It's rare that a small wine bar has an onsite sommelier. It's even rarer that a restaurant has a female sommelier. Vintage Enoteca has both in Danielle Francois who, along with Jennifer Moore, owns the Hollywood wine bar.
Their philosophy is simple: Wines should be accessible, affordable and, most important, people should like what they drink. The two ex-New York City advertising execs gravitate toward boutique productions and family-owned estates, which produce indigenous varietals, in Europe, California and the Pacific Northwest.
"I pick out cool, off the beaten path wines that you don't find everywhere," says Francois. One of her specialties is food and wine pairings. Throughout the year, she plans themed pairings, but she's also available on the spot for customers who are adventurous -- or unsure -- and looking for suggestions. This weekend, June 14-16, she's put together an All-American Snack Food Mashup and Wine Tasting with sophisticated twists on classic snack foods like Cracker Jacks, pork rinds and Oreos. Turn the page for five of Francois' food and wine pairings.
Wine: Kir-Yianni "Petra," Macedonia, Greece, 2011 (white)
Suggested Foods: light salads, salty cheeses, Mediterranean diet
Says Francois, "I'm a fan of white wines that aren't that fruity. I find that they're a little more food versatile when there're not big, lip-smacky fruit flavors bowling over the rest of the flavors in the wine. This is a Greek wine with indigenous varietals from Macedonia. It's not too fruity with an undercurrent of citrus and peach and apricot, but it's got a nice crisp, snappy salinity on the finish. It's food versatile. In our warm farro salad, it brings out the snappiness of the flavor of the English peas. And feta is indigenous to Greece. I am a fan of what grows together, goes together."
Wine: Filipa Pato "FP" Branco, Beira, Portugal, 2011 (white)
Suggested Foods: creamy dishes, mac-n-cheese, chicken salad
"This is a Portuguese white from Filipa Pato, an amazing female winemaker in the Beira region. It's not fruity. Unlike the previous Greek white, this one has more of a round lusciousness in your mouth. It's not as snappy in terms of acid and salinity on the finish. This one has a nice green pineapple, sweet corn, lime undercurrent to it. And that round light creaminess in your mouth helps pick up the creaminess of our gnocchi dish. But again, we're keeping these light and fresh for summer."
Wine: Ameztoi Getariako Txakolina "Rubentis," Basque Country, Spain, 2012 (rosé)
Suggested Foods: salty snacks, fried foods, cheese
"Txakolina is a rosé from the Basque Country in Northern Spain. It's usually a white wine, but this one is a blend of an indigenous red and white varietal. Finding a Txakolina rosé is very unusual. This one has a pronounced lime flavor with candied red fruit. It's refreshing in terms of picking up the brininess of our lox deviled eggs and cutting the creaminess that's common in deviled eggs."
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Wine: Quinta da Pellada "Quinta de Saes," Dao, Portugal, 2009 (red)
Suggested Foods: meatballs, meat loaf, hamburgers, tomato or bbq sauce
"This is a red blend with a nice sweet, dark fruit flavor. And by sweet, I don't mean the wine is sweet. The wine is dry. But the fruit has a nice black raspberry sweetness to it and a really nice minerality through the middle of it, so it's still light and fresh, especially for a red. It's a great summer wine by itself but paired with our pulled pork sliders, those sweet blackberry flavors help compliment and bring out the sweetness of the BBQ sauce. The wine is crisp, refreshing and soft and pretty on the finish. This is a good BBQ wine in general -- light, not too expensive. Serve it with a slight chill."
Wine: George Descombes Brouilly V.V., Beaujolais, France, 2009 (red, Gamay)
Suggested Foods: game meat, mushrooms, bacon, pork, cherry notes
"Gamay gets a bad rap. Most people think of it as shitty Beaujolais Nouveau. And there is a lot of shitty Beaujolais Nouveau. But there are a lot of great winemakers making some delicious, more serious Gamay. My favorite wines have this kind of meaty, almost animal-y, gaminess to them like they're a little sweaty. I like a little bit of animal in my wine. I think this one achieves a nice balance of that in terms of those bright, red cherry flavors. Gamay is known for having a cherry fruit flavor to it balanced by that animal, gamey, sweatiness to it. This is a complimentary pairing between our duck bruschetta's cherry compote and the cherry flavors in the Gamay, and that meaty animal quality brings out the gaminess in the duck."
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