For about as long as I’ve known anything about wine, I’ve known of a handful of “classic” food and wine pairings. One is caviar and Champagne—although increasingly I’m of the opinion that while Champagne is very good with caviar, iced premium vodka is even better. Another classic food and wine match is Chablis with oysters, perhaps the quintessential food and wine pairing.
Lately, I’ve found myself becoming addicted to raw oysters on the half shell. There are many ways to prepare oysters, but I’m somewhat of a purist and like mine raw and undefiled by anything other than a scant drop or two of mignonette sauce, a simple but effective dressing made from red-wine vinegar, minced shallots and white pepper. Cocktail sauces and Tabasco—which I love on almost everything else—tend to obliterate the flavor of raw oysters. What I want from my oyster is that unique briny taste of the sea.
I was in a wine bar recently where three Kumamoto oysters ran $12. If my elementary-school math serves, that’s $4 an oyster! I love the little devils, but not so much that I’ll empty my bank account for a bushel of them. A much better deal is “More Oysters Mondays” at the Cottonwood and downtown Market Street Oyster Bars, where oysters are only 49 cents apiece every Monday. The Oyster Bar typically has a variety of oysters available, but I keep coming back to those plump and juicy little Kumamotos. At the Oyster Bar, I tend to drink Chateau de la Ragotiere Muscadet de Sevre et Maine Sur Lie Vielles Vignes, since it’s available by the glass. This French wine from the Loire is rich, very acidic, steely and very good with raw oysters.
However, I still believe in the marriage of Chablis and oysters; the combination of these gifts from nature is just about unbeatable. Chablis is an area of France located in the far northern section of Burgundy, between Paris and Dijon. Chablis wine from the area is made from Chardonnay grapes. But unlike the lush Cte d’Or white Burgundies produced some 80 miles to the south, Chablis wines are crisp, light and dry, with a distinct stony mineral flavor. And that makes them wonderful with oysters.
Here’s why: Chablis sits on a limestone formation called Kimmeridgean. In Chablis’ best vineyards, you’ll find ping-pong-ball size chunks of limestone in the soil. If we recall our “terroir” lesson, we’ll remember that the soil in which grapevines are planted contributes greatly to the ultimate flavor of the grapes. In this case, the Chardonnay grapes of Chablis tend to exhibit far different flavor profiles than those of most of Burgundy to the south. Due to the soil in which it begins its austere life, Chablis tastes flinty and very clean, with lots of acidity and not much forward fruit. It’s often described as “steely.” Not coincidentally, the Kimmeridgean slopes of Chablis are largely made up of fossilized bivalves—including oysters—from the Jurassic Period. So it’s no surprise that wine beginning its life in soil made up in part of oyster shells should pair so perfectly with oysters.
In part because Chardonnay is so temperamental and difficult to grow in Chablis, the wines from the region tend to be expensive. However, you can find some reasonably priced Chablis wines in Utah. I think the best deal is Chablis CuvÃ©e La Chablisienne ($15.95). The wine is fermented in 100 percent stainless steel and has a complex nose but is very delicate on the tongue. It’s incredibly well balanced. When I’m feeling flush, I might opt for the more robust La Chablisienne Mont de Millieu ($28.95), which is a premier cru aged in both stainless steel and old oak. I’d also recommend the crisp and steely Chablis La Chanfleure from Maison Louis Latour ($18.95).
I hope to see you as I belly up to the Oyster Bar for my 49-cent bivalves. Food Stoned & Loving It 1CD2169B-2BF4-55D0-F1F31EEEEAFEA4FF 2007-06-11 16:05:36.0 1 1 0 2004-12-09 00:00:00.0 2 0
Last week I tasted what I found to be an inspired Chenin Blanc. It wasn’t from France, California or South Africa, as you might expect. No, this Chenin Blanc came from Mexico. And if not for my companion’s propensity for buying wines based on their pretty labels, I’d probably never have gotten around to trying this one. Don’t get me wrong—when it’s good, I adore Chenin Blanc. But from Mexico?
Like most people, I was introduced to the Chenin Blanc grape via Vouvray, the crisp, well-balanced wine of France’s Loire Valley. Due to its easy drinkability and medium dryness, I think Chenin Blanc gets a somewhat undeserved rap as a “training-wheels” wine. That is, not really for serious wine drinkers.
But in fact, Chenin Blanc partners very well with food, especially chicken and seafood, as well as light pasta dishes and composed salads, which can be difficult to match with wine. It’s true that the tendency of Chenin Blanc winegrowers to overproduce and over-irrigate can result in bland, undistinguished wines. And with Chenin Blanc, there are plenty of those. But a really good Chenin Blanc—say, from a French producer like Benoit Gautier, Champalou, Nicolas Joly or Domaine Godineau (to name just a few)—can be a truly memorable bottle of wine and one that even cellars surprisingly well. Great Chenin Blanc is age worthy.
I might have been fooled by the Monte Xanic Chenin Blanc Late Harvest 1999 I had last week, mistaking it for French Vouvray, had I not seen the bottle (with the pretty label) first. It had all the characteristic traits of good Chenin Blanc from France or California: medium acidity and body, with lots of the fruity apple, pear and cantaloupe flavors typical of Chenin Blanc. It wasn’t bone-dry like France’s SavenniÃ©res, but rather more like a slightly sweetish (demi sec) Vouvray, with a subtle honey finish. That’s a lot to cheer about in a $9.95 wine.
Monte Xanic Chenin Blanc is produced in Mexico’s Valle de Guadalupe, about 70 miles south of the U.S.-Mexican border, in northern Baja California. And it makes sense that the Chenin Blanc grape should do well there, since the vines are vigorous and resistant to disease. More importantly, Chenin Blanc thrives in climates that are too warm for many other grape varietals. The Monte Xanic winery and vineyards—on an estate of 160 acres—is bordered by a coastal mountain range that separates the vineyards from the Pacific Ocean, resulting in a Mediterranean-type microclimate well-suited to growing Chenin Blanc, as well as the Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah produced by Monte Xanic.
But if you think Monte Xanic is just a quaint little Mexican winery, you should know that among the awards they’ve garnered are a Bronze Medal in France’s Challenge International du Vin for Monte Xanic Chardonnay, plus a Gold Medal and the Civart Prix d’Excellence for their Cabernet Sauvignon. So at least the French are aware that Mexico is capable of producing serious wines.
We enjoyed our bottle of Monte Xanic Chenin Blanc at a new Park City restaurant called Sushi Maru. The versatility of the wine nicely complimented the sushi, sashimi and nigiri of Chefs Michael “Mikey” Aguilar-Okumura and Matt Fischer. An even better partner for this Chenin Blanc would, I think, be a simple roasted chicken with fresh herbs and lemon.
Sips: I also tasted Hogue 2003 Chenin Blanc from Washington’s Columbia Valley this week. Like Monte Xanic, Hogue produces well-balanced (sugar and acidity) Chenin Blanc with a range of fruit flavors from orange and lemon to melon and peach, plus a hint of honey and vanilla. This one should be great with Southeast Asian cuisine. Food The Full Monte 1CD21850-2BF4-55D0-F1FBFFFB573138DB 2007-06-11 16:05:37.0 1 1 0 2004-11-04 00:00:00.0 0 0
Every year at this time, it’s the same old problem: What does the discriminating vampire or vampiress drink for Halloween? And what do nocturnal counts and countesses serve their Halloween party guests, both the dead and undead? Since bloodsucking and even blood sipping is frowned upon, perhaps a blood red wine is something that Halloween party goers could sink their teeth into. At my local Park City UDABC store, I recently ran across the perfect beverage to sip while doling out sweets to devilish little ghouls. There, in the front of the Kimball Junction wine store, was a coffin full of Vampire wine.
During the Halloween season, Vampire wines—imported from Transylvania—are reported to outsell all other imported wines; they’re said to be the top grossing Eastern European wines sold in the United States. I’m not sure if that information is more trick than treat, but it is true that the Vampire wines of Romania take center stage during October at wine-selling supermarkets nationwide and even in our Utah wine stores. They are budget-priced wines, selling here for $7.95 per bottle. Vampire produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Pinot Grigio with the latter two—Merlot and Pinot Grigio—available in Utah.
Before you write off Vampire wines as nothing more than a nifty Halloweentime marketing gimmick, you should know that Transylvania (and more generally Romania) is home to some of the best vineyards on the planet, dating back to the fourth century B.C. I’m not certain of his wine-judging credentials, but even Plato proclaimed Transylvanian vineyards to be the best in the world. Indeed, according to Transylvania Imports, the Romanian wines of Transylvania were so renowned worldwide that in the first century B.C., King Burebista, in order to stave off foreign invaders, ordered those magnificent vineyards destroyed. Fortunately for modern-day wine lovers, many of the vines escaped destruction and some thrive to this day. Transylvania is blessed with marvelous soil and optimal climactic conditions, and Romanian wine production combines old-growth agriculture with contemporary winemaking techniques, resulting in wines that are of high quality for their price.
Vampire Merlot is a dark (blood red?) wine with lots of fruit and some pepper spiciness. There’s plenty of ripe plum flavor, and it’s a very drinkable wine, although I found it a little lacking. It’s as if there’s something missing from the center of every sip—an odd hollowness. I hesitate to use the term to describe a Vampire wine, but I’d say it’s a little anemic.
Vampire Pinot Grigio has more character than many blander versions of Pinot Grigio, quite dry and crisp with a flowery bouquet. I’d drink it with light pasta dishes and serve Vampire Pinot Grigio or Merlot with most four-corpse meals.
Sips: On Wednesday, Nov. 10, Fleming’s will host a special “The Best of the Best” wine dinner which will feature wines rated 90 points or higher by the Wine Spectator. The recipient of 23 Awards of Excellence from Wine Spectator, Fleming’s will celebrate that achievement with a menu prepared by Executive Chef Russell Skall, with each course flanked by highly-rated wines. In addition, each guest will receive a copy of Wine Spectator and a free three-month subscription to the magazine. Winners of a wine trivia contest will be awarded “a bottle of something special.” Dinner courses for Fleming’s The Best of the Best Wine Dinner include Mussels Rockefeller paired with Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc 2004, chorizo pesto-stuffed pork loin with Swanson Alexis Napa Valley 2001 and a dessert of pumpkin bread pudding with orange cream sauce accompanied by Inniskillin Vidal Niagara Peninsula Oak Aged Icewine 2002. The cost is $60 per person and $25 for the Ã la carte wine selections. For information and reservations, phone 355-3704. Food Let It Bleed 1CD21998-2BF4-55D0-F1FBFDBC78A94385 2007-06-11 16:05:37.0 1 1 0 2004-10-28 00:00:00.0 1 0
Every now and then, I seem to get distracted by new and interesting wine, and sometimes lose sight of my old favorites. They simply fall off of the radar screen for a while. One such wine is Trapiche Malbec, from the Mendoza region of Argentina. If you’ve ever tasted Argentine Malbec, chances are it was from Trapiche. Trapiche more or less owns the Malbec market here, and rightly so. It’s not that there aren’t other good Malbecs out there, but priced at $9.95, a wine like Trapiche Oak Cask 2002 Malbec is pretty hard to beat. A recent conversation about a wedding where Malbec was served alongside filet mignon triggered my memory of this wonderful wine, so I hurried to my local wine store and bought some.
With wines that are generally even less expensive than Chile’s, it’s smartly frugal to look to Argentina for something to sip. The majority of Argentina’s vineyards are located in the state of Mendoza, where Malbec grapes have been grown since they made the trip from France to South America in the mid-1800s. Without getting too technical, the high altitude of the Mendoza region—combined with thin air, plentiful sun and cool nights—produces grapes that have good acidity and great balance. And a bonus for New World Malbec growers: Frost isn’t an issue in the Mendoza region as it is for French producers of Malbec.
The result, typically, are wines that are lush and fruity, well-rounded, with good acidity, that are often described as “velvety” in texture. They are bold, but soft wines and easy to drink young, although they also age very well. What more could you ask from wines that are usually priced under $10?
The Trapiche Oak Cask 2002 Malbec I tasted last week is no exception. Like most Argentine Malbec, this one was aged in oak barrels (for nine months), imparting a hint of vanilla that helps balance a slightly smoky taste. This is a big, rich wine but one that’s easy to drink thanks to very soft tannins. It’s full of plum and blackberry flavors with aromas of spice and tobacco.
I think that this particular wine is an exceptional one to pair with a range of foods. It’s big and rich enough to drink with grilled red meats or pasta with hearty sauces. I’d love to try it with braised beef cheeks and farfalle pasta or gnocchi, for example. But the Trapiche 2002 is also soft enough to work with something more subtle, like veal stew or even grilled swordfish. One thing is for certain: Serve Trapiche Malbec to your guests without showing them the bottle, and they’ll never guess that they’re drinking a $10 wine. It’ll be our little secret.
SIPS: Congratulations to the Utah Brewers Cooperative (Squatters and Wasatch) who walked away with a mug full of medals at last week’s Great American Beer Festival in Denver. According to Squatters’ co-owner Peter Cole, Squatters won gold medals at the GABF for their India Pale Ale, Provo Girl Pilsner, and Black Forest Swartzbier. In addition, Squatters was given a silver medal for Chasing Tail Golden Ale, and took home a bronze medal for their Vienna Lager. Wasatch won a bronze medal for Wasatch Hefeweizen.
Monsoon Thai Bistro will host the second in their series of wine dinners on Sunday, Oct. 17. According to Monsoon owner Keith Chan, the October wine dinner will “showcase versatile Pinot clones.” Chef de cuisine Khaophone Thongphanh will present a six-course dinner priced at $20 with optional wine pairings also priced at $20. For additional information and reservations, phone 583-5339. Food Baby Got Malbec 1CD21D13-2BF4-55D0-F1FCE6E7CA0B4F9B 2007-06-11 16:05:38.0 1 1 0 2004-10-14 00:00:00.0 1 0
In last week’s column, I discussed the differences between RosÃ© and blush wines. Essentially, there is none. RosÃ© is blush wine, and vice versa. There’s really no difference in the process of making say, Beringer White Merlot and a fancy French RosÃ©.
As I detailed last week, what makes a blush wine a blush wine is the method whereby grapes such as Merlot or Zinfandel or Syrah are left with skins intact for a few hours in the initial distilling process, giving the “juice” the distinctive spectrum of pinkish colors that characterize RosÃ© and blush wines. These low-cost wines provide good wine matches for such foods as baby back ribs with sweet BBQ sauce, cheeseburgers from the grill and baked ham.
In the summertime especially, I find myself turning often to blush/RosÃ© wines. The sweeter American White Zinfandels are terrific as aperitifs or on the porch, in the hot tub, or at the beach. So before the warm weather vanishes completely, here are some notes on the RosÃ©/blush wines I’ve been quaffing this summer.
Beringer White Zinfandel ($6.95) is to blush wine as Budweiser is to beer—it’s ubiquitous. For its White Zin, Beringer leaves the Zinfandel grapes after crushing in contact with the juice for three hours, which gives the wine that very light-colored pinkish hue that wine experts love to hate. The wine itself is definitely on the sweet side. It’s an uncomplicated wine to serve very cold. Opt for Beringer White Merlot instead.
Frankly, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Buehler White Zinfandel ($7.95). For a White Zin, this wine has a lot of fruit and body. It’s relatively (for White Zinfandel) dry with a hint of strawberry, watermelon and apple. The zingy acidity of Buehler White Zinfandel makes it a good choice to drink with chips and salsa.
One of my favorite American blush wines is Montevina Nebbiolo Rosato, which is particularly attractive at $4.95. Made from Nebbiolo grapes (hence the name) and fermented in both stainless steel and oak, the copper-colored wine has pink grapefruit and pomegranate flavors. It’s a nice match for spicy Asian dishes.
The skins of Syrah and Grenache (70 percent/30 percent) grapes are left to macerate overnight with the juice that becomes Tortoise Creek RosÃ© D’une Nuit, producing an almost classic light-ruby RosÃ© color. I always have a bottle or two of this $7.95 screw-top wine in my fridge to drink out on the porch by itself or along with a grilled-cheese sandwich. This is a zippy, dry-tasting RosÃ© that captures the spirit of southwest France with fruity raspberry and strawberry flavors and a nifty peppery finish. Like most Tortoise Creek wines, this is a definite “best buy.”
One of the few RosÃ© wines that don’t appeal to me is South Africa’s Goats do Roam RosÃ© ($7.95), with a nasty diesel/burnt rubber odor that may come from Pinotage. I’ll pass on this one.
On the other hand, Cirque du RosÃ© ($7.95) from Washington’s Snoqualmie Vineyards is a real winner. This is a medium-dry RosÃ© made from Cabernet grapes with abundant strawberry flavors. The subtle spiciness and its medium body would make this a good match even for something as hefty as grilled pepper steak.
The Regaleali Rosato I had recently with Arturo’s tortilla soup at Chimayo was a slam-dunk. This Italian RosÃ© is surprisingly dry, with lots of summer fruit and spiciness. It’s a little pricey at $15.95.
Grenache, Marsanne, Cinsault, Sangiovese, Syrah, Viogner, French Colombard ... if it’s a grape it’s probably included in Bonny Doon’s Vin Gris de Cigare ($10.95). Lively cherry and berry flavors characterize this unabashedly Rhone-style California RosÃ©.
When I think of classic, dry French RosÃ© I think of Tavel RosÃ© Chateau d’Aqueria ($17.95). This Grenache-based wine is flooded with ripe cherry flavors, and finishes dry as stone. As far as I’m concerned, this is the gold standard for RosÃ©. Food Think Pink 1CD21F16-2BF4-55D0-F1F9FE60357CAB40 2007-06-11 16:05:38.0 1 1 0 2004-09-23 00:00:00.0 1 0
In last week’s Grapevine, I mentioned not much enjoying a South African RosÃ© called Goats do Roam. And I like Goats do Roam’s red wine even less. The reason is the inclusion of a South African grape that seems to be growing in popularity: Pinotage. In a recent e-mail exchange with a certified wine expert pal of mine, he referred to Pinotage as “a nasty and I do mean foul grape which is noteworthy for its aromas of gas and burnt rubber tires.” Bingo! That’s precisely what I disliked about both red and RosÃ© Goats do Roam—they each had a finish that reminded me of diesel fuel. To me, that’s not a good thing to find in a wine.
So, as an experiment, I picked up a bottle of South African Fairview Pinotage ($11.95) and that same diesel/burnt rubber aftertaste was there in spades. It sort of creeps up through your sinuses like wine passing wind. I’ll use the Fairview Pinotage the next time I make beef stew and hope that the diesel fumes disappear in the cooking. To be fair, however, Goats do Roam gets rave reviews as a “Cotes du Rhone”-style wine from many writers. So perhaps that burnt-rubber finish is something that appeals to others. I haven’t read anything about the Fairview Pinotage.
Pinotage is a bastard grape, of sorts. It’s really a cross-breeding of Pinot Noir and what South Africans originally thought was Shiraz, but turned out to be Cinsault. The result is a very rustic wine (Pinotage) that is a bit metallic with cheese flavors and that diesel/burning-rubber finish. Because this wine is so brutal, it’s often aged in new oak in an attempt to either soften the wine or to hide what is essentially a flawed varietal: Pinotage. Or, at least, that’s my opinion. I suppose Pinotage has its fans; I just haven’t met any of them.
But don’t take my word. I suggest you pick up a bottle of Goats do Roam or a straight-up Pinotage like Fairview and taste it for yourself. You can always cook up a nice beef daube with it.
SIPS: On Oct. 13, Greg Neville of Lugano Restaurant and Will Hamill from Uinta Brewing Co. will pair up for their fourth annual Brewer’s Dinner at Lugano. The six-course feast will feature unique dishes from Chef Neville’s kitchen paired with a range of Uinta brews. Past menus included Uinta India Pale Ale with seared day boat scallops, Cutthroat duck confit and flat iron steak served with Uinta Barley Wine reduction. Uinta will also be introducing its new Belgian Style Pale Ale at the Brewer’s Dinner. The dinner cost is $39 per person, plus a small additional fee for optional beer pairings. For more information and reservations, phone Amanda at Lugano at 412-9994.
• Don’t drink before you fly! At the Philadelphia International Airport last week, I had some time to kill and decided to take in an inning or two of a ball game in the airport bar. So I ordered a glass of Pinot Grigio and settled in for some baseball. When the bartender returned with my wine and change, I said to him, “Excuse me, but I gave you $20.” “Yeah,” he said, “with the price of wine here you should get a lap dance with it!” He was right: I paid $9.08 with tax for a glass of Bella Sera Pinot Grigio, poured from a 1.5 liter bottle that I’m sure was purchased at a wholesale price of $4 or $5. But even at the retail price of $10 per bottle, that $10 bottle would equal about 14 glasses of very average Pinot Grigio at $9.08 per glass, a profit of approximately $117! Food Burning Rubber 1CD21FA3-2BF4-55D0-F1F027E4B2EF9AC9 2007-06-11 16:05:39.0 1 1 0 2004-09-30 00:00:00.0 0 0
It takes balls to call a wine Genesis—assuming, that is, that you’ve not named it after the British prog-rock group. The first time I saw a bottle of Hogue Genesis, it struck me as a little heavy-handed. You know, “In the beginning, God created Viognier...” Pasting something as bold and biblical as the word “Genesis” on your bottle of $15 wine seems just a wee bit provocative. But it turns out that the wines of the Hogue Vineyards Genesis series have a more humble pedigree; they’re named after Mike Hogue’s original Yakima Valley, Wash., vineyard planted in 1974, which was called Genesis.
I recently had the opportunity to taste a few of the new Hogue Genesis wines, which were launched late last year. Of course, most of us are familiar with Hogue Cellars’ economically priced fruit-forward wines—the ones that sell for $6-$8. These are wines that you’ll often find in my picnic basket. And I’ve also always felt that Hogue’s reserve wines were good bangs-for-the-buck and often outclassed boutique bottles selling for three or four times the price.
With Genesis, Hogue is sowing a new middle ground. Hogue Genesis wines sell for around $15—more than the mainstream Hogue offerings but less than their reserve wines. I was surprised at the quality I found in the medium-priced Genesis wines I sampled. Most of them taste like a lot more than $15.
The Genesis red wines in particular—Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon—have nicely integrated tannins and surprising complexity for the price. The Genesis whites—Chardonnay and Viognier—are good, too. But the red wines from Hogue Genesis, especially Genesis Merlot, score high marks for their price point.
The idea behind the Genesis series is to create premium wines blended from select eastern Washington Columbia Valley fruit. The key word here is “select.” Since Hogue produces more than 450,000 cases of wine per year, not all of it is coming from select grapes. Without getting bogged down in a lot of detail about the difference between Cabernet grapes from Walla Walla versus the Wahluke Slope, let’s just say that Hogue winemakers like David Forsyth search out the best Eastern Washington grapes they can find for Genesis wines. Says Forsyth, “We search out the vineyards and microclimates that express the unique combination of climate, soil and sunlight found in the Columbia Valley. We strive to bring out the exceptional characteristics of eastern Washington terroir in our Genesis wines.”
For the most part, Forsyth and his colleagues at Genesis succeed. I recently tried a bottle of Genesis Syrah with grilled spicy Italian sausage and peppers, and the pairing was a real winner. There’s a hint of black pepper in this wine (from Lemberger grapes) which, along with oak spiciness, makes Genesis Syrah a very good choice for grilled meats and pizza. It’s a spicy wine, but smooth on the palate. Soft, silky tannins also make Genesis Merlot an extremely appealing wine. It’s a rich, complex wine full of classic Merlot flavors: cassis, black cherries, plums and black olives. A hint of clove and a sweet oak finish round out the enjoyment of this great value. Genesis Merlot would pair nicely with coq au vin.
Of the Genesis whites, I prefer the Viognier over Chardonnay. There are luscious peach, vanilla and cream flavors in this barrel fermented (in French oak) Viognier, made from 100 percent Viognier grapes. It’s so tasty on its own that I’d serve it as an aperitif prior to dinner.
SIPS: Fleming’s recently unveiled a new list of 100 wines by the glass, which includes Perrier-JouÃ«t Brut English CuvÃ©e Champagne, Seghesio Zinfandel Sonoma County and Jurtschitsch Sonnhof Gruner Veltliner. Fleming’s also added 25 new wines to its already enviable reserve wine list. Food ... And It Was Good Ted Scheffler
Selecting a wine to drink while eating sushi and sashimi dishes at a restaurant like Takashi (see Dining) can get a bit tricky. Maybe that’s why so many people opt for a tall bottle or can or Kirin or Sapporo lager instead. Or they choose to stick with sake. The subtle flavors of sushi rice and raw fish can easily be overpowered by wine. Even Sauvignon Blanc—a white wine that’s often the perfect match for shellfish and other seafood—can clobber something as delicate as raw scallops or “amaebi,” the sweet shrimp found at Japanese sushi bars.
Then again, when matching wine with sushi, you always need to take into account potentially strong sauces like the mayonnaise-based spicy sauces that are often incorporated into, for example, spicy tuna rolls. Not to mention the wild- card flavors that accompany fresh or pickled ginger and incendiary wasabi. And what about something like tempura? Deep-fried foods require a wine with enough sweetness and acidity to cut through the fat.
So what I look for at sushi restaurants is a wine that’s first and foremost versatile. This means that I usually zero in on the Riesling section of the wine list. Yup, Riesling. I think Riesling gets a bad rap because so many people think it’s sickeningly sweet. And yes, some Riesling is overly sweet. Riesling ranges from very dry to very sweet, and telling one from another is not always so easy. So here’s a tip: When choosing a Riesling to drink with a meal, if you’re looking at German Rieslings (where the best are made) look for the word “trocken” on the label. Trocken means “dry.” Also look for the word “dry” on labels of Riesling made in America. Dry Riesling is most suitable with food. Still, even the driest Riesling is rarely really bone dry. Most Rieslings—even the driest—still have enough fruity sweetness to work with tempura dishes and to knife through spicy sauces.
The reason that Riesling is such a good choice for food matching is that the Riesling grape has a sugar-acid balance that you rarely find in other varietals. And because it’s relatively low in alcohol, Riesling leaves plenty of room for food. It won’t fill you up while you’re enjoying light sushi and sashimi dishes. It’s typically light-bodied and refreshing. But although Riesling is light-bodied, it’s also loaded with fruit. The flavors of green apples, citrus, peaches and grapefruit are frequently found in Riesling. But it’s the acid balance in Riesling that makes it such a great choice for a wide range of foods, including Japanese cuisine.
Although I wouldn’t recommend Riesling with hearty meat dishes, there’s not much else it won’t pair nicely with, from pork to seafood to chicken and duck. A versatile wine like Bonny Doon’s Pacific Rim Riesling would bridge dishes from Takashi’s pan roasted Muscovy duck with spicy orange-ginger sauce to his “nasu,” miso-grilled eggplant with diced cucumber and tomato. Riesling really is a perfect wine to drink with a gamut of Asian foods, as well as simple poached or raw fish. It’s also great with oysters, veal, roasted chicken and lobster.
In addition to Riesling’s versatility, there’s another reason to consider drinking it frequently: It’s inexpensive. A good bottle of Riesling from Germany, Alsace, Washington or New York will cost you a fraction of what a comparable bottle of Chardonnay will set you back. Most are under $20 and there are plenty of good ones in the $12 range. So the next time you belly up to the sushi bar, try a glass or bottle of Riesling. Food Rice With Riesling 1CD2209D-2BF4-55D0-F1FD554EC86B6CCE 2007-06-11 16:05:39.0 1 1 0 2004-07-08 00:00:00.0 2 0
Eating barbecued foods presents us with unique beverage pairing problems and challenges. Typically with barbecue, there are smoky flavors to deal with as well as spicy ones. To make things more complicated, we often slather sweet and/or smoky (and again, sometimes spicy) sauces on our barbecued meats and poultry. So no longer is a piece of chicken necessarily a good candidate for white wine, especially if it’s charred or smoked on the grill and then doused in a sweet, sticky—and probably burnt—barbecue sauce. On the other hand, red wines—with the possible exception of RosÃ©—don’t really work too well with barbecue either. The smoky and spicy flavors typical of barbecued foods tend to react with the tannins and alcohol in red wines to create the sensation of an inferno on the tongue. What’s needed then is something to help douse the fire and tame the smokiness of foods like barbecued beef brisket, pulled pork, chicken with barbecue sauce and baby back ribs.
Vinegar and mustard-based sauces pose yet another challenge, since their acidity will clash with just about anything that comes in a 750 ml bottle. A smoky pulled pork sandwich with Carolina mustard sauce is a beverage pairing nightmare. But before you reach for a Mountain Dew or Yoo Hoo, don’t forget about the chilled golden liquid that’s a staple of many backyard barbecues: beer.
There’s nothing that accompanies barbecued food better than beer, whether it’s an ice-cold Corona with a smoked turkey leg, or a Guinness alongside tender beef brisket sloshed with sweet BBQ sauce. But for my money, the all-around winner in the barbecue beverage department is India Pale Ale. IPA has enough alcohol and backbone to be able to hold its own in the company of barbecued foods, and the crispiness and hoppy character of an India Pale Ale can cut right through those bold smoky and spicy flavors. A more timid lager might be really refreshing while standing in the sun and tending to a hot metal smoker. But it’ll taste thin and wimpy in tandem with food from that smoker.
With apologies to Keystone, I am a bitter beer type of guy. I love the in-your-face hoppiness of most IPAs. I’ve sampled most of the India Pale Ales available locally; believe me, it was my pleasure. By the way, since IPAs are by definition high in alcohol (they run about 6 percent), you won’t find a real IPA in your neighborhood grocery store. You’ll need to go to a state liquor/wine store to purchase a true IPA.
Squatters IPA, which weighs in at 6 percent alcohol, is a deep amber-toned beer that’s a little less hoppy than say, Pyramid IPA, with traces of sweet esters (clove and banana flavors that are usually associated with hefeweissen) and well-balanced Cascade hops. That makes Squatters IPA good for lighter barbecued foods like chicken or pork, since the hops are evident but not overwhelming.
At the other end of the hops spectrum is the ultra-hoppy Pyramid India Pale Ale, with 6.7 percent alcohol and serious hops. The brewer describes it as a “powerful beer for bold tastes.” That’s accurate. Pyramid clobbers you with a generous dose of Tomahawk hops.
Of all the IPAs available locally, my favorite is Anderson Valley Hop Ottin’ IPA. It’s a strong IPA at 7 percent alcohol, with a beautiful copper color and silky head. The hop attack at the top and back of the mouth is balanced perfectly with a sweetish malt finish. It would be my choice to drink with smoked sausage, barbecued baby back ribs and pulled Carolina pork.
SIPS: Wine broker Geoffrey Andrews pointed out a case of brain lock in my recent “Kiwi Juice” column. Marlborough, New Zealand, is located at the north end of the South Island, not the south end as I’d written. Food Beer-B-Cue 1CD22139-2BF4-55D0-F1F7D39C85ABA715 2007-06-11 16:05:39.0 1 1 0 2004-07-01 00:00:00.0 5 0
Adam D. Crenshaw
Apparently, the phrase “Greek to me” applies not just to myself, but to wine experts globally. I couldn’t locate a single reference to Greek wine in Oz Clarke’s Wine Advisor, Wine For Dummies, Jancis Robinson’s Tasting Pleasure, or even Andrea Immer’s Wine Buying Guide for Everyone, which has extensive listings of wines from Spain and Italy. Is this an indication that Grecian wines aren’t worthy? Well, maybe. But I think it’s more a matter of lack of familiarity, and the fact that only recently have Greek winemakers begun to apply modern technology to the art of winemaking.
Maybe Grecian grapes aren’t the best, but apparently they were the first. Based on artifacts from the Mycenaean and Minoan civilizations, it is believed that wine in Greece dates back to about 4,000 BC. And of course, the ancient Greeks held hedonistic festivals and celebrations in honor of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine.
Today, Greece is best known for Retsina, the infamous Greek white wine (usually made from the Savatiano and Roditis grape varietals) to which a small quantity of pine resin is added at the beginning of fermentation. Restina is, admittedly, an acquired taste. But if you’d like to try some, Boutari Retsina is readily available here in Utah for a price that encourages experimentation: $5.95. The crisp, piney taste of Retsina would be a good foil for ultra-garlicky Greek “mezethes” like “scordalia” (see Dining).
Another good Greek wine to drink with garlicky Greek dishes is the very appealing Boutari Santorino. At $14.80, Boutari Santorino is at the upper end of the Greek wine price scale. Greek wines tend to be cheap, very cheap. In fact, Boutari Santorino is the most expensive Greek wine I’ve seen in this state. It’s bone dry and tremendously acidic, with lovely peachy scents. Santorini is an island in the Aegean which is almost entirely one big vineyard. The chalk, pumice, lava and shale soil on Santorini infuses its wines with the flavors of that unique “terroir”, Boutari Santorino is quite chalky on the palate, for instance. Since Santorini produces what are generally considered to be Greece’s finest white wines, Boutari Santorino is a good place to start getting into Greek wines.
Admittedly, I’ve not tasted a wide variety of Greek wines. But with the guidance of Snowbird’s Greek food and wine expert, Alain Viny, I’ve made my way through enough of them to know what I like. Some of my favorite Grecian wines are those from Nemea, a vineyard about an hour from Corinth, in northeastern Peloponnisos. For example, there’s a very nice RosÃ© from Nemea produced by Vassiliou Vineyards. It’s got pretty strawberry and raspberry flavors and is wonderful with rosemary-crusted lamb. I also enjoyed an interesting Nemean white wine last week at Aristo’s restaurant called Ktima Bizios. It’s from the Asprokambos Valley of Nemea and has interesting apple and herbal flavors. I especially enjoyed Ktima Bizios paired with the pork souvlaki at Aristo’s.
But Nemea is best known for fruit-packed red wines made from the Agiorgitko grape variety. Probably the tastiest example I’ve come across is Koutsogiannis Melanas, which is loaded with plum and blueberry flavors and a finish of black pepper. It’s almost too rich and fruity to pair well with most Greek foods, although you could try it with grilled meats. But it’s a slam-dunk with French steak au poivre. What the hell—why not open a bottle of Greek wine the next time you eat French?
Sips: Every Monday, The Wine Bar at Baci hosts Metro Martini Mondays, featuring signature martinis like The Maserati, Roman Rum Punch and The Drunk Monk for a mere $3.75 a pop. Food Greek to Me 1CD221D5-2BF4-55D0-F1F57E5E4D954915 2007-06-11 16:05:39.0 1 1 0 2004-06-24 00:00:00.0 12 0
When I settled in on the sofa for last week’s MLB All-Star game, I hadn’t expected that the best thing about the evening would be a bottle of Prosecco. Well, that and the Old Bay seasoned shrimp and pot of dirty rice I’d managed to scavenge from the depths of my pantry and fridge. The Prosecco somehow even got me through those hideous, tacky, desperate, lame, desperate, blatant and desperate attempts of Fox TV to push American Idol upon All-Star game viewers by forcing us to endure American Idol champs singing “The Star Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America.” This crass display of commercialism and bad taste, more than anything I’ve encountered lately, leads me to believe God is dead. Note to self: Get Tivo.
But I really did enjoy my Prosecco. So maybe God just has a very warped sense of humor and the Big Guy in the Sky was just screwing with us. And after all, do we really need to hear another rendition of Kate Smith’s “God Bless America”? I don’t think so.
Prosecco is a flirtatious Italian white wine. It’s a shy gal in hidden thigh-highs, not the hooker in the bustier. And it’s often misunderstood. Maybe that’s because it has the rap of being an Italian sparkling wine. So folks tend to compare it most often to French Champagne, Spanish Cava and American sparkling wines. But those are unfair comparisons because Prosecco is an entirely different animal. Prosecco is much more Isabella Rossellini than Sophia Loren; more Fiat than Lamborghini.
To begin with, Prosecco—which comes from the Veneto region of Italy—is low in alcohol, slim and trim. It typically weighs in at about 10 percent alcohol, compared to Champagne and most other sparkling wines, which run a couple of percentages higher. That might not seem like much, but the slightly lower alcohol content of Prosecco makes it easier-drinking, less filling and an overall surprisingly food-friendly wine. It’s also just a nice, light, simple wine to drink on the patio in warm weather.
As I said, Prosecco—which is made in Italy from the prosecco grape—sometimes disappoints people at first. That’s because its reputation as a sparkling wine creates an expectation of big, plentiful bubbles and that mouth-puckering dryness so typical of most sparkling wines. But Prosecco is more fizzy than bubbly. Indeed, the few bubbles there are in Prosecco die out almost instantly. So the mouth feel of Prosecco is initially a little disappointing; it feels on the tongue like last week’s Champagne. But stick with it. Because the subtle effervescence of Prosecco—as opposed to the in-your-face fireworks of Champagne—will grow on you. And so will the delicate taste. Remember it’s Isabella, not Sophia. If it’s Sophia you want, try Italian Spumante wines.
Despite the currently inflated prices from exorbitant exchange rates, Prosecco is still a pretty good deal. Most bottles sell for around $12. I tend to like Zardetto Prosecco, but I also recently came across a bottle of Martini & Rossi Prosecco that I absolutely fell in love with. It’s not a knock-your-socks-off wine, but a really versatile one. It’s a gentle caress rather than a big slap on the back. The subtle, dry, floral and peachy flavors of the Martini & Rossi Prosecco are typical of the overall style. And the low alcohol content makes Prosecco a good wine choice to drink with spicy Asian and Latin American cuisine, but I’d also drink it at my local sushi bar. I think the light, crisp character of Prosecco would make it a very good match with everything from eggplant tempura and fatty toro, to oily salmon and a bowl of miso. Just stay away from robust stews and roasts. Remember, it’s Isabella. ... Food An Italian Flirt 1CD2231D-2BF4-55D0-F1FD0F9405BD29BC 2007-06-11 16:05:40.0 1 1 0 2004-07-22 00:00:00.0 0 0
I’ve just returned from the sun-drenched region of ProvenÃ§e, in France, where the scents of lavender, pastis, rosemary and tapenade fill the air ... sort of. I mean, I didn’t really go to ProvenÃ§e; a trip to France just wasn’t in the cards this summer. But this past weekend, I did the next best thing. I sat down with Peter Mayle’s new novel A Good Year, which at least made me feel like I’d escaped to ProvenÃ§e.
If you’re a wine lover, especially a lover of French wine, you’re probably familiar with Peter Mayle, the British author who lives in the south of France and has written wildly popular books such as A Year In ProvenÃ§e, Toujours ProvenÃ§e and Hotel Pastis, among others. Booklist calls Mayle the “Ã¼ber-expatriate,” which is apt. Probably no writer since Hemingway—not even Frances Mayes with her Under the Tuscan Sun—has so fully adopted a new country as Peter Mayle has adopted France—specifically, ProvenÃ§e.
If A Good Year is any indication, Peter Mayle’s work routine suits him well. He arises around 8 a.m. and writes from about 8:30 until 1:00 p.m. at which time his workday ends. Past one o’clock he does no “business.” He might have a simple lunch of blinis with Champagne, and then go for a walk or a swim prior to cocktail hour and dinner. One day is much like the next for Mayle, who is a creature of routine.
By American standards, Peter Mayle’s day might sound relatively unproductive. But that’s exactly what life in ProvenÃ§e is like. People in ProvenÃ§e put a premium on stopping to smell the rosemary (or taste the tapenade) over making fortunes and fame. As he writes in A Good Year, it’s one of the things that attracts Mayle to the south of France. There are snail farmers and winemakers and truffle hunters who do what they do because they enjoy it, not purely for the monetary reward, which is usually slight.
A Good Year centers around a Brit named Max, who, when his uncle dies, inherits a house and a vineyard in ProvenÃ§e. It might be a flimsy device of Mayle’s to get his main character to ProvenÃ§e, but who cares? Mayle’s books are like a light summer RosÃ© that’s perfect for sipping on the patio. If you want something more substantial, open a bottle of Burgundy and read Joyce.
With visions of being a boutique wine entrepreneur, Max’s dreams are quickly doused when he discovers his uncle’s wine, “Le Griffon,” is “pipi du chat”—cat piss. One of the more interesting and colorful characters in A Good Year, as in virtually all of Mayle’s books, is a strong-backboned and opinionated peasant. In this case, his name is Roussel, the hardworking fellow who manages and works the small Le Griffon vineyard.
There’s a parallel and intertwining story in A Good Year that will especially appeal to wine aficionados. It’s that of a rare “garage” wine from Bordeaux (or is it...?) called Le Coin Perdu that sells for $40,000 per case. Mayle delights in good-natured needling of wine geeks and the ways they describe wine. Of a private Le Coin Perdu tasting Mayle writes, “Violets were mentioned, and vanilla. One outspoken soul, more imaginative than the rest, was heard to murmur ‘wet dog.’” Earlier in the book Max’s friend Charlie mockingly describes ’82 LÃ©oville Barton by saying, “Do I detect faded tulips? Beethoven in a mellow mood? The complexity, the almost Gothic structure...”
Like all of Mayle’s books, A Good Year is pure escapism, especially for lovers of wine, food, and flirtatious romance, which pepper nearly every page. Enjoy it while the weather is still warm, preferably with a glass of pastis alongside. Food Weekend in ProvenÃ§e 1CD224E2-2BF4-55D0-F1F7AA577E348B75 2007-06-11 16:05:40.0 1 1 0 2004-08-05 00:00:00.0 19 0
We had already polished of the yummy bottle of Verget Macon-Villages that came with our Deer Valley Gourmet picnic basket when John Fogerty launched into “Down on the Corner” and set everyone’s butts-a-shakin’—especially the four gals directly in front of us. It appeared to be girls’ night out, and these women were having a very good time, shaking their booties and swigging shots of tequila in between imported beers. It wasn’t long before they’d turned around and offered me and my companion small plastic shot glasses of tequila. I politely declined, remembering that I’d be the one driving home from the Deer Valley Fogerty show. But my companion downed a shot and immediately proclaimed this the best tequila she’d ever tasted—and she’s tasted a few.
I asked one of our wild woman neighbors what it was they were drinking and she said it was Don Julio tequila. I’d heard of Don Julio, but to my recollection had never tasted it. So the day after John Fogerty rocked Deer Valley, I set out in pursuit of Don Julio tequila. I found one last lonely bottle at the Prospector wine store in Park City and flinched slightly at the price: $49.95 for 750 ml. But the round brown bottle with a wood stopper was packaged in an attractive aqua-colored gift box and, given that this was my honey’s favorite new beverage, how could I resist?
Well, it might not be my favorite beverage—when push comes to shove I’m actually a Coke Classic guy—but Don Julio has become my favorite tequila. In particular, the limited production Tequila Reserva de Don Julio AÃ±ejo, made from 100 percent blue agave and numbered 0103511. In the glass—preferably a brandy snifter—Don Julio AÃ±ejo is a rich, golden-amber color. By the way, this color comes naturally through careful aging, rather than via the caramel additives that are used in many other inferior tequilas. Although my introduction to Don Julio AÃ±ejo was via the shot glass, I highly recommend sipping this wonderful spirit. Do so, and you’ll discover a slightly smoky flavor, but one with subtle citrus and mandarin orange tones and even hints of butterscotch and honey. That might not sound like a typical description of tequila, but this isn’t any typical tequila.
Julio Gonzalez—aka Don Julio—has been crafting premium tequila in Los Altos de Jalisco, Mexico, for more than 60 years. Since it takes seven to ten years to cultivate the blue agave cactus from which all of his tequilas are made, this is a long, patient process. Once the agave is slowly cooked in masonry ovens and then fermented and double distilled, Don Julio AÃ±ejo spends 18 months in American oak barrels, which lends the tequila its unique nutty butterscotch and honey flavor. To my palate, Don Julio AÃ±ejo is much more akin in taste to sipping brandy than drinking tequila—and even outclasses caramelly Patron AÃ±ejo and the smoky El Tesoro AÃ±ejo, which until now had been my favorite tequilas for sipping.
My advice: Track down a bottle of Don Julio AÃ±ejo tequila, put your old copy of Willy & The Poor Boys on the turntable, and shake your hips like those four fun gals at Deer Valley.
Sips: The summer wine dinner series at Baci Trattoria and Cottonwood Market Street Grill continues on Aug. 5 with a “Tour of Venice” followed by “You Say Shiraz, I say Syrah!” on Aug. 11 and “Allegrini Vineyards” on Sept. 2. Food Me and Julio 1CD2256F-2BF4-55D0-F1FE0D4918CC65B9 2007-06-11 16:05:40.0 1 1 0 2004-07-29 00:00:00.0 0 0
Despite the markup from the retail price of $8.95 to $24.00 per bottle at Salt Lake Pizza & Pasta (see Dining), I very much enjoyed the Fazi Battaglia Verdicchio Del Castelli Di Jesi 2002 that I drank there. True, this wine doesn’t taste like a $24 bottle of wine. But it is enjoyable and affordable at the more reasonable wine store price.
If you’re unfamiliar with Italian wine labels—which can be almost as daunting as those from Germany—I’ll help you decipher this one. For starters, Verdicchio is the wine varietal—the type of grape used in this wine—although the DOC rules in Italy permit the use of up to 15 percent Malvasia or Trebbiano grapes. It’s indigenous to the Marches region of Italy, named for the yellowish-green hue of the Verdicchio grapes. Wines made with Verdicchio are similar to Pinot Grigio in style—relatively light in weight, but perhaps tending a little more towards Chardonnay in texture, color, and mouthfeel.
Castelli Di Jesi on the wine’s label refers to the grape-growing community in the Marches region of Italy where the wine comes from. Jesi and Castelli are two towns in the Marches region, which is located near Umbria and Abruzzi on the Adriatic Sea. The indigenous Verdicchio grape has been grown in this region since ancient times, and Verdicchio remains the most important wine of the Marches region. A favorable climate and cheap land costs makes Marches an appealing place for growing Verdicchio and also Montepulciano grape varieties.
Fazi Battaglia is the producer of this wine—the one I had at Salt Lake Pizza & Pasta. It comes in an amphora-shaped (minus the handles) bottle, which is unique to the Fazi Battaglia brand and instantly recognizable—like Mateus bottles, it’s a favorite for making candle holders. Although Verdicchio has been made in the Marches since at least the 14th century, Fazi Battaglia winery was founded as recently as 1949.
Still, Verdicchio had largely fallen into obscurity in the region until it was rescued from oblivion in the 1950s and ’60s by the Sparaco family, owners and founders of Fazi Battaglia winery. Almost immediately, the Sparacos transformed Verdicchio wines from bland but spritzy and effervescent wines into what they are today: one of Italy’s most successful and popular still white wines. Today Fazi Battaglia is the area’s largest wine nÃ©gociant, producing its wines on 850 acres of vineyards, including 12 prime vineyard estates—in addition to the prestigious Tuscan estate called Fassati Casa Vinicola. But that’s another story.
I’m told that until the past 50 years or so, Verdicchio wines were virtually colorless. The light straw hue of present day Verdicchio can be attributed to late harvesting of the grapes and cold maceration before the wine is fermented. These practices have emboldened the color, as well as the taste and feel of today’s Verdicchio on the palate.
Fazi Battaglia Verdicchio Del Castelli Di Jesi 2002 is a crisp, dry wine. I taste pears, apples and lime when poured into the glass. And by the way, it’s tempting to drink a crisp white wine like this very cold—but don’t. The fruit flavors really begin to sparkle when the wine begins to warm up a little. The finish is quite dry, with a hint of vanilla. I would serve Fazi Battaglia Verdicchio Del Castelli Di Jesi 2002 as an aperitif with hors d’oeuvres or with light seafood pastas such as linguine with clam sauce or shrimp scampi. Food The Verdict On Verdicchio 1CD2260B-2BF4-55D0-F1F352D7440256AE 2007-06-11 16:05:40.0 1 1 0 2004-08-12 00:00:00.0 1 0
During the past couple months of summer, I’ve come across some interesting, mostly inexpensive and slightly odd wines. Maybe “odd” isn’t really the right word. I really just mean wines that are a bit of a departure from the typical Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Riesling that probably account for about 90 percent of the wines I normally drink. They’re not even necessarily “summer” wines, nor for that matter wines at all. In fact, one of my favorite drinks this summer was an ale brewed with cherries from Canada. And a wine like Spain’s El Vinculo would be perfect for a cold weather dinner. Anyway, here are some notes on a few of my favorite “summertime” oddities.
During a recent dinner at Metropolitan restaurant, I opened a bottle of El Vinculo I’d brought with me. I’d wanted to try this Spanish wine for a while, and so I decided to give it a whirl with Chef Perry Hendrix’s innovative cuisine. Good choice. El Vinculo is an underrated (except by Robert Parker, that is) wine from the La Mancha region of Spain—tremendous at a mere $24.65, and tastes like it should cost a lot more. A wine expert friend of mine was surprised by the “mature” flavors of El Vinculo, a wine made from old vine Tempranillo grapes. It’s enormously fruity (strawberries and black currants), with soft tannins, a velvety body and a long toasty finish. You won’t go wrong trying this one.
I’m not sure what I was thinking when I bought the bottle of Quelque Chose ale, brewed in Quebec by Canada’s Unibroue. It must have been the elegant looking black bottle. Because Quelque Chose ($8.20) is anything but a summer sipper. It’s made from dark roasted malts and steeped cherries and tastes much more like mulled wine than any ale I’ve ever encountered. It would be terrific heated and served by the fireplace in winter like a hot wine. However—and this might be sacrilege to the makers of Quelque Chose—I decided to try this ale out on my patio over ice, and it was terrific. Probably not exactly what the brewers had in mind, but if you can’t wait until winter to try Quelque Chose, I suggest drinking it on the rocks.
OK, so maybe Faiveley Mercurey Domaine de la Croix Jacquelet 2000 isn’t that much of a summer “oddity,” since it’s made with 100 percent Pinot Noir. But the value of this wine is an oddity. At $15.95, Faiveley Mercurey Croix Jacquelet is a steal. It’s dark crimson, with a strong whiff of cherries on the nose. And it’s a well-rounded wine, very smooth and packed with tons of ripe fruit (cherries and strawberries). This Mercurey has a wonderful structure, is easy-to-sip and is, in my opinion, one of the best bargains available from Burgundy. I like this one a lot.
Two GrÃ¼ner Veltliner wines from Austria got my attention this summer for offering big flavor at small prices. I like Wachau GrÃ¼ner Veltliner very much, and especially the $9.95 sticker price. But I slightly prefer Hopler GrÃ¼ner Veltliner, which is worth a couple of extra bucks ($11.70) for its versatility. I’ve enjoyed its peach, green apple and apricot flavors with crab, lobster and potato-leek soup.
You can almost never go wrong with Bonny Doon wines, and that’s certainly true of Bonny Doon Muscat Vin de Glacier ($17.75). It’s characterized as a “dessert wine,” and I suppose that’s true. But my advice is to enjoy this wonderful wine as dessert, not with dessert. With its seriously sensuous and apricot flavors, there’s no need for any complications from the dessert cart. Food Summer Odds and Ends 1CD226B7-2BF4-55D0-F1F4E30276AF878B 2007-06-11 16:05:40.0 1 1 0 2004-08-19 00:00:00.0 0 0
An inferior cheese like salty, low-quality Parmesan can make a good wine taste like sewer water. But the opposite is also true: A really good cheese can make even mediocre wine taste pretty swell. As cheesemonger and author Steve Jenkins says in The Cheese Primer, “A great cheese will make an average wine seem greater than it is and an average cheese will drag down a great wine.”
In recent years, the cheese course has been making a comeback in American restaurants. Once primarily only a French indulgence, now restaurants from New York to San Francisco—and even a handful in Utah—are offering cheese courses in lieu of or in addition to dessert. Personally, I much prefer a slice or two of cheese and a piece of fruit after dinner over sweet desserts. But as with any other food and wine pairing, there are guidelines to follow when choosing wine to complement cheese (and vice versa).
A great way to discover which wines go with which cheeses is to host a cheese and wine tasting party. There are lots of options here. One is to focus on a particular style of cheese. For example, you might want to limit yourself to cow’s milk cheddar cheeses: perhaps Irish cheddar, cheddar from Vermont and Canada, and English farmhouse cheddar. They’re all similar, yet distinct. On the other hand, another approach is to serve an array of cheeses in very different styles. For instance, you might start with a French chevre followed by Spanish manchego, Swiss gruyere and finally a pungent blue cheese from California.
Next, select three or four different wines to try as you sample the cheeses. Perhaps a Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. The idea here is not only to (hopefully) find cheese and wine affinities and matches made in heaven, but to also discover pairings that are disastrous. It’s all part of learning what flavors work together and why. And here’s a suggestion: Don’t spend too much money on the wine. Save the expensive Bordeaux and Burgundy for another time. Good, low-cost wines are perfect for cheese and wine pairings.
Contrary to popular belief, red wine is not always the best choice for pairing with cheese. Milder cheeses like goat cheese and brie tend to get overwhelmed by most red wines, except perhaps RosÃ©. As with other foods, the idea is to try to match fuller, richly-flavored cheeses with full, richly flavored wines. Similarly, lighter wines will be better matches for lighter cheeses.
There are some general guidelines about what works and what doesn’t. I’ve discovered, for example, that almost all hard cheeses cry out for red wine. The exception is Parmigiano-Reggiano and Champagne, which is truly a wine-cheese pairing made in heaven. I tend to like French Bordeaux or Cornas or even super-Tuscans with cheddar cheese, although everyday Rhone reds and Beaujolais work well too. I’ve also decided that there are few better cheese and wine matches than that of a tangy goat cheese with Sauvignon Blanc, especially the chalky flavors of French Sancerre.
Remember what I said about not spending a lot of money on wine for cheese and wine pairings? Well, that doesn’t apply to blue-veined cheese. Because one of the truly great food and wine matches is salty, sharp blue cheese paired with the sweetness and acidity of Sauternes, a decidedly un-cheap wine if there ever was one. But you can also opt for the more classic combination of blue cheese and Port. Even an inexpensive Port like Fonseca Bin 27 will bring tears to your eyes when tasted with some crumbled blue cheese and a candied walnut or two. Food Frommage From Heaven 1CD22734-2BF4-55D0-F1F4A87ADDD954FB 2007-06-11 16:05:41.0 1 1 0 2004-08-26 00:00:00.0 0 0
Adam D. Crenshaw
This summer, I’ve spent a fair amount of time on the Eastern seaboard, so I’ve beenindulging in plenty of fresh seafood—from conch fritters in Surf City, N.J., and Maryland blue crabs, to fresh lobster on Cape Cod. As always, I’m continually on the lookout for good food and wine matches.
Fish can be a tricky food with which to drink wine. Even many white wines—heavily oaked California Chardonnay, for example—can overpower a simple preparation of fish or shellfish. On the other hand, a piece of fish that is fried, heavily sauced or spicy might call for a wine with a bit more weight to it. With s