemaker paired with Kaena’s 2015 Santa Ynez Valley Grenache. I wrote, “big heat from the kimchi, but it works.”
The ripe-fruit essence of grenache — be it fresh strawberry, raspberry or watermelon — is the flavor that will stand head to head with the heat of spicy foods.
Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for www.centralcoastwinepress.com