A few months ago, Lindsey Jessup and Blythe Conaway of Edna Valley Vineyard were brainstorming new types of pairings for a wine club party.
Their goal: to educate members about the wines so they could select wines on their own to accompany specific foods and sauces.
Cheese and wine. Chocolate and wine. Charcuterie and wine. Such pairings were common. Then it struck them: Why not potato chips? People can easily relate to an ingredient like that, they reasoned.
“Food-and-wine pairings can go over someone’s head,” said Jessup, manager of wine education and events. “No pun intended, but this is easily digestible food and wine education.”
The two didn’t want just any chips, so they approached Sarah Paddack, who owns Chipwrecked in Pismo Beach, a family-owned restaurant that specializes in small batch gourmet chips, sandwiches and salads. Paddock was interested — and even created special chips to draw out the flavors in the wines being tasted.
“We talked a lot about what flavors they wanted to bring out with the wines, what foods they typically paired with the wines,” Paddack said. Based on that, she experimented until getting the seasonings just right.
The four pairings they created were a hit at last fall’s Sunset Savor the Central Coast Main Event at Santa Margarita Ranch.
Consumers were advised to first sip the wine, then take a bite of chip, then sip the wine again. They could then taste how the chips brought out the wine flavors.
“When I was watching people go through the flight of wines there, it was really neat to see people have that ‘aha’ moment,” Paddack recalled. Here’s a look at the four pairings they developed:
- Edna Valley Sauvignon Blanc, 2011, and “The Tarasa’’ chip, featuring mint Amchoor salt with a hint of lime. The dried powdered green mango and lime softens some of the wine’s acidity, bringing forth more of the fruit characteristics.
- Edna Valley Reserve Chardonnay, 2011, and “The Dona Paz’’ chip, featuring ground vanilla bean with sea salt and a touch of sweetness. The vanilla bean enhances the sweet baking spice characteristics of the chardonnay.
- Edna Valley Reserve Pinot Noir, 2011, and “The Keying’’ chip, featuring Chinese Five Spice, rich with flavors from the Orient. The chip’s cinnamon, clove, star anise and ginger complement the wine’s sweet and savory flavors that stem from the French oak it’s been aged in.
- Edna Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 2011, and “The Essex’’ chip, featuring chocolate, rosemary and sea salt. The savory chip flavor complements the ripe fruit, reducing the wine’s sweetness.
Visitors to Edna Valley Vineyard can now taste the same flights most weekends from noon to 4 p.m. for $25 but are asked to call ahead for reservations at 805-544-5855, said Conaway, retail operations manager. The chips are sold separately there, too, as part of a trial run.
And always remember, Jessup advised: When selecting food-and-wine pairings on your own, “sweetness and acidity in food can cancel the sweetness and acidity in wine.’’