Pairing Off: Corn Dogs

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Each week, Pairing Off attempts to find just the right bottle of wine to go with ordinary food.

Maybe I'm jumping the gun on this. Then again, writing a corn dog piece around state fair time seems far too cliche.

So what the hell--it's summer, the season of food on a stick, and our own Jesse Hughey just won a corn dog eating contest over the weekend. Why not pair batter-dipped dogs with a decent wine?

If possible--I mean, the State Fair brand box of frozen specimens I bought at Tom Thumb presents a combination of nitrate-laden mystery meant and sugar sweet coating that could, quite possibly, frustrate any wine expert. But after blinking once--maybe twice--in disbelief, the guy at Pogo's strode instantly toward a shelf of discounted California claret.

"You don't want to think about it?" I asked.

"No, this will go nicely," he replied. Maybe he just wanted me out of the store--and fast.

The wine he shoved me out the door with was Guenoc's 2006 North Coast Victorian Claret--a rather lengthy and somewhat clever way of describing a classic Bordeaux-style red (as favored by Brits in the decades prior to World War One) grown and produced on America's west coast. Or something.

It's a welcome bottle for the price ($14.99, on sale). Oak and cherries on the nose promise a fruit forward experience. But the wine approaches softly at first, lacing the palate with juicy flavors that develop slowly into a full flung orchard--forest fruits on the low end of the scale, all the way up to a flutter of lemonade at the top--grounded in sharp tannins.

Against the corn dogs (unlike Jesse, I managed three), the claret appears to mature. Dark chocolate emerges. The tannic razors dull. Some of the juiciness softens as hints of sandy soil rise up. Best of all, the wine readily combats all the fat residue left by meat and cornmeal shell.

If anything suffers from the pairing, it's the state fair staple. The wine pulls all its sugar to the foreground, giving it a bizarre 'meat candy' taste...although a dab of spicy brown mustard reverses that.

Oh, well--better the corn dog suffer than the wine itself. So I mark it as a good pairing. The wine gathers depth and character--and washes away lingering memories of oven-heated food on a stick.

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