The Wine Lover
Text | Cass Collins
Uncork, sip and enjoy…
Warm sunny days and cool nights are the stuff of perfect summer weekends along the Upper Delaware. It is just that combination of temperatures that delivers the best flavor from grapes to make fine wines.
But whether your wine was made locally or grown in Chile, Australia, France or Spain, your local wine merchant can guide you to the perfect pairing for your weekend dinner party or a light lunch with friends.
Red or white?
Everyone knows that red goes with red meat and white wine with chicken and fish, but the rules are changing. Generally these days, people’s preferences for red or white wins out over food. And if you are paying attention, which red? And what about pork? Or barbeque, that summer favorite? You only need to step across the threshold of your local wine emporium to get the answers. From Hancock, NY to Waymart, PA, from the western edge of Sullivan County to its eastern towns, knowledgeable and well-stocked wine shops line your path.
So, what is the best choice for serving a nice wine at a barbeque? We asked Michael Eurey of Narrowsburg Fine Wine and Spirits in Narrowsburg, NY, who proceeded to give us an impromptu and urbane seminar on the subject of summer wines.
If ribs are on the grill, Michael suggests the fruity, naturally spicy taste of a Gewurtztraminer. Though originally a German wine, the Columbia Valley in Washington State makes a delicious Gewurtz. Try Covey Run at $11 a bottle, or the Louis Sipp from France.
When you want to bring a bottle of wine to a party but don’t know what the host is serving, try the Charles De Fere Reserve, a dry rose from France. Take it chilled and urge your host to open it now, says Eurey.
If the steaks are thick and juicy, a Malbec from Argentina has a good earthy body that pairs well with beef. Or try a Carmenere from Chile like the Casillero del Diablo, or the Primus Carmener, has depth, elegance and a memorable finish, according to its label and confirmed by my own palate. Grown in Veramonte, Chile, the grapes have the benefit of Pacific ocean breezes and the clear water of the Andes mountains.
Always give red wines an hour or two, open, to develop their full flavor.
If you or your host is partial to the easy palate of a White Zinfandel but you want to expand your horizons or theirs, try the Hogue Late Harvest Riesling. The late harvest grapes are left to dry in the sun, giving the wine its sweetish, deep flavor. Dr. Loosen’s ‘05 Riesling would be perfect with Vietnameese glazed quail and eggplant, an elegant and tasty dinner party dish (see the recipe below)
A sunny summer day can stimulate the appetite for a mid-day glass of wine. But if you still have gardening to do, a Vinho Verde from Portugal has a light enough alcohol content, at 9.5 percent, to keep you focused on those lingering summer chores.
A glance at the label for alcohol content will give you a good indication of how well you may function after drinking it, as well as the depth of flavor you can expect.
In white wines, an unoaked Chardonnay at 13.5 percent will have a heavier flavor than a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, which is crisper and lighter at 12 percent. Generally the greater the alcohol content, the better the wine in terms of flavor.
Location, location, location
As in real estate, wines are all about location. The Willamette Valley in Oregon produces spectacular Pinot Noirs like Erath’s Leland. The best California Pinots, bit pricey, are from the Carneros region. Why so expensive? “A Pinot grape can make a grown man cry,” says our teacher. “It’s a difficult grape to grow.”
There are some great summer wines out there. Ask your merchant for advice, and tell them the occasion, the food and the time of day to get a selection that’s just right for you.
And by the way, if you are coming to our house, bring a Summers Cabernet, ‘04, please. At $26 a bottle, it’s a great wine, with firm tannins, to drink now or to cellar for a few years for an increased value ($40 to $50) and an even finer taste.
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup water
¼ cup nuoc mam (fish sauce)
Cook sugar in thick-bottomed skillet until brown and melted. Add water, shallots and fish sauce. Simmer until the sugar is dissolved and it is like a syrup. (Raw fish sauce has a very pungent odor, but this goes away in the cooking process.) Reserve half the caramel to glaze the quail and half to add to the eggplant sauce.
4 cups peeled, diced young eggplant
8 Tablespoons oil
½ of reserved caramel sauce
2 Tablespoons Thai curry paste
1 can unsweetened coconut milk
1 fresh-squeezed lime
½ cup chopped fresh tomato
Brown eggplant in oil over high heat. Add next 3 ingredients and simmer until tender. Add tomato and lime juice.
8 boneless quail (available at specialty butchers and at Manchester Farms
Brown quail on both sides. Ladle remaining caramel sauce into the pan, just enough to glaze quail, while the heat is still high. It should sizzle, stream and reduce to a syrup.
Repeat until all quail are glazed. Remove quail and place in oven for 10 minutes to finish cooking.
Remove eggplant from its sauce with a slotted spoon and make 2 small mounds on each plate. Place glazed quail on each mound. Pool coconut curry sauce on plate and sprinkle with fresh cilantro, mint leaves and freshly ground pepper.
A guide to area wine and liquor stores
Hancock Liquor Store
Wide selection from $3.99 to cellar-worthy, caters to a wide audience, friendly owner.
Narrowsburg Fine Wines & Spirits
Main Street, Narrowsburg, NY
Good selection, well displayed, knowledgeable owner.
White Lake Wine & Spirits
White Lake, NY
Great selection, deep stock, carefully cellared wines, knowledgeable owner.
Good selection of reasonably priced wine, friendly owner, well-described stock with Wine Spectator ratings.
Antler Ridge Winery
Kaz’s Wines & Liquors
Large selection, knowledgeable staff.