This happened when Erica Crawford of Loveblock Wines in New Zealand (at the top) presented her wines at a lunch at Wolf restaurant in Los Angeles. Marcel Vigneron, Wolf's chef/owner, came up with the matches.
It's nervy to pair spicy Asian food with wine, but Vigneron could handle the challenge. For the Loveblock 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, he chose hamachi crudo--raw fish with radish, herbs, puffed rice and nuoc cham--the acidic, sweet and spicy Vietnamese sauce that is not wine's best friend (above).
And it worked. The Loveblock Sauvignon Blanc (above) is crisp, dry and more "constrained" than the typical New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Crawford pointed out. She also noted elements of peach, passion fruit and lemon, flavors friendly to Asian food. This is the only Sauvignon Blanc on Wolf's wine list, and a favorite with Vigneron.
To backtrack, Loveblock, in the Marlborough region of New Zealand, is the successor to Kim Crawford, which Crawford and winemaker husband Kim founded in 1996, developed and sold. Kim Crawford was the third New Zealand winery to enter the United States and a challenge to market here. "We had to show New Zealand on the map," Crawford said.
Loveblock's 250 acres are at both high and low elevations, with 90 of them planted to grapes. The focus is on organic farming and sustainable practices. The Crawfords have a vegetable farm, maintain an extensive composting program and do not use commercial fertilizers. "Whatever comes off the farm goes back into it," Crawford said.
Vigneron (above) deals the same way with food. His philosophy is zero waste. He composts, forages, works with underused cuts of meat, uses vegetable trimmings that might be thrown away elsewhere and sends scraps to a neighbor's pig. "You get a more rounded flavor when you are using every single aspect of the product," he said.
The next wine was Loveblock's 2014 Pinot Gris, accompanied by mushroom risotto with wood sorrel that Vigneron had foraged, pine nuts, peas and pancetta (above). The risotto brought out the sweetness and creaminess of the wine. The Sauvignon Blanc would not have worked as well.
In making the wine, "we started to add some Gewürztraminer," Crawford said. "There is a touch of this, and a little malolactic." She admitted she prefers a bone-dry Pinot Gris, like the 2013 that is now in circulation. (The varietal name is on the blue band at the bottom of the label.)
Vigneron used mushroom stems in the broth for the risotto rather than sending them to the garbage. Instead of Arborio or carnaroli rice, he used sushi rice. It cooks faster, he said, is less starchy and slightly more forgiving.
Next came the 2013 Loveblock Pinot Noir (above), the third vintage from young vines, aged in French oak and showing raspberry and floral notes. Crawford said she would have preferred to hold it another year. Nevertheless, it is out now, to be followed by the 2014, which is "quite masculine," and the 2015, which is "more Burgundian."
Vigneron paired it with braised, seared beef cheeks with Belgian endive, watercress and sunchoke puree (above). The meat had been cooked for 10 hours at 180 degrees, which made it very soft. Vigneron added a honey-soy glaze and peppercorn-turmeric sauce, which gave rich flavor but not enough to overpower the wine.
Dessert had no wine-pairing, except for the residue in the glasses on the table. It was a gluten-free flourless souffle based on blueberry vodka. Loveblock does make a sweet Moscato and a sweet Riesling, one of which could have been a good match for the souffle, but they didn't come on the trip to Los Angeles.