How to pair a California Cabernet Sauvignon Red Blend with Rajma Chawal

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Wine Review at a Glance

Bottle – Marietta Cellars Armé Cabernet Sauvignon

Grape– 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, 3% Malbec, 3% Petit Verdot

Area– Mendocino and Sonoma Counties, California

Vintage – 2019

Sweetness level– Dry

Acidity– Medium(+)

Alcohol- High

Body- Medium(+)

Notes – Ripe red plums, Black raspberries, Blackberries, Black plums, Black Cherry, Vanilla, Tobacco, Hay, Forest Floor

Tannins– Medium (+), Smooth & Ripe

Intensity – Medium (+) on the palate and on the nose

Length – Medium (+)

Rating – 43/50 , Superb!

Price – $30

Value for money – 10/10, Great addition to your cellar/collection

Cabernet Sauvignon blends are perhaps most synonymous with an ‘Old World’ style, from the Left bank in Bordeaux France and with a ‘New World’ Style, from California. The former being a more restricted and finessed style of wine, while the latter, usually a more exuberant and fruit forward style. I am simplifying here, but you get the gist. This wine though, holds both these wine making styles in perfect harmony. The grapes are from Marietta Cellars’ two separate vineyards in California- Alexander Valley AVA (American Viticulture) in Sonoma Valley and Mc Dowell Valley AVA in Mendocino County.

Phenolics lend bitterness, astringency and color to wines

These two AVAs benefit from cooler temperatures in the night time, leading to a greater diurnal range, which in turn allows the grapes to ripen slower and reach a phenolic ripeness. Now what does that mean? A bottle of wine contains many phenolic substances, like flavanols, anthocyanins, etc. etc. Most of these emerge from within the grape berry, itself, like the skin and the seed. Phenolics not only contribute to bitterness and astringency, in wine, but also color in red wine, like the deep ruby- purple in this Bordeaux style red blend . Usually, grape growers will look for 2 different kinds of ripeness before picking the grapes, one will be just based on the sugars that have accumulated in the grape berries. the other will be to determine, if the tannins are ripe and have changed their structure to texturally appear softer or silkier. In most cases this is achieved by letting the grapes ripen over a longer period of time without accumulating a ton of sugar. The cooler night time temperatures help make this possible.

There are a lot of nuances about this aspect that are outside the bounds of this article. At some point, the nerdy scientist in me will write an article about phenolics in wine, but, for now, lets not digress any further and talk about this wonderful vino and this unexpected yet, magnificent pairing.

This wine has wonderful balance of ripe black and red fruit notes, along with subtle spice notes, of vanilla . It has some great herb centric notes of Tobacco and mellow notes of forest floor. Delicious! Alcohol is on the higher side, but downright in the middle of the road for a California Cab blend at 14.8% . The alcohol could be better integrated in the wine, but, this is nothing a little decanting or opening up the bottle a few hours before a pour it wouldn’t make better. It has a medium plus body and length of finish that is very enjoyable. Tannins, that we spoke at length about in the previous paragraph, are considerable; my palate detected it at medium plus; but, smooth and ripe. Acidity is medium plus and this is quite essential when pairing a wine with creamier, heartier food.

Speaking of heartier food, this Kashmiri Rajma Chawal (red kidney beans and rice made in a Kashmiri style), is just that. Comfort in a bowl, it is the perfect Vegetarian Sunday dinner as the temperatures dip to slightly nippy 50s in October, here in Pittsburgh. The traditional pairing for a fuller bodied Bordeaux style California red blend is a steak. However, if you are less likely to sear up a steak for any of myriad of reasons – religious, cultural, personal preference or health. Or, you are simply looking for a full of flavor, meatless dish – Rajma Chawal, is the ultimate option.

Don’t confuse ‘Spicy’ with Heat. Most spices are earthy, fragrant and wonderfully aromatic. Chilis and only certain spices, like black pepper, lend to heat

I made this Kashmiri style Rajma, with earthy spices like black cardamom, cumin, freshly ground coriander seeds, turmeric and not too spicy chilies. The gravy has a enhancing base of ginger and garlic, almost caramelized onions and fresh ripe tomatoes , along with creamy yogurt. These flavors don’t compete with the tannins in the wine and the fact that the tannins are ripe and smooth helps not make the wine taste astringent when enjoyed alongside the dish. The high acid perfectly balances the creamy gravy and the unctuous ghee that I finished the dish with.

As a rule of thumb, you don’t want to pair a spicy dish with a wine that is high in alcohol, as the alcohol can enhance the burn. However, this is where most people get it wrong. Spice does not equal Hot! The earthy, yet mild spices in this dish make it a beautifully balanced medley of flavor that goes so well with the meaty, creamy starchiness of the Rajma or red kidney beans. The wine has enough fruit notes that also help it stand up to the dish. The jeera (cumin) rice is also subtle with just a hint of ghee and does not compete with the wine.

This wine scored highly on my 50 point scale. It’s superb and would make a great addition to your cellar. Buy it here. At just under $30 (without taxes), it’s a great value for money, especially for a California Cabernet Sauvignon Blend.

More Pairings with Marietta Cellars Armé Cabernet Sauvignon

New Orleans Style Red beans and Rice with Andouille Sausage
Tuscan Style Fusilli with Guanciale and San Marzano Tomato Sauce

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