Spring in the Mid-Atlantic is a test of patience and the constant question of how long will we have Spring weather this year, 1 week? 2 weeks? It seems that winter weather likes to stretch as long as it can and Summer weather likes to start as early as it can. This past weekend was the first really glorious Spring weekend in the Washington, DC region. As I sat out on my patio enjoying the fleeting hours of daylight a cool breeze started to ever so slightly pick up. This is a time of juxtaposition. Warm days cool nights, shaking off the dreariness of winter and welcoming in the rebirth and renewal that Spring offers. Boots give way to Flip-flops, snow shovels give way to garden trowels. The contrast during this change of seasons is where I drew my inspiration for this month’s article. A Traminette paired with a Spicy Asian inspired grilled steak salad.
When someone finds out that wine is a subject I enjoy, I am invariably peppered with questions especially about food pairings. “What wine goes with spicy food?” is often one of the first questions asked. I remember fondly how I learned the answer to this question. It was 1997 in Dublin, Ireland and a classmate of mine had discovered a delightful Indian restaurant not far from our dorms at Trinity College. When we sat down to dinner the wine list was presented and my classmates sent it my way with the joking comment “let the Californian pick the wine?” I nervously smiled and was slightly daunted as this was one of my first experiences with Indian food. Never being shy to ask a question, I asked the owner what he would recommend and he said “if you we were going to have a spice dish an off-dry Riesling or Gewürztraminer would be ideal.” I selected the Gewürztraminer and let the owner pick the perfect wine that would go with our dinners and our student budgets. The result was a delicious memory and a great lesson learned.
Traminette is a cross of the French America hybrid Joannes Seyve 23-416 and the German Gewürztraminer. In the mid-sixties at the University of Illinois, Urbana/Champaign, Herb C. Barrett set out to produce a large clustered table grape with the flavor of Gewürztraminer. The result was sent to the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station grape breeding program. Traminette was born and gained popularity because it produced wine of excellent quality, was a good producer, showed partial resistance to several fungal diseases, showed a cold hardiness while retaining a similar characteristics to it parent; the Gewürztraminer. Traditionally, Traminette has slightly spicy notes with nice apricot and honey overtones.
Spicy Asian Grilled Skirt Steak on a bed of Napa Lettuce, green onions, water chestnuts, with toasted almonds, sesame and ramen noodles and garnished with grape tomatoes.
Taking the first bite of the grilled skirt steak, the spiciness of the chili peppers in the marinade are very notable. The spiciness and heat are toned down once the wine is sipped. The jasmine and tea rose notes of the wine are now really noticeable and the honey overtones mix nicely with soy sauce and chili paste that are part of the backbone of the marinade. The Barrel Oak Winery 2009 Traminette also pulls out the sweetness of the spicy pepper vinaigrette. The woodiness of toasted almonds ramen noodles and sesame that would have been muted pop with the wine.