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
1 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup sugar, preferably palm sugar
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, lightly toasted
1 lime, cut in wedges
Put the rice into a bowl, cover with water and set aside for 8 hours or overnight.
Drain the rice and set aside briefly.
Line a steamer with the banana leaf or several layers of cheesecloth and set over simmering water. Add the rice and the pandan leaves, if using, cover and steam for 25 minutes, or until the rice is tender and translucent.
While the rice cooks, prepare the mango by cutting into ½ -inch cubes or thin slices. Set aside.
Transfer the cooked rice and the leaves to a bowl.
Pour the coconut milk into a small saucepan, add the salt and sugar and set over low heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat, set aside ¼ cup and pour the rest into the bowl with the rice.
Stir the rice and coconut milk until the mixture has the consistency of polenta or porridge. Cover with a napkin or tea towel and set aside to cool to room temperature.
To serve, divide the rice among 4 small plates, placing it off-center in a nicely shaped mound. Top each portion with some of the reserved coconut and scatter sesame seeds on top. Add the mango alongside and serve.