One of my husband’s favorite food memories of growing up in Chicago was the tamale lady. She was a neighborhood mother who made a huge batch of tamales on a certain day of the week. She’d sell them hot and ready to any family that opened their door in time to catch her.
So when I pulled out the ears of fresh corn, a side for the Chipotle Pinot Noir Enchilada dinner, my son asked if was going to wrap the enchiladas in the husks. Like a tamale. The focus of this month’s Wine Paring Weekend is on enchiladas, a Spanish word for “in Chile” — not the Spanish word for tamale. In order to educate the household I looked into the story behind the dish that is enchiladas.
History tells us that the Aztecs used tortillas to wrap various fillings, a technique utilized in making enchiladas, but that the current use of the term is likely attached to Mexican street food…filings bundled in a handy tortilla then dipped in sauce. The sauce, and the use of tortillas for structure (either by rolling or stacking), are the key elements in this dish that is now prepared with every tasty creative twist that modern chefs can take.
I found an inventive recipe from Twenty Fingered Cooking that incorporates spicy red wine (I used Landmark Vineyards Overlook Pinot Noir) in a rich and wild sauce of chipotle peppers in killer adobo sauce. This sauce comes with a word of warning: it is hot. The heat could be toned down by using fewer peppers, but I was thrilled with the balance of the warm spice with the wine.
The winemaker notes hints of gingerbread spice and grilled mushrooms; I definitely picked up grilled spices, rich and enthusiastic. I think it was the marriage of these elements that kissed the sauce (sort of a take-him-by-the-neck-and-plant-one kiss). Cowboy structured and kitchen drawer spicy, this wine’s wild-west-saloon-strength was necessary for this party so nobody in the sauce would get out of hand. Not that this wine wasn’t balanced (in fact, I had a second glass without food and I found it to be smooth enough for a nightcap) but the pairing brought out sincere structure. This wasn’t a wine to wash-it-down but an essential element of the pairing, not always the attraction for a spicy-food wine that may simply be selected for chill factor.
Landmark Vineyards in Historical Sonoma County
The Landmark Vineyards Overlook, 100% Pinot Noir was spot-on for this meal. The 2014 vintage comes from three vineyards: 53% Sonoma County, 39% Monterey County, 8% San Benito County. It’s hand-harvested and fermented in single vineyard lots. It is aged for 10 months in semi-new French Oak before being blended by the wine making team at Landmark.
Landmark winemaker, Greg Stach, holds a philosophy which balances “traditional winemaking techniques with a ‘less is more’ attitude” and under his direction, Landmark’s wines have consistently been praised by customers, wine critics and writers. Stach is a winemaker with six honorable appearances on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list.
I asked Greg to speak about the inspiration for this wine. I love that this cuvée is an expression of the region as the whole, artistically and creatively curated by the wine maker:
“The team and I really wanted to craft a pinot noir that truly reflects the best of California’s vintage. Every year we source from a collection of cool vineyards sites from Sonoma to Monterey to create a final cuvée that’s at a price for everyone to enjoy.” – Greg Stach, Winemaker, Landmark Vineyards
Landmark’s winery and tasting room (along with a limited set of luxe accommodations) is located at the foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains, which run through the California wine-making counties of Napa and Sonoma. These mountains contain the “world’s largest and most developed geothermal field” and were named “for the Native American tribe on the west slope, probably a division of the Yuki tribe.”¹
Twenty Fingered Cooking provided the recipe for the enchiladas on their blog. This meal features a homemade sauce, which was well worth the time it took to prepare it. I prepared the sauce and chicken filling in the afternoon and then wrapped and cooked the enchiladas and grilled the corn later that evening. The prep is not complicated, but set aside time to enjoy the process. I loved the playful tone of Twenty Fingered Cooking recommend a venture through their content.
First step, open the wine.
I used canned chipotle peppers which were heavily marinated in adobo sauce, a big can of organic, whole, peeled tomatoes, onion, garlic and all the spices indicated in the recipe. At a later stage of simmering, a bit of the wine is poured into the sauce. I can’t overstate the balance between this wine and the peppery sauce. I was immediately able to sense that this was a balanced fit by the aroma of the wine hitting the bubbling sauce.
For the filling I baked two chicken breasts covered in adobo dry-spices (another, hotter, option would be baste the chicken in some of the adobo sauce from the canned peppers. Who-ee, getting sweaty). When done, the chicken is chopped and added to a hot pan with a bit of olive oil, a chopped shallot and fresh cilantro. Season to taste.
Chicken and sauce go into each rolled tortilla in a 9×13 pan and then are covered with sauce. Twenty Fingered Cooking suggests covering the dish with queso fresco, but I found an artisan mix of Mexican cheeses at my store and though it was prepackaged it was the perfect topping for the enchiladas. After cooking for about 20 minutes (the bubbly cheese will announce readiness) serve with grilled corn on the cob, chopped avocado and fresh cilantro. Corn can be garnished with melted butter, chili powder and the Mexican cheese.
Wine Pairing Weekend #WinePW
This post is part of a collection of writers and bloggers who gather each month to focus on a theme and we call it Wine Pairing Weekend or #WineWP. The culmination of the thematic blogging is a twitter chat, held the second Saturday of the month. We unify under the hastag #WineWP…everyone is welcome to join in on May 14, 10:00 central. Like a virtual wine pairing cookbook, here’s what the writers will share:
Jeff of FoodWineClick will be running a Taste Test: Wines for Spicy Food.
Michelle of RockinRedBlog will be Exploring Enchiladas and Wine Pairings with WinePW.
Sarah from Curious Cuisiniere will post Chicken and Cheese Entomatadas: Pairing Tomatoes with Wine
For a list of past and upcoming #WinePW events, visit the Wine Pairing Weekend calendar here.