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This Week: Middle Eastern

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Matching wine to cuisines it isn't usually drunk with--Caribbean, Latin American, Asian--is the focus of this periodic feature, in which we pick a BYO restaurant, sample a few dishes, and recommend some bottles.

This week: Middle Eastern

There's a long line of Middle Eastern eateries on Kedzie north of Montrose, but this Persian one, run by the Naghavi family, is a standout. Kabobs of marinated chicken, filet mignon, and spiced ground beef come on fluffy mounds of saffron-flecked basmati rice alongside wonderfully charred onions, tomatoes, and green peppers. There are also standbys like hummus and baba ghannouge. Portions are generous, ingredients are high quality, and the hospitality is genuine. The vibrant flavors of this cuisine work with several grape varieties, most of which are highly acidic whites or medium-bodied reds. On this trip the consulting expert was Thomas Belelieu, general manager of the Whitehall Hotel and Molive restaurant and former head of the wine program for the Disney Corporation.

1. 2001 Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc (Casablanca Valley, Chile), $7.50-$8.50. The cool coastal climate gives this wine a crisp fruit character and zesty acidity. Aromas of green apple and grapefruit are followed by flavors of citrus and melon, which balance nicely with the fresh lemon juice and sweet onions in the Persian salad and the acidity of the yogurt-based kash-ke bademjan (eggplant, mint, and onion spread). (Sam's, Jewel)

2. 2000 Benziger Fume Blanc (Sonoma County), $9.50-$11.99. Also made from the sauvignon blanc grape, this California wine is aged sur lie--exposed to its own yeast and sediment for extended periods to build more structure. It's then briefly aged in oak barrels, just long enough to balance the wine's subtle grassiness and citrus flavor. The slightly creamy yet crisp finish makes a nice counterpoint to the nuttiness of the hummus, enhances the mild smokiness of the eggplant in the kash-ke bademjan, and plays up the lemon in the Persian salad. (DiCarlo's Armanetti, Binny's)

3. 2000 Luis Felipe Edwards Chardonnay (Colchagua, Chile), $6.99-$7.99. Another great value from Chile, this mildly oaky, medium-bodied chardonnay doesn't overwhelm the flavors of the joujeh (charbroiled chicken); its bouquet of banana, mango, and pineapple and its clean finish stand up nicely to the onions in the chicken's marinade. The hints of nutmeg and vanilla also give it enough structure to work with the koubideh (spiced beef kabobs), enhancing the vibrant flavors of the Persian seasonings. (Sam's, Wine Discount Center)

4. 1998 Markham Vineyards Merlot (Napa Valley), $16-$19. This extremely accessible merlot--a right-bank Bordeaux blend with small amounts of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and petite syrah--softens the spices in the ground beef with flavors of ripe berry and herbs. Unlike the chardonnay, which intensifies the Persian seasonings, this wine is a good choice for those who find them too strong. (DiCarlo's Armanetti, Binny's)

5. 1999 McDowell Grenache Rose (Mendocino), $8.99-$9.99. This unusual find is a softer version of the traditional Rhone Valley blend, composed mostly of grenache (from 50-year-old vines) with cinsault, roussanne, and syrah added to enhance both the color and structure. Its pink hue, sweet strawberry aroma, floral notes, and crisp acidity make it an interesting complement to the salmon, especially for lovers of moderately sweet wine. (Sam's, Wine Discount Center)

6. 2000 Estancia Pinnacles Pinot Noir (Monterey, CA), $12-$14. The sparkling fruitiness of this young California red balances the dustiness of the saffron rice. The high tannins cut through the fat in the salmon, enhancing its earthy flavor and downplaying its oiliness. Flavors of cherry, black raspberry, and cassis are layered with a hint of oak and spice from two years of aging in oak barrels, giving it a velvety finish. (DiCarlo's Armanetti, Dominick's, Binny's)

Binny's Beverage Depot 3000 N. Clark, 773-935-9400

DiCarlo's Armanetti 515 N. Western, 312-226-4600

Dominick's 424 W. Division, 312-274-1299

Jewel 1210 N. Clark, 312-944-6950

Sam's Wines and Spirits 1720 N. Marcey, 312-664-4394

Wine Discount Center 1826 N. Elston, 773-489-3454

Noon O Kabab

Fine Persian Food

4661 N. Kedzie 773-279-8899

Hummus(2)...$3.95

Kash-Ke Bademjan(1,2)...$4.95

Persian Salad(1,2)...$2.95

Joujeh Kabob(3)...$9.95

Koubideh Plate(3,4)...$8.95

Norweigan Salmon(5,6)...$12.75

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