Pairing Off Chicago Style

There’s a combative group who rise up against pineapple on pizza. Equally bellicose numbers rail against anchovies. But In a food group already rife with contention, few pies cause as much vocal skirmishing as Chicago style.

Yet the deep dish version is layered with the same ingredients. And of all pizza styles, it’s the one that most resembles a pie. I’ll leave my defense of this particular expression right there, however, for Chicago style does bring up an issue.

It can be a monster. Even a sturdy appetite can be taken down by one or two slices of the weighty beast. But Chicago deep-dish pizza—in this case the “New Original” from Heirloom Pizza Co. in Monterey—is alluring enough that you return for more.

It’s a simple composition: a pad of cheese, sausage, onion, mushroom and a spread of tomato sauce on top.The pizza carries a gentle sweetness brightened by a reserved tang, with an earthiness bolstered by hints of garlic and pepper.

The flavor profile would seem to make it simple when it comes to wine options. But there’s a problem.

“You’re having a heavy pizza,” says Eleanna Estrada at Sovino Wine Bar and Merchant in Monterey. “You don’t want to add to that.”

In other words, you can rule out big, hefty varietals. You’re already on the mat, dizzy and struggling, after the second slice.

Fortunately, the issue can be readily solved. “I would go with Pinot,” Estrada says. “It’s nice and light. It goes with most things.”

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And Monterey County is spilling over with stellar Pinot Noirs. Wrath, Morgan, Folktale, Dawn’s Dream, Talbott, Sextant, Testarossa, Mel Soleil—we could probably count hundreds of labels, from local winemakers to those who purchase Monterey County grapes. Sovino has a house label. There’s even a bottling of Sunny with a Chance of Flowers Pinot Noir.

So finding a reliable Pinot is not difficult. And for once in this column, it is possible to locate a worthy bottle that comes in under the food, cost wise.

At the suggestion of the folks at Total Wine & More in Sand City, I picked up the Rock View 2019 Reserve Pinot Noir. 

It’s rather fresh and elusive on the nose. The bouquet drifts between raspberries, pomegranate, cherries and a whisper of cranberries, yet with a more settled notion of mushrooms and a whiff of spice.

A sip reveals a lighter side. The fruits are soft, but with a brisk edge like fresh strawberry that develops mid-palate. Underneath reside hints of vanilla over an earthy fundament with traces of floral spice on the finish.

With the pizza the Rock View Pinot Noir becomes juicier, mingling easily with the tomato sauce. The finishing flourish empties itself into the sauce, as well. Already light, the wine becomes lean and fresh.

And that is just what you want when faced with five pounds of pizza. Or five pounds of casserole, if you refuse to grant it pizza status.

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