Vegan BLT + Vegan Red Wine = Happy Place
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Recipe: TTLA Sandwich (Vegan) (purchased from Whole Foods)
Bottle: 2013 Chateau de Saint Cosme Cote-Rotie (Vegan Friendly!)
Every now and then, I get the craving for the smokey, umami flavors that I used to associate with bacon. As a child, I remember going out for lunch with my grandparents and getting a BLT sandwich. I remember how much I enjoyed the combination of the crispy texture of the bread, the acidity of the tomato, the fat from the mayo, and the smoke of the bacon. So, I was shocked last year when I discovered the Tempeh, Tomato, Lettuce, and Avocado ("TTLA") sandwich from Whole Foods. With it's smokey, umami-rich tempeh and tangy, citrus-infused garlic aioli, it was even better than the nostalgic BLT that I craved. And the best part? It is entirely VEGAN.
Now, if I'm going to have an alcoholic drink with a sandwich, I usually go for a beer. On the commute home the other night, though, I had a funny idea - what if I tried to pair a wine with the TTLA? As my brain began to mull over the possibilities, one of my favorite wines kept taking center stage: Côte-Rôtie.
My Recommendation - Côte-Rôtie
By local regulation, wines grown on the inclines of the Côte-Rôtie appellation of the Northern Rhone Valley may consist of only two grape varietals - Syrah and Viognier. The two are often co-fermented, but with Viognier only permitted to compose up to 20% of the final blend. With a name that translates to the "roasted slope," the setting provides the idea environment for the cultivation of both varietals with loads of sunlight in a region known for its cool climate. With only 310 hectares of land under vine between all of the region's producers, the wines of Côte-Rôtie are limited and highly sought after. This can often, but not always, result in an elevated price tag for wines from this appellation.
In the cooler climate of the Northern Rhone, the Syrah grapes in particular take on a more perfumed nose, with increased acidity thanks to the grapes' ability to remain on the vine longer before harvesting. Often described as having aromas of bacon fat, smoke, and other umami notes, wines from this region seemed like a natural and complementary pairing for such an umami-forward dish.
Why this bottle in particular?
More commonly known for the wines they produce in the Gigandos appellation, Chateau de Saint Cosme has become well-known in recent years for their 100% heirloom Syrah (Serine) Côte-Rôtie wine. Fermented utilizing a technique called whole-cluster fermentation, the wines are enriched by the additional vegetal, "green" notes gained from the tannins leached from the stem of the grape cluster. Best of all, Saint Cosme bottle their Côte-Rôtie wine without filtration or fining agents, which means that it is one of the few vegan-friendly wines on the market (as verified by Barnivore in 2012).
Tasting this wine alongside the umami-loaded TTLA sandwich was an absolute delight. The aromas of smoked bacon perfectly complemented the rich, smokey flavor of the tempeh, while the notes of violets and graphite drew out the pungency and spice of the garlic in the aioli. Likewise, the medium-to-high levels of acidity in the wine perfectly cut the fattiness of the aioli and avocado, while simultaneously bringing forward the juicy ripeness of the tomato. Finally, the aromas and flavors of bramble and red berries rounded out the palate, creating the most satisfying finish to each bite. This has to be one of my favorite pairings to date, especially since it finds a vegan pairing for the Côte-Rôtie wines that I adore.
Other Great Choices
Reds: CA Syrah (Sonoma - cooler climate), CA Pinot Noir
Whites: Alsatian Riesling, Gewürztraminer
Rosé: Loire Rosé
Sparkling: Prosecco, Lambrusco
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