A flight of wine comprises three or more glasses of wine that share common characteristics and are served together for comparison and enjoyment. What constitutes a great flight? That’s the question I posed to Logan Silbert, wine director at Boulder’s Black Cat Bistro (1964 13th Street).
There are several ways to assemble an enjoyable and educational flight of wine. A flight can highlight wines made of the same grape grown in different regions — pinot noir from California, Tasmania, Germany and Chile, for example. A single-grape flight gives you a sense of how the terrain and climate — the terroir — affect the qualities of the wine. “You can travel the world in a glass,” says Silbert. “Wines are liquid maps.”
Alternately, a flight can compare different types of wines from the same area, such as a pinot noir, a merlot and a zinfandel from the Napa Valley. The terroir is the same, but the grape is different.
Another way to take a “wine journey from around the world,” Silbert continues, is to pair different wines with courses throughout a meal. At Black Cat, he typically starts with a sparkling wine to open the palate, moves to a light red or full-bodied white wine, then pours a full-bodied red wine for the main course and finishes with a dessert wine.
Planning a coursed meal with paired wines? Silbert recommends that you “drink what you like but don’t be afraid to venture out.” That’s the first rule. Rather than simply follow the typical standard — red with red meat, white with fish or chicken — focus on the sauce and be creative. A good pairing will enhance the taste of the food. Serving chicken with a zesty lemon glaze? Ask your local wine store for a wine with citrus notes. Making a chicken dish with tangy tomato and rosemary sauce? Perhaps a rosé or light red might work. Flavor, not color, matters most.
Another way to pair wines with courses is to think in terms of geography. “What grows together, goes together,” Silbert notes. Consider pairing Colorado beef with a Colorado wine, or look for a wine grown along the sea coast to pair with ocean fish.
Although most people start with the dish and then think of the wine, Silbert recommends thinking about the pairing from the opposite direction. Pick a wine and then consider what dish would go with it to bring out the best flavors in both.
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Finally, there’s no bad type of wine. “There’s a time and place for all wines,” the wine expert concludes. “Open up and try something new.”
Speaking of flights, one of my favorite down-to-earth wine bars, Flights Wine Cafe, has moved from its original home at 116 Stone Street in Morrison to 408 Bear Creek Avenue, the town's quaint main drag. Finding the bar and parking is much easier now than at the old location. Flights officially reopened on January 6 and is still settling into the space, but you can choose from more than 100 wines, with more than 35 of them available by the glass.The bar also offers five fun flights: Fireplace Reds, Chilly Whites, Tickle My Nose Bubbles, the Choice of Kings and Queens, and a choose-your-own-wine flight. Be sure to order a charcuterie-and-cheese combo board for a fine food pairing.
Flights is open Tuesday through Thursday from 4 to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 4 to 10 p.m., and Sunday from 4 to 8 p.m. Call the cafe at 303-697-0492 or visit the Flights Wine Cafe website for more information.