10 Dec Please The Palate Pick of the Week: Deconstructing Spice Pairings at LXV Wines in Paso Robles
Visiting wineries, everyone is looking for an “experience.” We rarely go to wineries, step up to the bar, and taste. Today many wineries are offering experiences, which can include food pairings, barrel tastings, vineyard walks, and more. One of my favorite experiences is food and wine pairings as food and wine go hand-in-hand. An “experience” at a winery, especially a food and wine pairing, does not have to be decadent or grandiose to be memorable or unique. This past week, I had a unique and memorable experience with the Deconstructing Spice Pairings at LXV Wines in Paso Robles, the Please The Palate pick of the week.
LXV Wine is owned by Neeta and Kunal Mittal. They have a tasting room in downtown Paso Robles but their home and estate vineyard is in the Willow Creek District. Neeta and Kunal are known for their wine tasting and flavor pairing experiences and LXV has been ranked as one of the 10 Best Tasting Rooms by USA TODAY. The name LXV, which is 65 in Roman numerals, was inspired by the 64 arts of living from old Indian scriptures. As the 64 scriptures do not speak about wine, LXV is their 65th scripture and is an ode to wine.
Neeta and Kunal are originally from India. Neeta’s father came from the spice capital of the world and Neeta’s mother loved experimenting with flavors. This was influential in Neeta’s life and is reflected in the flavors and spices that are showcased in the food and wine pairing dinners they do, as well as the deconstructed spice pairings. In their home, Neeta and Kunal have 250 different spices. They combine these spices to make perfect blends to compliment and contrast with their wines.
The cheese they use is from Central Coast Creamery. Ewenique is a locally made neutral sheep’s milk cheese that uses vegetarian rennet. The result is a clean and mild cheese. The cheese is cubed and then rolled in different spices to add flavor.
Wines and Pairings
2020 The Jewel is a Super-Tuscan blend of 85% Sangiovese and 15% Petit Verdot, which adds density and richness. The Sangiovese is sourced from the White Hawk Vineyard in Los Alamos and the Petit Verdot comes from the ONX Vineyard on the West Side of Paso Robles. The wine has red fruit, white pepper, and spice notes with bright acidity.
The wine is paired with the Sirocco spice blend, a mix of sumac, dry mango powder (amchur), green and black cardamon, star anis, cloves, fennel, rose petal, and other spices. The white pepper and dry mango compliment the wine; the sumac adds tartness which contrasts with the wine; the nutritional yeast adds umami flavors. The spice combined with the wine is harmonious and balanced.
2020 The Secret, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot, is inspired by a Left Bank Bordeaux wine. The grapes are sourced from three vineyards – Parrish Family Vineyard (El Pomar AVA, Paso Robles), ONX Estate (Templeton Gap AVA, Paso Robles), and Portico Hills (Santa Barbara County AVA). The wine has aromas of violets and cassis, as well as savory herbaceous notes.
This wine is paired with the Chai spice blend, a mix of black tea, tulsi (holy basil), green and black, cardamon, star anise, cloves, fennel, rose petals, and other spices. I found the spices helped highlight the savory herbaceous aspect of the wine.
2020 The Tempo, a Right Bank Bordeaux blend of 57% Merlot and 43% Cabernet Franc all sourced from the Preston Vineyard in the Templeton Gap District of West Paso Robles. The wine is vibrant with savory notes of baking spices and herbs.
This wine is paired with the Irish Monk spice mix made with dulse flakes (Irish seaweed), miso, pink peppers, amchur, cardamon, black vanilla, mustard powder, other spices. The cardamon harmonized with the wine and the dulse added a savory, umami flavor.
2020 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from the Denner Vineyard (Willow Creek AVA, Paso Robles) and the ONX Estate Vineyard (Templeton Gap AVA, Paso Robles). The wine has black fruit and dried red fruit aromas, as well as dried spices, herbs, and flowers. There are also cedar and graphite notes, juicy acidity and drying tannins.
This wine is paired with the Herbs de Vie mix of savory, thyme, basil, marjoram, tarragon, oregano, mint, lavender, and other spices. The savory spices complimented the wine which lingered with a sweetness on the finish.
Pairing the wine with spices is a way to both break down the wine but also build bridges. By comparing and contrasting spices with wine, it is possible to see how to pair the wine with food.