My tablemate reflected on the Domaine La Fouquette Côtes de Provence Rosé d'Aurore, 2011. "It's a perfect pairing," he proclaimed, "...with the Froot Loops."
That's right, Froot Loops.
"I always think about what wine I'd pair with everything I eat," Pierce admitted, "I have an almost manic addiction to food and wine pairing." His infamous junk food pairings started with a fateful bag of Cool Ranch Doritos. "Turns out Sutton Cellars Rattlesnake Rosé was a perfect match," he swears.
"But why do you do it?" I asked. "For the challenge!" Piece shot back. "You can't imagine how bad some of this food makes wine taste!"
Pierce invited me to sit in on last month's tasting, where he challenged himself to pair four wines with four low-brow delicacies. Maverick's small dining room was packed with an adventurous (or junk-food loving) crowd, seated family-style.
Pierce kicked it off with a surprising wine, a sparkler from New Mexico. "There's a lot of wineries in New Mexico," he commented, "And they're awful." This one happened to be the exception, though: Gruet Blanc de Blancs "Sauvage," NV. A very dry, "low dosage" wine, it was Pierce's choice to accompany cheese curds fried in a Budweiser beer batter.
The kitchen apparently couldn't bring itself to import vile Wisconsin cheese curds, so they instead opted for Organic Spring Hill Cheddar curds, from Petaluma. Yeah, almost sound healthy, don't they? The batter was crisp and delicious, but beer flavor nearly overwhelmed the mild, gooey cheese and delicate bubbly. (You can tell by the photos in the accompanying slide show that these puppies were fun to eat, though!)
Moving on to the next match, Pierce introduced the Ceago Sauvignon Blanc, Clear Lake, 2010. "I love the way this wine smells almost like tortilla chips on the nose," he commented. Appropriate, because it was paired with Fritos. Most of us at the table couldn't remember the last time we'd eaten Fritos (grade school sack lunch?), but we munched the corny little curls, exclaiming about how well they went with the wine (something mom staunchly refused to put in my thermos).
Next on the menu, Skyline Cincinnati Chili 3-Way. "Just a heads-up - it's not good," Pierce warned. He'd sent off to Ohio for eight cans of the stuff, which is classically served over spaghetti and topped with cheddar. The lucky wine chosen to take it on? Seam Barbera, Calaveras Country, 2008. "It goes well with cinnamon and chocolate," Pierce advised. We dubbed the Cincinnati stuff "gingerbread chili" for its hefty dose of cinnamon and other spices. The wine had a spiciness of its own that held up well against it.
But Pierce had saved the best for last. His Froot Loops pairing was truly inspired. "The different colors don't taste different," he announced. (I like the thought of a wine guy meticulously tasting each Froot Loop color to parse its flavor components.) The rosé was so weirdly good with the loops that my table crew devoured all of the freakishly colored cereal bits.
Afterward, I asked Pierce what some of his all-time favorite junk food pairings were. "Pepperoni pizza and Barbera," he mused. "Tacos with Riesling. Skittles all go really well with wine. I paired each flavor with a different wine."
Pierce's tastings are so popular that the next one, on June 13, 2012, is sold out (there's a waiting list, though). He'll be matching wines with Smart Food, Vermont gravy fries, St. Louis Style pork ribs and the Original Mint ITS-IT. The price is $35, with a single seating at 6:00 pm. Maverick, 3316 17th Street, 415.863.3061.
Check out the accompanying slide show to see photos of all the junk food pairings I sampled.