Time to Change Your Wine Wardrobe, EDP Wants You! (to Tweet), and Killer Olive-Oil-Poached Atlantic Halibut at Xaviars at Piermont
Time to Put Away Your Winter Sweaters (and Your Winter Wines)
Last week’s 90-degree day put me in a wino tailspin. At about 5pm, I poked around in our cellar (actually, our basement half-bath retrofitted with a crappy rack system) and couldn’t find a drop to drink. Here it was, April, and my wine collection was still wearing sweaters. What I was looking for was a potable T-shirt– which got me thinking: What sets summer wines apart from what you drink in, say, February? Obviously, you don’t want a titanic red on a hot day – you’re not going to slake your thirst with a Barolo. But what is so unappealing about drinking an excellent quality California Chardonnay in mid-August? I asked around, and here’s some thinking behind summer wines. There might be a few surprises for all of you summer Chard fans.
· “Crisp” is a word that comes up often. According to Derek Todd of Wine Geeks Armonk, what you don’t want is anything that’s oaky (like that California Chard), tannic, high in sugar, or with a big body. Basically, you want that sucker to hit your tongue and then have the decency to leave. Sancerre is a nice choice – its minerality makes it refreshing. Also, a little sparkle never hurts. Anthony Colasacco of Pour likes Il Brut and The Beast, a reasonably priced Piemonte white from made from Favorita, Cortese, and Moscato grapes – it’s not quite fizzy, but generates a lively tingle on the tongue.
· Ripeness is another way to look at crispness. In cooler grape-growing regions—like Long Island, northern France and Italy, Oregon, etc.—grapes have a shorter growing season, so develop less sugar. This makes for crisper, pleasantly acidic wines. Stephen Paul Mancini of Armonk’s Restaurant North (as befits a Slow Food-approved restaurateur) likes Joe Macari’s locally made North Fork Sauvignon Blanc. Mancini says it has “higher acid and citrus, but not that sharp, hard-hitting citrus. More like Meyer lemon or Key lime—softer and sweeter—with some grassy notes. There’s no oak on it all—it goes directly in stainless steel.” Billy Rattner concurs on summertime value of cool-weather regions and more acidity. His summer whites originate “from relatively cooler regions resulting in wines will retain beautiful, brisk, natural acidity.” He likes three cool-region whites: Pierre Boniface, "Apremont", Savoie, France, 2010; “Borealis”, Montinore Estate, Willamette Valley, Oregon, 2010; and Soave, Inama, Veneto, Italy, 2010.
· A summer wine should have the flexibility to handle less-than-precious treatment, so save that $400 bottle for the night when you can decant it and serve it at the ideal temperature (while making grave, oenophilic observations). It shouldn’t be a crime to ice summer wine in a chest cooler, or to drink it while in a wet bathing suit or as you slap flies at a barbecue. The price of summer wine shouldn’t be so high that it demands fussy treatment or crystal glasses. You’re busy in the summer (and your wine should make room).
· Obviously, you want something that you can serve cold, but here’s something to remember: While America is stuck in the idea of summer whites, the rest of the world is not to so rigid. In Italy, it’s fine to chill down that deep red Dolcetto, and it’s perfectly fine to serve Pinot Noir after cooling it for an hour in the fridge. According to Todd, the only guideline here is that chilling can exaggerate tannins (so you should probably skip that mouth-puckering Merlot). On extra-hot days, Billy Rattner of Xaviars Restaurant Group bottle puts a slight chill on three particular reds—Robert Serol, Côte Roannaise, “Les Originelles,” Loire, France 2010; Barbera, d’Asti, Cascina Castlet, Piedmont, Italy, 2010; Cabernet Franc, Château des Charmes, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario 2009—“to give pleasure as well as a kind of natural, vinous air-conditioning. Also, the reds I selected here rely more on acidity than tannin for balance, lending a bit more of a gulpable quality for summer quenching.”
· Rosé is the rage—it’s got everything going for it. It’s pretty and draws the respect of those strictly red wine drinkers. White drinkers like it, too—it’s like the universal wine donor. Derek Todd loves (and carries) MIP—Made in Provence—here’s a link (but you should buy it locally at Wine Geeks) -
The breakdown is that you need to change you wines with the season—but it’s not as simple as just switching from red to white. Turns out, next time it hits 90, you might want to skip that oaky Chard for a cool glass of ruby red Dolcetto or Barbera d’Asti. So that means, go wine shopping!!
HotFlash: EDP Wants You!
Look at you, just sitting there, reading about wine and food! EDP wants you to get off your butt and do something about it! I’m going to be at Westchester Magazine’s Wine & Food Weekend, tweeting live from all the events; some of our foodie friends will stop by and join in all the fun, too. Look for Anthony Colasacco of Mount Kisco’s Pour to be tweeting in his tasting notes. My dear, insane co-adventurer Baron Ambrosia will be there—he’s just back from filming the one and only John Waters for an upcoming episode of the Cooking Channel’s The Culinary Adventures of Baron Ambrosia. All very nice, but EDP Wants You! Tweet in from the Beer Bash, ArtsBash, Grand Tastings, and Winemakers' Dinner using the hashtag, #wmtastenotes. See you all in the Twitterverse!
Also, if you like Top Chef (but also kinda like Chopped) – you’ll like what we have in store for our Top Chef Cook-Off. We’ll be asking you to vote on the ingredients that we give Ty-Lör Boring and Ashley Merriman. I don’t want to start any stuff, but I’m saying that we can get a little crazy, folks! Follow us on Twitter @WMWineandFood to cast your vote.
And, honestly, how do you feel about restaurant critics? Do you think we just whine and complain for pay? How do you think chefs feel about us? Do you want to weigh in on the discussion? We’re asking our tweeps to send in questions for our Chef & Food Critic “Face Off”. Look, you’ll be anonymous—so gloves off. Let it fly! Use hashtag #criticsvschefs. See you there!
HotPlate: Ramping Up at Xaviars
Ramps—those mild, garlicky, oniony harbingers of spring are something to get excited about. They’re local and all around us. We caught this lovely use of ramps at Chef Peter Kelly’s Piermont jewel box, Xaviars. The smoky, grilled ramps were resting under squares of deliciously milky, olive-oil-poached halibut; bouncy fregola sarda; and lightly smoked mussels. The dish was paired with a stunning Kalin Cellars “Cuvée LD” Chardonnay, 1995, and was, in a word, luscious.