At this time of year, with the fall bounty of local vegetables in the homestretch, I like to combine them into a seafood stew. It’s my version of a gumbo recipe that I found in one of those spiral-bound cookbooks that churches used to put out – in this case, “The United Methodist Women of Ocracoke Island, N.C.”
The other day I used shrimp, onions, red and green peppers, sliced okra, and tomatoes – the last of the red, yellow, and heirloom tomatoes that a nearby farm lets me pick at the end of the season. I added some fresh cilantro, dried cumin, curry powder, a touch of cayenne pepper, and served it over white rice.
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And then there was the question: What wine to serve with all these disparate tastes – the spices, the sweetness of the tomatoes, the brininess of the shrimp?
In the past I’ve served Rieslings and Gewürztraminers with a touch of sweetness, among others, but this time I tried something else: the 2017 Pinot Gris from Ponzi Vineyards in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
The pairing was quite wonderful. Since the wine was fermented in stainless steel tanks without barrel aging, there was no oak influence, as there would have been with, say, a Chardonnay. This meant that there would be no clash of tastes with oak flavors and the tomatoes, for example. But would the wine hold up to the strong spices and the acidity of the tomatoes?
In fact, this dry white was up to the job nicely with fresh acidity and just a touch of residual sugar that complemented the spices. Beyond that, there were notes of pear, apricot, honeydew melon, and citrus rind, with a hint of wet stone — a charming and delicious wine in and of itself and a highly successful pairing with my simple but full-flavored stew.
Pinot Gris, of course, is the same grape as the Italian Pinot Grigio, but, stylistically, the wines can be strikingly different. Ponzi’s $19 Pinot Gris, though moderate in alcohol at 13 percent, has a fullness of flavor and mouthfeel that you won’t find in many Italian wines. That’s part of what makes it so successful in pairing with food — and on its own.