I know very little about food and wine pairing but am an eager student. I appreciate meals moistened with wine chosen by a friend in the know. But I also agree with Richard Olney’s philosophy that “it is a mistake to freeze such a variable and seductive landscape with rigid rules.”
Without a doubt the wines of different regions of France go with the foods grown, harvested, and caught in that region. An example would be the aged goat cheese crottin de Chavignol paired with Sancerre, or oysters with muscadet. The same is true of Long Island wines. Once you try a Montauk Pearl oyster with a sip of Paumanok’s un-oaked chardonnay, you would agree. Some young Catapano goat cheese with a sauvignon blanc from the the new Kontakosta Winery in Greenport is light and uncomplicated.
After a recent toot to the North Fork, we stopped by Bell and Anchor for some oyster research. As it was a quiet Sunday, our waiter, Michael, delighted in preparing a flight of oysters, East Coast vs. West Coast, matched with several wines. We had Montauk Pearl, Hama Hama, Olympia, and Belon oysters with Lieb’s pinot blanc, Paumanok chardonnay, Livon pinot grigio, and a Sancerre blend. The Montauk Pearls were our favorite, especially with the un-oaked chardonnay. The Olympias were quite briny but they “played nice” with the Sancerre. The Belons were almost coppery tasting and creamy, excellent with the pinot blanc.
The fun really began when the chef Sam McCleland stopped by our table to chat. He admitted that he enjoys rosé all year round (my kinda guy!) and had just enjoyed some local blackfish with Channing Daughters rosé. Out from the kitchen came a special of that evening, oysters Rockefeller. This was followed by another order . . . and then another. We chatted about the foods he is looking forward to cooking this fall, duck and venison and all manner of braised meats, porchetta, and so on. He was especially excited about the upcoming scallop season.
“Thirty seconds! That’s all the cooking they need!” Through the miracle of technology, his partner in Bell and Anchor, David Loewenberg, got wind of our research and sent us a message about his favorite oyster pairings. “I love our great local oysters, Montauk Pearls, Naked Cowboys, and Widow’s Hole with a classic sauvignon blanc. Channing Daughters 2012 Mudd sauvignon blanc has just the right acidity to balance the salinity of these great shellfish. Then again, we love pink with everything!”
As I said before, I am really not terribly knowledgeable about food and wine pairings. My cooking tends to be more savory or spicy than rich and creamy. I am more inclined to use garlic, fresh herbs, lemon juice, and vinegars than I am cream and butter. Indian, Italian, and Thai foods are my favorites, so I know enough to not present a rich Montrachet with a fiery pad thai. My everyday go-to wines are sauvignon blanc or Sancerre for whites, and a light pinot noir for red. And, like my aforementioned foodie friends, rosé all year round.
I have long been a firm believer in the quality of Long Island wines. They tend to be on the expensive side, but I attribute this to real estate value. Lately, the more knowledgeable oenophiles and wine experts like Jay McInerney are giving the North and South Fork wines some attention and praise.
As we come into the cooler fall months, do a little experimentation of your own. Get some local cauliflower and apples and make a puree to go with braised local duck or duck breast glazed with beach plum jelly. Talk to your favorite wine merchant about what to drink with it. Jacques Franey of Domaine Franey, Michael Cinque of Amagansett Wines and Spirits, and Rodney at Wines by Morrell are all happy to help with wine and food pairings. They are well-informed and always respectful of your budget.
Wine knowledge is useful and research is fun, but the whole raison d’etre of the meal is the company. Whether you’re having a roast Iacono Farm chicken with a simple green salad and Mecox Bay Dairy cheeses or a lobster feast with end of season corn succotash, experiment with local wines, relax, and have fun with your family and friends.
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