Pairing Off: Dunkin' Donuts

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

Back in 1982 I took off with a friend on summer long road trip up and down the east coast, from Montreal to Atlanta and many, many points in between.

It was a good trip. We walked the route from Lexington to Concord (that's an American Revolution thing), touched Bock's Car in Dayton (a WWII thing), saw the Cardinals play in several different cities, ate fried clams in New England and fried chicken in Georgia. And fried ham in Virginia, come to think of it.

Now here's the embarrassing part: Every time we ran across a Dunkin' Donuts we stopped and ordered three apiece. About two months into the journey, I noticed my friend--now a professor at SMU--phantom counting as we waited for our doughnuts. "Hey," he finally blurted, "three and three make six. That's a half-dozen."

Yep, ordering a half-dozen doughnuts was significantly cheaper than our three each approach. Only took us sixty days to figure it out.

Determining which wine to go along with six of the chocolate glazed variety, well, for that I turned to an expert at Centennial in Addison.

Actually I tried Brian's Wines--twice, once on a Friday at 5 p.m.--only to find it locked tight, as per Lisa Petty's tale from earlier today. So it was off to someplace reliable.

You would expect wine experts to bring up Cabernet Sauvignon in any conversation regarding chocolate. Dunkin' Donuts offers, however, a flavor profile distinct from the rich, dark, intensely bittersweet varieties of chocolate usually involved. The cake itself is yeasty, but quite mild and sticky, topped by a layer of sweet, somewhat harsh icing. A beast for Merlot, perhaps.

Nope--the wine guy at Centennial instantly recommended a Cab. A big (but not too big) California Cab, to be precise.

"So you ignore the doughnut itself?" I asked.

"Exactly," he nodded. The frosting is all that matters when pairing to a plain doughnut.

Silver Ridge's 2007 Cabernet hardly expresses boldness on the nose. Instead you pick up hints of pepper, dark honey, fruit and, most notably, rose petals. This last emerges again at the end as you sip, following a trail of light fruit, canteloupe and earthy spice with a lingering sensation of split cherries.

Only when paired to the doughnuts does this tannic, rose flavor dissipate. In its place, the icing brings forward a juicier, richer hue from the wine, imbued with pepper, bitter chocolate and cardamom, finishing in sour cherry. That veil of brown stuff, in other words, turns Silver Ridge into the Cab you expected.

The doughnut holds its own, by the way--so a very reasonable pairing at around $10 a bottle...and whatever you decide to pay for those round cakes.

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