Readers of this blog may be familiar with a series of postings we’ve run over the past couple of years; our “What’s Up Lunch?” series, in which we document unique luncheon pairings with our wines. Well, I’m not sure this qualifies as a “unique” pairing, per se, but it certainly occurred at lunch, and it definitely involved our wines. And I’ll argue for the singularity of the event by virtue of the constraint …
Constraint? Of course! We can’t just sit around and eat pizza all day! But what we CAN do, is a taste test with four different Take & Bake pizzas!
So that’s what we did; four pizzas, two wines, two tasters.
The tasters? Myself, and my colleague Sam Howles-Banerji; one time harvest intern cum cellar rat, long-time tasting room staffer, and now, full-time member of the Monte Bello Hospitality Team.
The wines? 2005 Ridge Vineyards Grenache, and 2009 Ridge Vineyards Lytton Springs.
And the pizzas?
The challenge? Determine which was the best pairing of wine and pizza.
Round I commences, with the Whole Foods offering; the decision? Grenache by a nose. The thin crust is appealing, but chewier than expected, and while the sauce does a nice reconciliation of sweet and tart, the cheese lacks flavor, and comes off a tad oily accordingly. That said, as far as the pairing goes, the spice of the grenache plays off the oil well, and the sauce’s balance of sweet and tart matches the architecture of the wine quite decently. A good, if not great pairing, with the wine, in the end, just seeming slightly too big for the pizza. Comparatively though, the pizza just swallows the back half of the Lytton’s finish, so, as noted, the Grenache gets the nod with this one.
Round II commences, with the Uncie Ro’s (Santa Cruz’s own!); the decision? Our Estate Cabernet
! I know, I know, that wasn’t supposed to be part of the tasting, but we just KNEW it would be perfect after tasting this pizza. The crust is a lovely, chewy, thin NY style, and while it’s a bit shy on cheese, the herbs (particularly the parsley) are perfect, and they just cry out for cool climate cabernet. Thus, the 2008 Ridge Vineyards Estate Cabernet. That said, still not a perfect pairing. A pretty great one, but not PERFECT.
Round III commences, with the Annie’s offering. BAM! Unquestionably, this is one of the very best take & bakes we’ve ever had. I was worried at first, because it has a very, shall we say, “puffy” crust, and I usually don’t like a puffy crust. But the voluminous explosion of sauce and cheese on the palate is just exquisite; piquant and sweet, herbal and cheesy, just totally excellent. That said, and sadly, not a great pairing for any of the wines we were tasting. The grenache was the best option of the three, but the two, at best, co-existed; there was no real magic.
So the final round commenced, with the Vicolo. This is a corn crust offering, so it was kind of odd-man-out in the group, but it tasted quite good. The crust was both sweet and granular, the cheeses were present without being overtly fatty or oily, and the addition of sun-dried tomatoes is genius for adding a bit of tang. And the wines? Not so great a pairing with the Lytton Springs; it certainly gave definition to the palate movement, and showed the wine as a full journey, but it sort of thinned the fruit out a bit, and gave too much attention to the structure. But with the Grenache? KILLER! Totally magical, the total greater than the sum of its parts, the mojo third flavor; perfection as a pairing.
So, what’s up, lunch?
Best overall Take & Bake Pizza goes to the Annie’s offering, though we would certainly prefer less puff to the crust. Runner-up goes to the Uncie Ro’s, which really was delicious, and we loved both the herbs and the “local” factor, but it was just a tad too shy on cheese to sweep the award.
Best overall pairing goes to the 2005 Ridge Vineyards Grenache and the Vicolo Quattro Formaggio; while we liked (but didn’t love) the pizza on its own, the two together just absolutely came alive. Runner-up goes to the Uncie Ro’s with the Estate Cabernet.
What’s up, lunch?
Categories: Cabernet Sauvignon, Food & Wine Pairing, Grenache, Lytton Springs, Santa Cruz Mountains Estate, Tasting Flights, Tasting Notes, Varietals & Blends, Wine & Food Pairing