Ah, the temperamental scallop! If not cooked just right, it is rubbery or mushy – you choose the lesser of two evils. If properly handled, the delicate, but meaty texture sings in your mouth.
Once having accomplished this culinary feat, what wine shall accompany? We asked one winery operations director, one restaurant owner, two sommeliers and one wine shop owner for their suggestions, and they accommodated, revealing a stunning passion for food and wine. The mouth waters in consideration of their inventive unions!
Scallops are one of the most interesting foods to hail from the sea. The rich texture coupled with a delicate essence of flavor never gets lost in the preparation, whether simple or complex. The rich texture and flavor are ideally suited for wines that are equally rich in texture and flavor. The scallop also needs crisp, refreshing acidity to cleanse the palate and prepare the taste buds for another bite. Some of my fondest wine memories around scallops are Gavi (an Italian wine from the Piedmont region made from the Cortese grape), pinot gris from Alsace and even beautiful rieslings from Germany. All three have exotic fruit and spice aromas, great nerve and balance. Depending on the scallop’s preparation or the theme for the evening, choose one of these wines or s omething similar. For example, I had a beautiful pan-seared Diver Scallop served on a celery root purée with black olive tapenade that was extraordinary with a White Chateauneuf-du-Pape from Chateau de Beaucastel. All the stars aligned on this one – the richness of the wine stood proud next to the bold flavors of the Mediterranean and the aromatics were simply divine. Each bite brought out more from the next and was a symphony in my mouth. – Gregg Lamer, Director of Retail Operations, Rutherford Hill & Alderbrook Winery at Terlato Wines International, Rutherford, CA; www.rutherfordhill.com.
Fresh Spring ingredients are the perfect match for a scallop dish. Using fresh herbs such as thyme, oregano and chives with shallots and lemon in a compound butter, begs the scallops to sing “spring”! Adding grilled asparagus to the plate may stop you in your tracks, as asparagus is known as a difficult-to-pair ingredient. However, this dish is a perfect example of how pairing the right foods with the right wine make the experience complete. I would want the wine to match the acidity of the asparagus and lemon as well as the rich and creamy texture of the scallop. A white Rhone, Viognier, from the 2007 vintage at Cedarville Vineyards in El Dorado has the flinty mineral acid and a note of rich honey to bring the dish together in harmony. This handcrafted wine is a true bargain at $20 a bottle. – Tracey Berkner, Owner and Sommelier, Taste Restaurant, Plymouth, CA & The Union Pub & Inn, Volcano, CA; www.restauranttaste.com.
Master Sommelier Chris Blanchard recommends pairing scallops with Grenache Blanc from Spain or from Spencer Roloson. – Chris Blanchard, Master Sommelier, Chappellet Winery, St. Helena, CA; www.chappellet.com.
(Editors Note: Grenache Blanc hails primarily from Spain and France and is often used as a blending grape, particularly in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Its nature when presented on its own is often characterized as “fat” or “fleshy”, connoting a strong body, but is balanced by full fruit, floral aromas and accented by a touch of dill. Although fewer than 100 acres are planted to Grenache Blanc in the United States, Spencer Roloson Winery demonstrates sheer confidence in translating grapes from the Esperanza Vineyard within the delta of the American and Sacramento Rivers, into an intense, rich and refreshingly acidic wine. Ironically, Spencer Roloson’s tasting notes writer compares the vineyard site to Châteauneuf du Pape with its deep, mostly sandy soils mixed with small quantities of loam. The richness and food-friendliness of this wine is an excellent match for the richness of the scallops.)
Whether the wine is white or red will depend on what ingredients will accompany the scallop, but the key point here is texture. A broad white wine will mimic the similar texture of the scallop. Having said this, stay away from big tannins. Pinot noir would be the ideal red. Its provenance would depend on accompanying flavors/textures. – Yoon Ha, Sommelier, La Toque Restaurant, Napa CA.
I tasted last week and brought into Back Room Wines one of this world's classics: Domaine des Baumard Savennières 2005 ($29/bottle). It's Loire Valley 100% Chenin Blanc, as Savennières must be. Always very good, sometimes great, the 2005 is the latter. Rich, luscious, nutty, creamy . . . its texture and flavor profile reminds me of a rich, minerally Chardonnay. This is not the most common comparison, but the hazelnut/toffee flavor and creamy texture makes the comparison fair. And tasty!
This is what I intend to do:
1. Get a half dozen beautiful and bountiful fresh sea scallops from my fishmonger. Will serve two.
2. Clarify a half-pound of sweet butter.
3. Pan sear the scallops to a rich, dark brown crust, while still being almost raw on the inside. The scallops will be very lightly salt-and-peppered before.
4. Cover the sea scallops and keep warm. Don't cover them all the way, as you want the crusty top and bottom to stay that way!
5. In the same pan, add 1/4-cup citrus juice. You could use many types of juice, but I'll use freshly squeezed Meyer Lemon juice because the sweet/tart of Meyer Lemons will be a fine match with Savennières.
6. Scrape all the tasty, crusty stuff from the pan and reduce the juice by 2/3.
7. Add 1/2 teaspoon chopped, fresh thyme and 2-3 Tablespoons roast, chopped hazelnuts. Cook for a minute or two.
8. With the heat on low, add cold, whole butter one Tablespoon at a time. Do this until you have a back-of-spoon coating sauce. Maybe four tablespoons? I'm not certain . . . can let you know soon.
9. Finally, make your gustatory tower:
a. Starch of choice. I'm going for it and doing fine, creamed Yukon Gold potatoes.
THEY NEED TO BE HOT! Make a small pile in the center of the plate.
b. Three scallops on the potatoes (starch).
c. Top generously with the sauce. Use it all, even if it looks like it'll be too much. You'll eat it.
d. Serve two glasses of Domaine des Baumard Savennières 2005, chilled.
Rich scallops (and spuds) - rich wine.
Creamy dish - creamy wine.
Buttery/toasty dish - butter-textured/toffee flavors in wine.
Meyer Lemon - lemon/pear flavors in wine.
Hazelnuts - hazelnuts.
Thyme - earthy/chalky wine.
Holy cow, I can't wait to make this now! – Daniel Dawson, Owner, Back Room Wines, Napa, CA; www.backroomwines.com.