A graduate of the CIA, Director of Food & Beverage Andy Chabot began his career at Blackberry Farm in 2002. Andy is responsible for managing Blackberry Farm's Grand Award winning wine program, which includes more than 170,000 bottles. In 2014 The Barn at Blackberry Farm, under Andy’s direction, received the James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine Program. Andy has proceeded past the second tier of the Court of Master Sommeliers Exam.
When I think of wine, I think of it as wine and food together, not separately. I think of pairings as the addition of flavors, textures and smells of a wine to the existing flavors, textures and smells of the dish. Chefs are often better at pairings than Sommeliers because they can think of the wine as an extra ingredient rather than a separate element. If you know of a seemingly perfect wine that is rich, round, balanced and yummy on its own, then you should drink it on its own. When you think of pairing, you should think of how the wine will affect the dish. The reverse is also true. When you think of a dish, you need to leave room for the wine to fit into the flavor profile. You might need to leave out an element of food in the dish and allow the wine to play that role. Think of a wedge of lemon that you squeezed over your dish of halibut to give it balance because the dish needed acidity. With the correct wine such as a fresh Sancerre, you wouldn’t need that lemon to balance the dish. The wine would add that element of acidity for you and the dish would balance the high acid levels of the wine. A perfect dish will be pushed out of perfection by any addition and similarly, a perfect wine will be pushed out of perfection by any addition of flavors as well. They need to leave room for one another.
Chateau Rayas is my favorite wine. I also love all of the derivatives such as Chateau de Fonsalette, Pignan, Chateau des Tours and Pialade. But if I could be stranded for the rest of my life with only one wine and cost or supply wasn’t an issue, I would choose Chateau Rayas Chateauneuf-du-Pape. It is an elegant, almost refreshing and invigorating light red from southern France made from the grape Grenache. They use all traditional wine making techniques and there are no new barrels anywhere in the winery. Yet, somehow without all of the niceties that other wineries feel the need to employ, Emmanuel Reynaud produces a mystical wine at this winery that has the power to captivate a wine drinker at any level.
I prefer simple, savory dishes that tame the tannic qualities of wines and allow the fruit in a wine to come to the forefront.
Braised Chicken Thighs with root vegetables: there are few dishes that truly allow a great Red Burgundy to shine without overpowering it. The traditional Coq au Vin is one of those dishes that simply sings with these wines (or with Pinot Noirs from a cool area in our country). The simple savory, earthy tones of the dish with no sweetness allow the delicate cherry like fruit of the pinot noir to be heightened and the richness of the thighs is balanced by the tannic elements of the wine, allowing the dish to feel lighter.
Steak Frites with Syrah: Although some would argue that this is a cabernet Sauvignon dish, I would suggest that Syrah is a better pairing. Particularly northern Rhone Syrah’s such as Cote Rotie or Cornas as well as Sonoma Coast Syrahs such as that made by Peay or Red Car. These wines show a beautiful black pepper element that works wonderfully with beef. At the same time, these wines are elegent and allow the pairing to stay light rather than rich and heavy.
Oysters and Sauvignon Blanc: There is something magical about fresh oysters brimming with brininess and the fresh, citrusy zippiness of a Sauvignon Blanc. I look for a fresh and simple Sancerre or Pouilly Fume for this. Simple cleansing acidity to ready you for the next bite.