Whole Wine (Pairing Optional)

In my continuing quest to keep y’all from going out too damn much in these pandemic days, I bring you my bougie-est (not Bugey-est that’s another story) column ever: Whole Foods Pairing Picks. I aimed to find the more affordable wines, ones roughly 8-20 dollars. Why? Because you can get wine from Whole Foods without the store living up to its “Whole Paycheck” nickname. To be fair, one can be fairly sure that the 80 dollar Champagnes they carry will be reasonably tasty. But what will leave you with enough money for organic oat milk and sustainable hemp hearts? The expense for the hearts will do. If it's the hemp products’ souls, you may need to give up alcohol. Now, about my pairing recommendations: let me be honest about my home practices in COVID times. Everyone else became gourmet cooks and sourdough hipsters under quarantine. But I, little Miss I-Never-Use-Cake-Mix/Madame NO-Frozen-Pizza-In-My-Home—I developed a real Amy’s addiction. I’d liked the soups (eaten cold straight from the fridge as I believe most things should be), but I fell down the frozen meal risotto hole. And then I saw the packages of pre-made dal… and I was off to the races. So most of these pairings will be wine, plus perhaps overpriced but delicious prefab food. Is there a Whole Foods shower wine or food though? I’m going with the Pool Boy Rosé both for the aquatic reference, and the fact that I didn’t particularly think it was made for any Los Angeles denizen who eats actual food. And although I’ve been told having a shower orange is nice, I can’t endorse food in the shower. Unless you get your hands on some hemp souls. And now my pairings! 2018 Terredora di Paolo Corte Giso Irpinia Falanghina + Amy’s Bowls Mushroom Risotto (made with organic Arborio rice) The wine is full of super ripe grapefruit and mango maybe (mango is always maybe), and there is a good golly dash of orange flower water with a daisy floating in it. The acid is sharp and bright, nicely cutting through the super ripe fruit. And it is not a fullllll wine but it has a hint of richness and…cream? All of the complexity belies the price. The risotto is earthy but also rich, but not tooooo rich. After all, this is Amy’s. They didn’t go overboard adding Plugra and cheese to the dish. I feel like Arborio rice has a certain floral nature to it that this wine highlights. And the floral plus lactic hints in the wine play up the earthy and dairy-rific nature of the risotto. Neither the earth nor dairy elements are overabundant in the dish and wine, but together they amplify it all. Dr. Loosen’s Sparkling Riesling + Tasty Bites Bombay Potatoes I’ve seen other Dr. Loosen wines elsewhere, but WF was the only place I saw a Riesling bubbly. Is it terrifically complex? Not really, but it does have the floral nature of Riesling coupled with that searing acid and effervescence that makes you feel like you are cleansed from all your non-organic sins. Organic sins are okay. But apparently what you REALLY want to avoid are GMO sins. I dunno, I’m just saying this wine is fun and refreshing. It bridges nicely with the spices and flavorings of the potatoes, which, incidentally I endorse eaten cold too—I am a weirdo I know. First the soups, now the potatoes. I won’t tell you about my chilled oatmeal…I think it is the coriander, but maybe mostly the cardamom plus the mango powder that, to me, make the taters and chickpeas in the Tasty Bite dish floral and piquant which links nicely to the Riesling’s honeysuckled (new word) ways. Bubbles plus spice, extra nice. 2018 Pichon Claude Michel Chenin Blanc Val de Loire + “sexy groceries”: Sexy groceries are those little incidentals you’re grabbing if you are hosting or planning on getting laid or maybe you are just French. Most of them you could get at the average grocery store but the WF cheese selection amps the fire up. Lit groceries include a bottle of wine (obvi), cheeseboard-worthy fromage, the odd baguette, and some carefree accoutrements like fig paste or truffle mustard. Plus some organic dried figs and marcona almonds because what kind of heathen ignores the biological need for fiber? These are sexy groceries. Why is that the pairing? Because Chenin Blanc is inherently one of the sexiest wines out there. It has that arousing acid. Sultry honeyed undertones. And those apples, how about them. This Chenin is not complicated but gives the array of the flavors I just mentioned. And it will leave you with the duckets for that Camembert. Pool Boy Rosé + maybe snacks but aren’t you intermittent fasting? My first idea for this was that it should be paired with nothing. Because the pool boy on the label watches his figure. But! If you need a bite, any chips and salsa are what I’d consume with this. It’s a full liter so you might wish to keep those snacks at the ready. Tis comfortingly (for sugar-phobes) dry, but you get nectarine and raspberry aromas, and some vanilla and blood orange if you think too hard about it. Which you should not. Get back in the pool. 2018 Valravn Sonoma County Pinot Noir + Sweet Earth Peruvian Burrito Duuuude this is such a so very yummy Sonoma Pinot Noir. With a name and label that borders on goth, I might have put it in my last wine column, but can a wine be from Whole Foods and goth-adjacent? Possibly. The wine has a lot of rich ripe fruit but also some earth and something hinting at fresh greens in it. Interestingly, this pairing has a goodly amount of Old World inspiration—both wine and food had an earthy nature. I had no idea what a Peruvian Burrito might contain but according to the label it has: seiten, spices, quinoa (omg growing on me), sweet potatoes (not my fave but they worked here), plus black beans. The burrito is so much earth and spice and…ready for any pinot noir, but especially this one. De Chanceny Brut Cremant de Loire + Amy’s Light & Lean Quinoa & Black Beans with Butternut Squash & Chard “made with organic grains, beans, and vegetables” Here is the thing: black beans and chard are the only foods in this bowl I THOUGHT I liked. And yet since first trying this in the infant stages of quarantine, when I wanted any novelty even if it involved underhanded grains, I’ve heated up so many of these meals. Who knows why? Life is an enigma these days. Existential thoughts aside, what I can say is that this 70% Chenin Blanc (feel the tart but honeyed apple and wool!), 15% Chardonnay (more apples and pleasant richness!) and 15 % Cabernet Franc (yet more great acid, and a whiff of green herbs and mistletoe no not kidding!) is a steal. The wine has just the correct amount of acid to commune with the ruddy nature of quinoa and black beans. Then the wine gives a hint of honey, which along with plush bubbles adds a richness to the seemingly austere bean/grain/squash dish. I am going to do this pairing repeatedly. In conclusion: you can find good wine on a budget at Whole Foods. And as I discovered, with the right pairing I can overcome my distaste for quinoa. May we all grow from this. And by this I mean not just drinking wine but also the state of the world. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Want to read more from Ellen? Check out her recent articles: Goth Wines for the Perennially October Soul Back to School More Than Port It’s a Can-demic Ellen in Lalaland Pandemic-Style Pink Velvet, If You Please: Old World Old World vs. New World: Sauvignon Blanc You can also listen to Ellen's podcast , The Wine Situation here . Check out her recent transcripts of the Final Five questions: Wine Situation Final Five! With Cha McCoy Wine Situation Final Five! With Lydia Richards