Editor's Note: With our May issue devoted to local wines, Angela Ortmann is dedicating this month's Quite the Pair columns to St. Louis-area restaurants that serve them.
Sidney Street Café’s Snicker Bar, $9
There’s a classic wine-pairing mentality that says that your dessert wine should always be sweeter than the dessert itself. I do not believe this to be a hard-and-fast rule. (Have you ever enjoyed a simple square of dark chocolate with a glass of rich Spanish red wine or California Cabernet?) I encourage you to look closer at similar and contrasting flavor profiles rather than focusing on the levels of sugar when choosing your after-dinner selections.
That being said, I chose to experiment with three styles of fortified dessert wines for the decadently indulgent Snicker Bar dessert I enjoyed at Sidney Street Café. Dollops of chocolate mousse separated by honey nougat and chocolate ganache are sprinkled with roasted peanuts and rested in the middle is a scoop of housemade chocolate bourbon sorbet. As if that weren’t enough, the server then pours a perfect pool of dulce de leche tableside. Salty, sweet, crunchy, creamy, warm and cold, this dessert satisfies every possible post-dinner craving. You can imagine my excitement to dive into this deliciously sinful task of matching wines. After this pairing project, I don't think I will ever look at a Snickers Bar the same way again.
2004 Mount Pleasant Vintage Port, Augusta, Mo., $10 by the glass
When a dessert wine is called “fortified,” ports being one of the most common and recognizable of the bunch, it indicates that a still wine has had a distilled spirit, most often brandy, added to it. Doing so raises both the sugar and alcohol content of the wine, thus creating these strong, syrupy, sweet wines. Local Missouri winery Mount Pleasant has made a name for itself with its line of ports, offering both vintage ruby and aged tawny as well as a white port. Bottle aging in this ruby style keeps the wine rich with cassis and blackberry notes, a fun, fruity contrast to the nutty and caramel tones of the dessert.
Four Vines Zinfandel Port, Paso Robles, Calif., $8 by the glass
Just as Missouri has, California has been making a mark with differentiated styles of port wines. A grape that has seen both success and unique quality is that of Zinfandel. Four Vines, a winemaking house highly regarded for its Zinfandel, has taken its signature grape to the sweet side. Slow fermented and fortified with a two-year oak-aged brandy, the wine is then put into small French Oak barrels for over a year and a half. The result is packed with ripe raspberry flavor, seductive aromas of chocolate and velvety richness. The subtle finish of spice, a classic Zinfandel characteristic, plays against the flavors on the plate to create an even more complex and exciting pairing.
Cockburns 20 Year Old Tawny Port, Portugal, $10 by the glass
For a port to be called Tawny, it must be aged in oak barrels for a minimum of two years. However, most see at least five and what we see on the shelves and on wine lists are of the 10- and 20-year age. The port developing in barrels allows the wine to see touches of oxygen as well as the effect of the oak on the flavor on the final product. A defining visual characteristic is also the lightening of color and slight brown tones. I tasted two tawny ports with my Snicker Bar on this particular evening, one 10 year and this 20 year. Both were wonderful complements, but for the sake of the most diverse of pairings, the older of the two showed the most distinctive qualities. Aromas and flavors of raisins, figs and cedar immediately warm you, while the surprisingly lighter body of the wine falls into a nutty and baking spice palate. These, along with butterscotch and smoky toffee notes, meld into each and every component of the dessert.
Sidney Street Café, 2000 Sidney Street, Benton Park, 314.771.5777, sidneystreetcafe.com
STLwinegirl Angela Ortmann gained a passion for all things epicurean by working in the luxury restaurants and hotels of St. Louis and San Francisco. Through her event and consultation business, she is dedicated to enhancing your food and wine experience.