Corks+Forks: Rhône Varietals With Pork

Ethan Stowell & Co. want to prepare you a match made in heaven.

Ethan Stowell’s restaurants provide food and wine that are direct, approachable and critically acclaimed. The people, the media and the charities love him for his involvement with his guests, kitchen and community play. When it comes down to it, the man knows how to do it.

Photo of Ethan Stowell, courtesy of Geoffrey Smith

He’s an employer as well as a restaurateur — and that’s where he’s gone right. The majority of his joints are staffed with intermingling workers who are hard-working and highly knowledgeable. This keen awareness is particularly true of his wine buyers and sommeliers. They know and respect Stowell’s gastronomic offerings — and make their selections accordingly.

One example is a seasonal dish at Staple & Fancy – pork loin with a butter and morel sauce. The morel, known as one of Earth’s greatest and most aristocratic mushrooms, is not cheap — and Stowell doesn’t cheat his patrons with the serving size.

At his restaurants, the food and wine are well-matched to the point of cohesion. Plucked from the portfolios of our city’s finest merchants, Stowell’s wine lists reflect the ever-changing taste of Seattleites’ cyclical moods — and the impeccable palates of his wine stewards.

Inspired by the power of the other white meat, Staple & Fancy’s pork-friendly wine list fixates on the awesomeness of Rhône varietals. Hailing from Southern France, the 22 grape varieties come from a collection of appellations including Côtes du Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Provence.

A smaller, lesser known wine region of Southern France is the Côtes du Roussillon-Villages. Known for the renowned M. Chapoutier house, this is one of the least specific and regulated of the French wine regions — thus giving producers more room for play. Pushing the boundaries for grape blends allows wineries to produce wine that matches one’s daily caloric intake with food — which is often pork, in this part of France.

The Restaurant: Staple & Fancy, but you already knew that.

The Dish: Pork loin on a bed of local Morel mushroom butter sauce. Lots of morel and lots of butter go nicely with the pork — a meat that is juicy, succulent and flavorful all on its own.

The Grape Variety: Your best bet is to track down a combination of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre – together, they bring spice, earth and dark fruit to the table. The same thing can be said about pork.

Why It Works: With acidity, structural tannin and spice-enriched finishes, this blend is familiar to the meat and ready to cut through its richness and compliment the earthy mushrooms.

Recommended Wine Match: 2009 Domaine Gauby Les Calcinaires Côtes du Roussillon Villages. A blend of Syrah with Mourvedre, Grenache and Carignan, this wine is pretty, bright and full of spice and vibrant fruit.

The dark cherry, anise, cassis and cumin on the nose and a medium-body loaded with dark berry and spice flavor are the perfect companion for this flavorful dish. The wine and mushroom-coated pork were separated at birth. Thank goodness Stowell is there to reunite them.