Like many, I enjoy hanging out and sipping a glass of wine over great conversation. But it is pairing wines with food that has given me a much greater appreciation of wine. And let’s face it, some wines are better suited to just drinking alone while others may seem too tart or off-putting until you pair them with food. So in that vein, I’m creating a new series where I feature one red wine and one white wine each month that I showcase with a wonderful food pairing. Most will be wallet friendly but there will be some splurges in there as well. In fact, the first one out of the gate is #Splurgeworthy. But this is only because I received some not so great news in my #LawyerLife and I have found myself raiding my cellar and drinking high end wines (see Instagram) partly to ease the pain but also to remind myself of the fruits of my labor and why I should continue to remain employed. Otherwise, I may just go out and collect cans. Whatever works, right? But not to worry, as there are much more budget friendly versions of this pairing. Of course I can’t sustain this and there are better ways to deal with disappointment, but until then…

The Wine

2004 Gaja Costa Russi Barbaresco, Piedmont, Italy

Known as the queen of Piedmont to Barolo’s king, Barbaresco can be something truly special. It is known as the more elegant of the two wines and must be aged for at least two years, nine of which must be spent in oak, before release. Named for the districts in which they are grown, Barbaresco and Barolo are both made from the Nebbiolo grape in northwest Italy in Piedmont. The wines are known for their high acidity and powerful tannins and are some of the most age-worthy wines in the world. But of the two, Barbaresco is the “softer” and can be drunk a bit sooner than Barolo. And this is fine with me seeing as I’m not getting any younger. But you definitely want to give Barbaresco several years in the bottle – if you can. The difference in the wines is attributable to the growing conditions of the grapes with Barolo being grown at a higher altitude on slopes and ripening later while Barbaresco is grown at a lower altitude, ripens earlier, and is fruitier.

The Gaja Winery is one of the wineries that put Nebbiolo on the world stage along with Cabernet Sauvignon in all its Bordeaux splendor. Founded in 1859, Gaja was some of the first wines from Piedmont to be bottled and sold outside of the region. True to the country’s culture, the winery was founded with the purpose of creating a wine to reflect the sense of place to complement the local cuisine. Today, under the reign of Angelo Gaja, the wines are some of the most sought after and Angelo is widely regarded as the ‘King of Barbaresco.’

So yes, this is a #Splurgeworthy wine for sure. I paid $265 for mine during one of the Last Bottle Wines marathons, which is sort of a deal considering that this vintage averages about $300, while some vintages go for $400 and up. I certainly was not drinking this on a Tuesday night! But don’t fret. If you want to try the paring but don’t want to go for the big splurge right away, just grab yourself a bottle of Langhe Nebbiolo. It comes from Piedmont too and is MUCH more affordable.

The Food

Roasted Duck.

I’m going to work on my food photography skills this year y’all! And maybe I can find a chef to teach me plating while I’m at it. I don’t make it often, but when I do, I usually make duck with an orange or maple glaze. But this time, I just simply roasted it because I didn’t want the sweet glaze to compete with the wine. Yes, I chose my wine before I even knew what I was eating. Priorities! I used this recipe from Food Network’s Ina Garten, but halved it and also added garlic and onion to my stock. The meal was finished off with cheese grits (I’m a Southern girl) and a baby spinach salad. My go-to wine with duck is usually Pinot Noir, but Barbaresco has some similar characteristics that also make it a suitable partner. Duck is a fatty meat with rich flavor that needs a wine with acidity to cut through the fat and that richness and Barbaresco certainly has its share of acidity. Not only did the wine complement the duck, it also paired nicely with the rich, creaminess of the cheese grits. #Winning. Just an awesome wine and an awesome paring. This would be wonderful as a special occasion meal at home.

Next up will be a much more #BudgetMinded white wine pairing so stay tuned. Until then, cheers!

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