Indian Food Try something different with NW Wine! By Michael Sherwood
Avalon Food & Wine Writer
I’m always turning things on
their head just to see how they look from a different angle. Take
Thanksgiving for instance. The
American Indians held harvest celebrations for centuries before
the Pilgrims showed up. America’s early settlers had
a rough go of it and ended up ill and starving. The
generosity and compassion of the First People saved our ancestral
take it back just a little further in time to find the real inspiration
for this idea - no, not to Leif Erickson, but to Christopher Columbus.Chris
was looking for India and spices when he ran into the outer shoals
of the Bahamas.Spice
wise, it's not that hard to make the bridge from traditional
Thanksgiving dinner to an East Indian Thanksgiving.
pumpkin pie leads the way. Nutmeg, ginger, allspice,
cinnamon, cloves and baked pumpkin - if you know your Indian food,
you instantly recognize these as staples in the Indian kitchen.
So you jack that up with candied ginger and a cardamom whipped
cream and you are sailing straight towards Kerala, a province at
the tip of India.
Cumin rub on the bird; stuffing with
dried fruits and cinnamon; Horseradish mashed potatoes; Cranberry
chutneys gone to Bombay and back all help turn your American standards
into East Indian delicacies. Neither my parents nor my in-laws
allow me to make my East Indian Thanksgiving – at Thanksgiving
time. So I had to consummate this aberration some other time
of the year. Don’t make the same mistake. Go
Indian this Thanksgiving.
Sub Rosa we love the layers and layers of flavors in Indian food. If
done well, Indian food caresses and seduces you. Bold,
assertive and wonderfully satisfying. Picking a wine
that goes with Indian food is easier than you think. Riesling
and Gewürztraminers are naturals with Indian food. The
fruit and the acid balance in Pacific Northwest whites are often
outstanding. The fruit dances on the tongue and the acid
cleans the palate for the next bite. Oregon Pinot
Noir’s deliver bright clean flavors and the acids that
make it the ideal food wine.
Let’s take a look at this year’s installment of the
East Indian Thanksgiving Dinner. We dropped out the
Bengali spinach and curried squash soup in favor of a green bean
dish this year - just to try something new. Clearly we don’t
stand on tradition here. We take the courses in a different direction
and invite you along for the ride to our alternative universe roots – Thanksgiving
Pairing Wine with our East Indian Thanksgiving
Many Oregon red or white wines
pair beautifully with your traditional Thanksgiving dinner, and
the addition of Indian spices to the extravaganza opens up whole
new flavor combinations. We tried several
wines with each dish and there was not a bad choice amongst them. The
floral Rieslings and Gewürztraminer loved the East Indian
spices. We’d switched to Pinot Noir to pair with turkey
some years ago, but the addition of a cumin, coriander and ginger
rub cries out for a bold red wine. A Pinot Noir at
Thanksgiving is appreciated for its bright flavors and beautiful
acid balance, but it would not be at all inappropriate to match
this dinner with your favorite Syrah or even one of those Columbia
Here are a few of the wines we tried and what we matched them
With the curry spiced nuts, we recommend sparkling
wine. Sparkling wine calls out for something
salty and spicy to play against the high acids and bubbles. The 1998
Domaine St. Michelle “Lux” is tasting very
nice right now. This Blanc de Blanc carries a delicate green
apple and pear aromas that dance on thousands of perfect tiny
bubbles, always the mark of a good sparkling wine. The Belle
Pente 2003 Riesling was also very nice with these nuts. This
Germanic styled wine carries a certain lushness and sweetness
due to the heat of 2003. Either you had to leave a little
residual sugar or you made your white wines with high alcohol. The
sweetness is well balanced with the acids and the apricot, peach
and apple flavors are ushered in with a beautiful vibrancy of
fruit. Oregon is making such wonderful Rieslings right
now, you can’t help but root for this most noble of grapes.
Russ Raney of Evesham Wood
With the starches: horseradish mashed potatoes and curried
yams, we were drawn to two Evesham Wood white wines. Their “Blanc” du
Puit Sec 2004 is delicious. This is Russ Raney’s
first proprietary blend. In this case, a mix of Pinot Gris
and Gewürztraminer (75/25). The bright acidity of
the Pinot Gris melds with the floral viscosity of the Gewurtz
to make a beautiful wine. We loved the combination
of grapes. The acid refreshed the palate and the floral
matched with the creaminess of the potatoes and the sweetness
of the yams. The organic Chardonnay du Puit Sec
2003 is classic 2003. This hot year produced lush
wines. Russ was able to tame the sugars and produce a rich,
balanced wine with plenty of nuance. It’s too bad
people burned out on over oaked and buttery ‘New World’ Chardonnay,
because all over Oregon, vintners are producing outstanding Chardonnays
that are undiscovered outside of the Pacific Northwest.
With the Gujerati Green Beans we tried two totally
different white wines - BergströmPinot
Gris 2004 and the Brooks Ara Riesling 2003. Bergstrom’s
Pinot Gris comes from 22-30 year old vines which offer up some
great tropical notes with hints of vanilla and pear. While
not a huge wine, it should’t be. Its beautiful acids,
fruit and structure make this a perfect food wine, which is exactly
what winemaker Josh Bergström was shooting for. Jimi
Brooks would have loved the 2004 Brooks Ara Riesling had
he lived to see it bottled. Fruity and full with aromas and flavors
of ripe peaches and apricots. There's structure and acid on the
finish, with some noble viscosity to give added body. This wine
picks up on virtually any flavor note in a dish and magnifies it. For
some reason, Riesling and cumin have an affinity that is quite
In Indian cooking, the full flavor of spices is enhanced by
dry roasting before grinding and/or starting the recipe by
frying the spices or spice paste in hot ghee or oil. Whenever
possible, choose the whole form (rather than ground) of spices
to best preserve their essence until ready to use.
The licorice-tasting seeds are used in both savory dishes
and confections, as well as for chewing after meals as
a digestive and breath sweetener.
With its very strong garlic-like flavor, use this taproot
resin with a light hand in vegetables or dal, always frying
in a little oil first.
Use this familiar spice to add "heat," as well
as flavor, to savory dishes and spiced tea.
The nutty, delicate licorice flavor is similar, yet less-strong
than anise, so can be used more freely in vegetables dishes,
cardamom (whole pods or ground)
Add the pods (black or green) to rice before cooking to impart
a creamy, mild lemon-like flavor, or use ground in curry
for sweet or savory dishes from meat to garbanzo beans.
Strong and spicy with more "heat" than flavor,
yet essential for that reason.
chilies (ground or in a paste)
Use any of the hundreds of varieties to add both flavor and "heat" to
Chopped and added at the end of cooking or as garnish (see "coriander" below).
cinnamon (ground or whole)
Though we think of this as a baking spice in the West, it
is used sparingly in curry, to spice tea, and whole or
broken sticks are used to season cooking rice.
cloves (ground or whole)
Essential to curry in ground form, whole they are added to
cooking rice and tea, as well as chewed after a meal to
freshen the breath.
coriander (ground or seeds)
This seed of the cilantro herb (see above) is a frequent
addition to many dishes, adding a fresh, full, yet not
cumin (ground or seed)
One of the most important ingredients in curry, it is flavorful
and familiar for its strong aroma. We like to toast
this to add a deeper more complex flavor. Toasting
also makes it gentle on your stomach.
dill (weed or seed)
Fresh dill is chopped and added near the end of cooking or
as a garnish, whereas the seed is used occasionally in
fennel (ground or seed)
With a sweet, aromatic, mild anise-like flavor, ground it
is part of some curries, but the whole seed is used more
often in savory dishes as well as in tea, and even milky
fenugreek (whole or ground)
Always lightly roasted or fried before use or grinding, the
seeds (actually legumes) are sometimes soaked overnight
for use whole; provides a tangy, somewhat fermented quality
of flavor to vegetables, curry and "pickles" or
garlic (fresh or dried ground)
Perhaps the world's most popular seasoning, it is used in
careful balance with other spices, seldom allowed prominence.
ginger root (dried ground or fresh)
The fresh, spicy and lemon-like flavor is distinct and used
as part of curries and pastes, as well as to season vegetable
dishes, tea or hot milk.
kalonji — see nigella
mace (ground or "blades")
Part of the outer covering of nutmeg, it has a similar, yet
more delicate flavor than its host, and is used in the
same way, except that the "blades" can be added
to broths, then removed before serving.
mustard (prepared, ground or seed)
Whole seeds (yellow or black) are added to hot ghee or oil
and allowed to pop for a nutty, creamy flavor in dal and
vegetable dishes, whereas the prepared and ground are used
in pastes, curries and marinades.
nigella or kalonji (seeds)
Resembling (and sometimes mis-identified as) onion seeds,
roast or fry for a flavor that is indeed oniony as well
as peppery, also leaning toward oregano or cumin, making
it popular for dal, "pickles" and sprinkling
on breads or cucumbers.
Popular in Western cooking for creamy dishes and desserts,
it is used occasionally to add that same creamy nuttiness
in curries, including those for spiced tea.
Indispensable spice that adds a very mild woody flavor yet
intense yellow color to curries or savory dishes during
we’ve been drinking Pinot
Noirs for the last 10 years. The Oregon Pinot Noirs are perfect
with turkey. The bold flavors and balanced acid coax the
best out of this sainted bird. We have a slew of great Pinot Noirs
that match up with our East Indian Turkey:
Owen Roe Pinot Noir "The Kilmore" 2004 -
I first had this at a winemakers party in September, where vintners
brought their wines to share. This bottle kicked butt on
most every Pinot Noir there. Big blackberry and coffee/cola
notes dominate the taste. The aroma was almost violet in
nature. If this is what 2004 Oregon Pinot Noirs are all
about, bring ‘em on!
Another wine we loved with our Indian turkey is the Beaux
Freres Pinot Noir Belles Soeurs 2003. As always,
the Belle Soeurs is a delightful example of blended Pinot Noir. Mike
Etzel handled the hot 2003 vintage with his typical deft skills. This
wine brims with black fruits which I love. Blackberry,
black raspberry and dark cherry dominate with a spice nuance
that is reminiscent of fresh baked blackberry pie. 2003
gave us big juicy fruit. The real skill came in keeping
enough acid around to let the lush fruit do all the talking. The
2003 Belles Soeurs delivered the goods once again.
I had my first Dusky Goose Pinot Noir this
summer and was mightily impressed. The first vintage in 2002
was spot on. The 2003 is even better. Fruit from the Goldschmidt Vineyard
fruit produces a scent unique to this Red Hills site and winemaker
Lynn Penner-Ash brings out the best from this vineyard. Flavors
of red raspberry, dried cherries, plums with a hint of vanilla
and cedar weave a beguiling trail through it’s fruity core. What
strikes you about the 2003 is the beautiful balance of lush fruit
and acid; and how it feels in your mouth, always a mark of a beautiful
Pinot Noir. The Dusky Goose 2003 was so
good with our turkey, we’ll be cellaring a half
case of the 2003.
Last but not least to pair with our East Indian Turkey is the 2004
Shea Wine Cellars Pinot Noir "Block 23". This
is yet another example of the drop dead gorgeous 2004 Oregon
Pinot Noir harvest. This site has herb written all over
it. The Oregon "garrique" (wild herb) nature
of this wine echos sage and marjoram in the bouquet but the core
is solid black and beery fruit. Marionberry and cassis
interweave with touch of beautiful tannins pulled from the skins
of the Pinot Noir and the French oak barrels use. This
Shea is still in it's youth, but it is tasting nice now. It
will only get better. Buy a few of these puppies. Open
one at Thanksgiving and put the rest away to be pulled out in
5 years. If you don't, you'll regret passing this one
With our ginger enhanced Pumpkin Chiffon pie,
we immediately went to Andrew Rich’s Gewurztraminer
Ice Wine 2004. This elixir has been part of our dueling
pumpkin pie shtick ever since the chiffon recipe landed in our
oven. As always, lush honey and stone fruit flavors
dominate with just the perfect balance of acid. Smooth as
silk in your mouth. We went back and sampled the David
Hill Muscat Port again. Damn this is a beautiful
wine with layers of tropical flavors - lychee nuts, wild honey
and nutmeg. I’m not sure if you’ve had a chance
to try the Inniskillin or Jackson-Triggs dessert
wines coming out of Canada, but they are stunning. Spendy,
but stunning. Inniskillin has long been the premiere
ice wine producer in Canada, producing true ice wine. The Inniskillin
Riesling 2002Ice Wine is everything
you want from a dessert wine. Complex flavors. Good balance
of acid and sugars. Aromas ranging from apricot to tangerine. Another
British Columbia import is from Jackson Triggs located in the Okanagan
Valley. Inniskillin’s Gewurtraminer Ice Wine from
both 2001 and 2002 are also tasting quite well at the moment. The Jackson
Triggs Riesling 2002 Ice Wine is likewise a stunner. Rich.
Intense. Tropical flavors anchor this dessert wine with notes
of ripe apple and pear swirling in the glass.
Each of these wines will pick
up on the tropical coconut and ginger and provide another layer
to the flavor equation. We
suggest you institute your own ‘dueling dessert wine’ tradition
at your house this year.
About Michael Sherwood
Michael Sherwood is an Oregon original - your modern day Renaissance man.
He’s done more interesting jobs than most of us – FM radio personality, commercial
logger, commercial fisherman, rock band promoter, neighborhood advocate,
energy conservation expert, arts festival coordinator, software developer,
non-profit executive, beer and wine guy and land use planner.
After 10 years developing software in Seattle, Mike moved back to Portland
and was soon drafted to be the first Executive Director of the Oregon Brewers
Guild, a fledgling non-profit trade organization, which he helped turn into
one of the most dynamic small brewer associations in North America.
All the while he was managing the affairs of
the states craft brewers, he was not so secretly a wine lover and worked providing
marketing assistance to a local winery. Beverages are 'in his blood' as his
family owned a beer and wine distributorship in the 60’s and 70’s in Roseburg.
Today Mike runs a wine sales, marketing and technology
consulting business called Arbre which provides branding and sales support
for wineries large and small. He has also created the Internets first truly
virtual stealth restaurant and underground wine bar called Sub
Rosa. We liked his mix of wine savvy and irreverent humor so much,
we hired him to write for Avalon.