What Wine for a [California] Veggie Sandwich?
The first time I had a [California] veggie sandwich (in California, they just call it a "veggie sandwich"), it was at the legendary Source on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. By the time I got there (an undergrad at UCLA in the late '80s), founder Father Yod and the Source family were long gone (as was the celebrity crowd). But the aura of this landmark of the California health food movement had never lost its allure for me, especially after I watched Woody Allen's demolition derby in the parking lot of the restaurant in his 1977 classic Annie Hall when I was ten years old.
Photo by Jeremy Parzen. One of the great conundra of the cosmos: what wine to pair with a veggie sandwich?
Of course, the [California] veggie sandwich is a watered-down version of the early health food movement's original mission of vegetarianism and raw foodism. In fact, it's often the commercial ingredients in the bread and cheese that belie the dish's ethical purism.
But that doesn't mean that it can't be downright delicious -- ideological purism aside.
When considering a pairing for this dish, my first thought is to go white, light and bright. Maybe a Moschofilero from Greece? Or perhaps a Cheverny (like the delicious Domaine du Salvard that you can find at Spec's for under $20).
But whether avocado or hummus or goat cheese spread...ay, there's the rub...
Whatever the preparation, if done right, the fattiness in this dish calls out for a red wine with tannin, however gentle.
Not an overly tannic Napa Valley "Cab" or a highly alcoholic California "Zin," but a light-bodied, balanced red wine with high acidity and low alcohol.
And while there are many grapes from France that would fit this bill (think Pineau d'Aunis from the Loire Valley, unfortunately impossible to find in Texas), there's no other variety that better aligns here than Gamay.
I'm not talking about the Gamay that goes into the biggest marketing scam in wine history, Beaujolais Nouveau. We'll be discussing that extreme maximization of consumer goods -- to borrow a phrase from Chomsky -- later this year.
The Gamay I'm looking for is fresh, clean and focused; maybe from one of the ten crus (single-vineyard designations) of Beaujolais; or maybe one of the wonderful village wines that you can readily find in Houston between $15 and $25 (Spec's is the number one resource for these).
No matter what wine you pair with your veggie sandwich, may the Source be with you...
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