Pepper & cardamom bliss
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I purchased The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook on a recent trip to my local bookstore, and it is an incredibly well crafted vegan recipe book. While I am pescatarian, I do try to eat vegan as often as possible, and this book makes it 1000% easier. There is even an entire section dedicated to quick, 30-minute or less vegan recipes! I find myself going back to it over and over again for delicious vegan recipes. My only complaint is that there is a sufficient lack of photos... but that is personal preference. The recipes are good regardless.
As we are heading into the first "storm" of the season here in California, I decided to make this warming, slightly spicy roasted squash recipe written by Amber St. Peter (one of the co-authors of the book). The subtle pepper and spice of the garam masala sounded like the perfect partner for the tangy tahini sauce and pomegranate seeds. The mix of Indian and Mediterranean ingredients was absolutely delicious, and was beautifully balanced in flavor.
This is an interesting dish with which to pair wine. It is rather flexible in pairing, with a very wide range of tasty options available. For me, however, the ideal mate for this dish has to be the juicy, spicy Dolcetto.
My Recommendation - CA Dolcetto
Originally from Northern Italy, Dolcetto is a dark-skinned red grape that translates to the "little sweet one" in Italian, though this moniker seems a bit misplaced as these wines are not typically sweet. Dolcetto is commonly characterized by moderate tannin and acidity, with marked dryness and a medium-to-full body.
Typically, wines produced from Dolcetto grapes exhibit aromas of dark fruits (berries, black cherries, figs, plums, prunes, etc.), as well as pepper and licorice. On the palate, these wines are very fruity, with a bit of tannic bitterness and spice sensations. These wines pair incredibly well with a whole array of autumn and winter meals, as well as spring or summer pastas and grilled veggies.
Why this bottle in particular?
I actually came across Palmina Wines earlier this year on a visit to the Lompoc Wine Ghetto with my wife. Having previously lived in Italy for numerous years, my wife is a big fan of Italian wine and we were both curious to see how these grape varietals fared on the Central Coast of California. During our tasting at Palmina, we both enjoyed their Santa Ynez Valley Dolcetto. We were even more happy to later learn that Palmina uses native yeast strains for fermentation and bentonite clay for fining, making their Dolcetto vegan friendly!
Founder Steve Clifton takes a more natural, fluid approach to winemaking, focusing on producing wines that pair fantastically with food and that reflect their terrior first-and-foremost. As their website says, "Palmina is not trying to emulate the Italian versions of those wines, but rather translate the history of those grapes to the growing conditions and vineyard sites of the very unique characteristics of Santa Barbara County." Honestly, with this Dolcetto, they absolutely nail it - a wine that is a beautiful reflection of this grape varietal in combination with this terrior.
So, why pair this bottle with this dish? Easy - pepper and licorice aromas highlight and draw out the cardamom, clove, and nutmeg in the garam masala, while flavors of black cherry, plum, and raspberry accentuate the tang of the lemon-tahini sauce and the zingy pomegranate seeds. This is a balanced wine for a balanced dish, with both harmonizing deliciously across the palate.
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