The Role of Wine
Wine is an important part of the dining experience at Coho Restaurant and has always been an important aspect of how I have cooked. I will admit, I love wine. I love the romantic aspects of wine. I dearly respect all the artisan winemakers throughout the world. These special people take into consideration terroir (natural environment), the science, the art, the diligence and the commitment necessary to produce and craft a product that is a living thing. Sure, the grapes are harvested and thus no longer on the plant, but wine is alive and ages, like you and me, tasting one way when young and much much different when mature. It has a beginning point as non-alcoholic juice and an ending point when it transitions to vinegar. Winemakers are very much like farmers, cheesemakers, bakers, and butchers who make charcuterie. True food artisans.
Creating a Sense of Place
At Coho Restaurant, and in my years of cooking , I have dearly held a sense of place (my terroir) just like winemakers when they craft wine. In my cooking this translates to having a complete understanding of what is growing, crafted, and harvested in my area. It directly impacts what ingredients I treat as my palate of flavors when developing dishes. When you dine on San Juan Island you should taste the island, the region, the state. Our foods taste unique to our sense of place.
Integrating Wine & Cuisine
My cooking also considers how to integrate wine into a meal or as a pairing. It is no different than cooking, really. Understanding acid, fruit/sweetness, bitterness, fats, salinity, and spice is important when tasting wine, or tasting food. As a chef, you must understand how these flavor profiles combine to dictate how something tastes. However, what someone is drinking (wine in this discussion) can magnify, minimize, or even dilute the resulting flavor. It is another level of complexity. One that I truly love.
Wine can be another element to truly elevate dishes that transcend levels, or can be ruined if pairings are off. A tannic or high alcohol wine can be made silky and easy drinking if paired with the right food (rich, fats, red meats or game—a big juicy ribeye steak with Cabernet Sauvignon for example). Chefs that cook in environments where wine is part of the experience have this in the back of their mind. Wine is another ingredient that when you hit the right notes, like a jazz riff, the results are magical. This is the holy grail to me.
Chefs are in the pleasure business. We constantly strive to magnify the experience diners have when they eat our food. Ignoring wine as a component when menu planning can defeat our intent, which is to magnify the pleasure of our guests. When I cook a dish now, I almost immediately think of wine that will elevate it to another level. I think of both red wines and whites, as there are diners that exclusively enjoy either red, or white, varieties. It is often complicated, but truly fun and exhilarating at the same time.
A Chef’s Perspective
So, a chef’s perspective on wine? Wine on its own, amazing. Food on its own, amazing. But wine and food paired and integrated together? It is magical. It has been on the table of men and women since the dawn of time. It is ingrained in what we do at Coho Restaurant. We have always had a well-crafted wine list curated by true oenophiles (Owners Dave Pass and Anna Maria De Freitas). For the first time ever, our current wine list is completely chef-driven. I am lucky to be able to use this great array of wines in my cooking, so that when guests dine at Coho Restaurant, we can make it a transcendental experience.