Our Wine of the Week, Medlock Ames 2013 Russian River Valley Bell Mountain Estate Chardonnay ($27), is plush, rich and creamy, with a fragrant bouquet that suggests tropical flowers and summer fruit. It is a rather heady wine, with those sweet aromas unfolding on the palate in a cascade of flavors that include Granny Smith apple, baked apple, Asian pear and Bartlett pear and a bit of white pineapple. There’s a generous amount of vanilla that, when combined with the wine’s creamy quality, suggests custard, creme brulee, crema Catalan and, perhaps surprisingly, haupia, that classic coconut pudding ubiquitous in Hawaii.
I find chardonnay a challenge to pair with summer foods, as its lushness is more engaging, I think, in cooler weather when we want rich comfort foods. I say this because I know you’ve heard this before from me: This wine is excellent with corn, ripe red bell peppers, dead-ripe tomatoes and wild Pacific King salmon. Combine any or all of these and you’ll have a direct hit, pairing-wise.
But this wine also has an element you don’t see all that often, that hint of coconut, that you can focus on for some great matches. Both Thai and Indian curries made with coconut milk are happy partners, provided there’s not a lot of heat, which could make the wine go a bit bitter. But rub some sweet spices into chicken thighs, cook them slowly in clarified butter, finish with coconut milk and serve with jasmine rice and a mild chutney and you’ll be thrilled by the result.
For today’s pairing, I’m making a non-traditional but, I hope, not blasphemous suggestion: Try this wine with dessert, specifically, a classic Thai dessert and one of the world’s best, sticky rice with coconut milk and mango. It’s surprisingly good, a marriage made in culinary heaven.
Mango Sticky Rice
1 cup glutinous rice
1 banana leaf or several layers of cheesecloth
3 pandan (screwpine) leaves, cut into 2-inch pieces, optional (see Note below)
2 to 3 firm-ripe mangoes