Pairing Off: Cigars

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Each week, Pairing Off attempts to find just the right bottle of wine to go with ordinary food...or in this case, smoke.

The gentleman at Pogo's was adamant when I asked the usual "which wine would go best with" question.

"I wouldn't pair it with wine," he told me. Twice.

Obviously whiskeys or Cognac set well against the creamy, leathery, bitter smoke from most decent cigars--hence the impulse to reach for a good single malt. But this is a wine pairing column and I'd already picked up an Oliva Serie G with a Camaroon wrapper. A nice cigar for $5.45.

So c'mon, Pogo's Guy.

Reluctantly he started into the the characteristics necessary to parry something as bold and invasive as smoke, which all pointed to one of the big California Cabs so popular in Dallas steakhouses. Or, he added, you could do a Port.

Fortified wine made sense. (Well, legitimate fortified wine, anyway...although it would be fun to walk into one of the city's better shops and say "which way to the Mad Dog aisle--and where's your Everclear?") Port after dinner was once a cherished tradition in gentlemanly circles, as were fine cigars.

Of course, you can only try this experiment at home these days. Or in Addison.

The Oliva Serie G is a surprising cigar for its price. Sweet notes from the Camaroon wrapper arouse your senses first, followed by the aroma of cedar bark and--to my nose--cleaning solution. On the draw, it is rather complex: coffee and bitter chocolate, cream, dry autumn leaves and a rubbery taint, with a long and smooth finish. Quite a lot for a wine to contend with.

Niepoort's Ruby--no sense going Vintage with a $5 cigar--smells of rich fruits, such as plum and dried cherry...with a little tar thrown in. The taste is rather similar, expanding from an initial blast of fruit in dark chocolate and a mineral quality that, oddly, resembles bacon.

Tobacco smoke absorbs all those rich, dark fruit flavors, however, leaving a lighter juicy residue. Meanwhile the cigar softens considerably, with spring grass emerging into the profile. The most notable sensation, though, is of the chocolate notes in both the cigar and the wine folding into each other--essentially drawing the smoke and the port together.

Not too bad. Although, honestly, bourbon or scotch would have been much better.

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