Monday, December 12, 2011

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups Paired with 2010 Apothic Red California Winemakers Blend

Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Quad small

Every once in a while it is enjoyable to test the limits of food and wine pairing and just have fun. Food and wine pairing is always a fun event for me, but stretching the limits a bit with a whimsical pairing can add to the adventure and offer some surprises that are quite enjoyable.

I embarked on such a pairing this weekend. The pairing was originally inspired by one of my favorite affordable wines - Apothic Red. When I first tasted this wine, I was immediately impressed. Velvety smooth with deep rich flavors and an immediate sensation of dark chocolate and mocha over an impressively luxurious mouth feel, this wine inspires a world of possibilities with pairing options.

2010 Apothic Red California Winemaker's Blend-1

The chocolate flavor inspired me to try this wine with complementary chocolate flavors. Chef Sue has a full arsenal of decadent chocolate desserts, but I decided to veer dramatically off course and try the Apothic Red with my favorite candy since childhood - Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

Notes from the winemaker: "A captivating blend of three distinct grapes, with the dark fruit flavors of Syrah, brambly spice of Zinfandel, and a smooth elegance of Merlot.

Apothic Red reveals intense fruit aromas and flavors of rhubarb and black cherry that are complemented by hints of mocha, chocolate, brown spice and vanilla. The plush, velvety mouthfeel and smooth finish round out this intriguing, full-bodied red blend."

2010 Apothic Red California Winemaker's Blend

The notes from the winemaker capture perfectly my impressions of the wine and make it one of my favorites. At $11, this wine is an exceptional value for such a wonderfully complex wine rivaling blends at five times the cost. With all these complementary flavors, this wine is an exceptional choice for pairing with dishes demanding full body and deep, rich flavors.

With a couple of exceptions, I am not a big fan of sweets. I occasionally find myself in the mood for butter pecan ice cream and rarely ever eat candy. However, when I do, Reese's are the clear favorite...typically as a result of leftovers from Halloween.

Reese's Peanut Butter Cup

One disturbing trend affecting my sacred love of Reese's is the proliferation of different sizes and forms. Back in the day, it all started with the traditional cup, then came the miniatures, then the minis, and finally Reese's Pieces. And this doesn't even account for the holiday versions including everything from eggs, bunnies, Santas, turkeys, and so on. And then there are the dark chocolate versions, white chocolate, the big cup, the Fastbreak, and other variations of "sticks."

My concern with all these incarnations is the inevitable mucking with the chocolate to peanut butter ratio - the key to enjoyment of Reese's. As a lifelong fan, I thought the original cup was near perfection in chocolate to peanut butter ration (C/PB). Then came Reese's miniatures - a shocking and welcome improvement to the C/PB ratio. Unfortunately, I find the remainder of Reese's incarnations sorely lacking in achievement of the optimal C/PB ratio.

Reese's Peanut Butter Cup-8

This misguided marketing of Reese's forms is extremely noticeable in the holiday forms where the C/PB is out of balance in favor of peanut butter. However, the true bottom of the barrel is the Reese's Pieces. The sacred combination of chocolate and peanut butter is contaminated by a candy shell imparting a chemical flavor - the chocolate and peanut butter are barely distinguishable. Shameful.

My judgment of the various Reese's forms has always come as a result of independent tasting. In other words, I never carried out a side by side comparison. I decided to overcome this shortfall in science by conducting a head to head analysis.  The first tasting was conducted sans wine.  Here are my notes:

  • Reese's Pieces – crap. No peanut butter flavor, no chocolate flavor, dominated by the chemical flavor of the coating.  Yuk.
  • Reese’s Minis – Good, but the chocolate overpowers the peanut butter.
  • Reese’s Miniature – Perfect balance of peanut butter and chocolate – the clear best choice.
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup (full size) – Great, but peanut butter/chocolate out of balance favoring the chocolate when compared with the Miniature

Reese's Peanut Butter Cup-2

Now for the notes when paired with the Apothic Red:

  • Reese’s Pieces – like drinking a soda and eating candy at a movie – this combination could only be appreciated by a severely underage taster.
  • Reese’s Minis – nice balance with the wine. Peanut butter appears on the back of the tongue – chocolate and wine stay to the front.
  • Reese’s Miniature – Good – almost indistinguishable from the Mini. Draw. Chef Sue declared the minis were best and in the interest of a healthy marriage, I giver her assessment the nod.
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup (full size) – excess peanut butter detracts from the wine. Way better than “Pieces,” but not as good as Mini’s or Miniatures

A final note on this tasting.  Reese’s paired with wine is a great cavity detection device.  If you have even the hint of a cavity, the wine will wash the Reese’s concoction into every crevice and warn instantly of any faults – just ask Chef Sue.

Reese's Peanut Butter Cup-12

Although the Reese's tasting confirmed my preference for the Miniatures, the preference did not hold up when the tasting was repeated with the Apothic Red. The first thing we noted when tasting the Reese's with the wine was the difference in chocolate flavor. The Apothic Red features deep, dark, luxurious chocolate notes while the Reese's is a less substantial milk chocolate. The result was a pleasant layering of chocolate flavors with the milk chocolate brightly sitting atop the dark chocolate base notes of the wine.

The less harmonious aspect of the tasting was the peanut butter. Both the original Reese's Peanut Butter Cup and the Miniature have healthy amounts of peanut butter while the Mini has a higher chocolate to peanut butter ratio. We concluded the higher chocolate content of the Mini was the most appealing pairing with the Apothic Red. The Reese's Pieces pairing was just awful and not recommended.

Reese's Peanut Butter Cup-9

So what can we conclude from this? First, Reese's does a fine job of offering a variety of forms varying the C/PB ratio to fit nearly any taste. For my tastes, the Miniature offers the optimal ratio. Reese's Pieces are an unholy abomination of the beloved peanut butter and chocolate combination. On the other hand, they must be selling, or they would be discontinued - to each his own. Finally, if you are looking for a fun pairing, try the absolutely spectacular Apothic Red with a Reese's Mini. It is whimsical, fun, and tasty.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


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