Deciding which shoes pair well with my outfit, I can do. Pairing a phone to a bluetooth speaker—no problem. However, when it comes to pairing the ideal wine to compliment a dish, consider me clueless. Despite waitressing at a pub in New York City for years, the closest I’ve come to pairing food and drink would be something along the lines of, “Yes, the Guinness should go nicely with your shepherd’s pie.” So, what happens when you have a world-class winemaker and a chef that dons a Michelin Star give you an evening of perfect pairings? Let’s just say, I now understand the “buzz.”
Geneviève Janssens grew up among the vineyards of her father in France, an upbringing that led her to pursue enology, the study of wines. After graduating from the University of Bordeaux she found her way to the Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa, California, and became the Director of Winemaking in 1997. Over the years, Mondavi wines have earned an esteemed reputation in the world of wine, and beyond. Elise Kornack, a chef, restaurateur, and recipe developer, has secured prestige in her own right as well. You might have seen her on either Forbes’ or Zagat’s list of 30-under-30, or have had the opportunity to dine at the coveted Michelin-starred (but now closed) Brooklyn establishment ran by Elise and her wife, Take Root.
As I mingled with these women, various wine lovers, and food and wine writers, I couldn’t help but feel like the human equivalent of boxed wine. As we moved to the dining area and sat down for dinner at Haven’s Kitchen—a chic, intimate venue—I was exposed as a rookie, if I hadn’t been already. The first course wine, a chardonnay, was placed before us. It wasn’t until I finished my first gulp and set my glass down that I noticed everyone around me still smelling the wine. That was it. I was exposed, absolutely. So I decided to fess up and asked for a little guidance.
Luckily, I sat next to two lovely wine writers, and they happily introduced me to the world of textures, flavors, and tasting notes. With each wine, and each course paired with it, I began to understand this whole food-wine pairing business, and let me tell you, I think I may have been converted.
“Just think of it this way,” one of the writers told me. “Wine is like a condiment. Like ketchup, or mustard. It is there to enhance and compliment your food the same way.”
This simplistic explanation provided me with a moment of enlightenment. It’s true, the food and wine went hand in hand, a conscious choice created for effortless enjoyment. Although I still have much to learn, I will say this: together, Geneviève and Elise created a simply delectable night, which started with foie gras hor d’oeuvres and pinot noir, ended with an apple-fig leaf dessert and moscato, and boasted some serious female badassery throughout. Truly, it was “a perfect pairing.”
All photos provided by: Heather Phelps-Lipton