March 29, 2017

Food Pairing With Frontenac

This series of cold climate wine and food pairing articles started with a couple ideas for LaCrescent in a story titled La Crescent Food Pairing Ideas.

Chad Stoltenberg at the 2016 Cold Climate Wine Conference in

Chad Stoltenberg, owner of Locust Lane Vineyards, at the 2016 Cold Climate Wine Conference in Minneapolis.

This time we will consider Frontenac wines and grapes. The Frontenac grape was one of the early releases in a series of wine grapes from the University of Minnesota. Part of its heritage is Old World European grapes and part is the Riparian grape lineage that was used as the cold hardy seedstock for the U of M breeding program.

In the vineyard, Frontenac is a crazy grower. On the more fertile portions of our vineyard, the shoots from fruiting spurs will grow 10-12 feet in a season! (Actually most of them do this).

We’ve even seen the internodes grow several feet, which is challenging for harvest. But the rampant growth pattern has been settling down as the vines work their way through the nutrients in our high fertility site.

Early Frontenac winemakers trying to create a dry red wine often aged it in Minnesota oak,  which is vastly different from French oak in terms of flavor profile.  These oaked Frontenac wines remind me of Tempranillo and Rioja wines.  Later, I came to find out that many Spanish Rioja and Tempranillo wines are aged in American oak—that explains a lot.

See related story: La Crescent Food Paring Ideas 

Returning to food and wine pairings, what are foods that harken back to Tempranillo? Of course things from the plates of Spain, like tapas.  Spanish food also includes the flavors of heated chorizo sausage, warmed olives with a splash of verjus or lemon juice.

One of my favorite and most versatile combinations is Chile powder, paprika and garlic.  I have found that this tandem of seasonings works great on steamed salmon.  Add some roasted almonds too, they’re a great pairing with hearty red wines.  These, plus a bit of manchego or iberico cheese, do the trick.

Here are some other pairing ideas for Frontenac:

  • Jambon Iberico (a Spanish dry cured ham) if you can find it and afford it.
  • The great dry cured  prosciutto from LaQuercia in Iowa or Red Table Meats in Minnesota.  With the advent of artisan cured meats pretty much all over the country,  there are often lots of local options.
  • If you  have a local, artisan butcher, ask if they have anything in the style of prosciutto (also the dry cured Kentucky country hams would likely work really well shaved thin).
  • Going outside the box a bit would be pork or roasted pork rubbed in the same paprika/chile/garlic or similar spices.
Chad holds ticketed paring events at Midwest wineries using his advanced training with the International WIne Guile

Chad holds ticketed paring events at Midwest wineries using his advanced training with the International Wine Guild.

Feature Recipe for Frontenac Pairing Verjus Carrot Soup with Frontenac Spices

This verjus carrot soup listed below was a favorite of many at the recent Minnesota Grape Growers Cold Climate Conference Winter Wine Fest. It is pretty straight forward, but this spice combination works great here and in/on anything to be served with Frontenac wines.

2 pounds of carrots peeled and chopped into even size pieces

4 ounces (1 stick) butter

One cup Verjus

Enough chicken stock to cover (or vegetarian if preferred)

1Tbsp garlic powder

1 Tbsp chile powder

1Tbsp sweet paprika

Put all ingredients in a 2 qt sauce pan and boil until carrots are cooked through. Minimum 30-40 minutes depending how small the pieces are, but check them to see they are cooked through with the tip of a sharp knife)

Pour all ingredients in food processor or blender and puree until smooth.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

This is pretty thick as a soup—great for cold weather—if you want it more “drinkable” add more stock to desired consistency adjust to desired thickness with more stock.

Chad Stoltenberg is the co-founder and partner in Locust Lane Vineyards in Minnesota.