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Hungary Royal Tokaji

The other week, a small group of wine pros met at Wild Ginger to taste through an exquisite line-up of Hungary’ Royal Tokaji. Tokaji (formerly Tokay) is one of the world’s greatest dessert wines and our tasting more than lived up to expectations!

Our guide was Kimberly Bowden, CSW, CSS (those initials mean she knows her topic) from Wilson Daniels, the importer of Royal Tokaji.

Tokaji’s wines were renowned throughout Europe – among nobility, Czars, and clergy – 400 to 500 years ago. Tokaji was also the first wine region in Europe to be classified.in 1700. Prince Rakoczi initiated the world’s first classification of a wine region by Great First Growth, First Growth, Second Growth and Third Growth.

There are 3 grape varieties permitted in production of Tokaji:

  • Furmint, 70% of plantings, very high levels of tartaric acid, very susceptible to Botrytis
  • Hárslevelú, 25% of plantings, rich in sugars and aromas
  • Muscat de Lunel, 5% of plantings, difficult to grow but important seasoning

The Tisza and Bodrogm rivers create a mist similar to the fog in Sauternes, which encourages development of botrytis cinerea and potentially, noble rot, under the right conditions.

Royal Tokaji uses indigenous yeasts and grapes, traditional winemaking methods and ages wines in a 13th century underground cellar. They hand-harvest non-Botrytis bunches to ferment into dry base wine in stainless steel. About three weeks later, they hand-harvest harvest shriveled aszú berries berry by berry then grind the berries into a paste and add it to the partially fermented base wine. After stirring for two or more days, the wine is transferred to gönci, 140-liter or 37-gallon barrels and moved to the 13th century cellar for the second fermentation which may take a few months to a few years due to high sugar levels and cool cellars. The wine is so rare because each vine yields one glass of wine.

Royal Tokaji is one of the region’s elite producers with holdings in all of the region’s top crus. It was founded by British wine authority Hugh Johnson, among other investors, in 1990 after the fall of communism.

We were lucky to taste these rare wines. They are sensational and complex with notes of blood orange, citrus peel. As the Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin writes, “The delineation is astonishing on the nose, unfurling with entrancing scents of orange blossom, freshly sliced apricots, almond, and quince – all beautifully focused.” I might add, on the palate, stewed mandarin orange, honey, and quince. In addition to sweeter wines, we tasted a terrific, crisp dry Furmint and an elegant, mildly sweet late harvest Tokaji.

Tasting with Loire Valley Superstar Bertrand Sourdais of Domaine de Pallus By Arnie Millan

I had the good fortune last week to be invited to lunch with Bertrand Sourdais, the dynamic 5th generation winemaker and owner of Domaine de Pallus in Chinon, smack dab in the middle of the Loire Valley. He pulls double duty as a partner and winemaker of two wineries in Spain’s Ribero del Duero region.

Bertrand Sourdais

“Thrilling, brilliant” are adjectives that have applied to the wines crafted by Bertrand Sourdais. Although his family estate is in Chinon in the Loire Valley, he made his international reputation with a Spanish wine, the 2002 Dominio de Atauta “Llanos del Almendro,” from Spain’s Ribera del Duero. In a celebrated blind tasting organized by two Europe’s most respected wine critics, Bertrand’s 2002 Atauta tied with the 1994 Vega Sicilia’s Unico, beating out the 2000 Château Latour; this was a shocking result as it was Bertrand’s first commercial vintage as winemaker.

Check out this Video of the vineyards!

Just after graduating from Enology school in Bordeaux, Bertrand apprenticed at Mouton-Rothschild, Santa Rita in Chile and Alvaro Palacios in Priorat. Bertrand took his first post as winemaker at Atauta in Ribero del Duero. After he left Atauta, Bertrand started Bodegas Antidoto and Dominio de ES, both in Ribera del Duero.

At lunch, Bertrand revealed that he was fired by the new owners of Atauta back in 2008. Even though he did not elaborate, the firing must have been a dramatic turning point in his life and, thirteen years on, you can still see it in his eyes. It still hurts. Yet I believe that the firing ignited a passionate determination to work only for himself with a fierce drive to succeed.

ANTIDOTO RIBERA DEL DUERO 2014 92 WA

So he founded a new winery, with partner David Hernando, an agronomist, called Antidoto. Antidoto means antidote and it was just the perfect cure for Bertrand’s Atauta blues. It was no coincidence that they located Antidoto in the Soto de San Esteban zone in the Soria province, just a stone’s throw from Atauta!

Duero Vines

At the same time, Bertrand’s father wanted to retire and to turn the estate in Chinon over to Bertrand. Bertrand was eager to take the reins of his family estate in addition to his commitment in Ribera del Duero. Bertrand told me he drives 8 hours each way from Pallus to Antidoto and back. That determined dedication is impressive and I think it is fueled by his traumatic firing from Atauta nearly ten years ago. Those wounds are still raw to this day.

Chinon is a prestigious appellation, mostly for Cabernet Franc, located in the center of the Loire Valley. It produces some of France’s meatiest Cabernet Francs which are sometimes compared to Bordeaux. As this is Bertrand’s home, his family estate, Domaine de Pallus, takes pride of place over his Spanish estates.

 

Bertrand farms his vineyards organically, using biodynamic treatments. Yields are kept low, sometimes too low (under 1 ton/acre!).

Below are the wines we tasted with Bertrand.

Pallus 2014 Les Pensées de Pallus: Les Pensées boasts a dark ruby color with aromas of dried herbs, anise and rosemary. On the palate, there is medium-to-full bodied fruit of tart black plum, black currant, black tea and bright acidity leading to a vibrant mineral finish. In stock at Esquin.

We also tasted, for the first time:

Pallus 2016 Les Messanges: Bertrand’s entry level Chinon, the. This is delightful fruity wine of elegance and balance. Available soon.

Antidoto 2015 Ribera del Duero: this is 100% Tinto Fino (Tempranillo) produced from grapes from the Soto de San Esteban zone in the Soria province, the cooler part of Ribera del Duero. Just released, this is a serious wine that can age. Available soon.

Pallus 2017 Messanges Chinon Rosé: A dry, crisp Cabernet Franc rosé perfect for Spring and Summer drinking. Fire up the outdoor grill! Available soon.

Antidoto 2017 Roselito Ribera del Duero: This complex Rosé is produced from 80% Tinto Fino and 20% Albillo Mayor, a little known local white grape indigenous to Ribera del Duero. Available soon.

Click for a Fact Sheet with more information on Bertrand Sourdais

arnie@esquin.com

Arnie Millan is Esquin’s European Buyer. In July, 2014, Arnie was featured in the Seattle Times as “The Finest Wine Mind in Seattle.”

Grilled Pork Chops with Grilled Peaches and Balsamic

It’s time to grab that few weeks of summer. This time of year I am grilling almost every night! There are lots of ways to grill that are quick, easy and delicious.

Perfect dish for a casual dinner on a warm summer night. Pork chops love the sweet and tangy of the Peaches and Balsamic and the touch basil adds just a bit of herbal freshness. Paired with a chilled bottle of Chardonnay or Rose and you have a quick yet elegant dish for a Tuesday night for two or for company on the weekend. I love this with a full bodied Rose like Seth’s Upside Down Nebbiolo Rosé -whole cluster pressed and aged on the lees for 3 months. Picked at 22 brix, this wine is beautifully distinct with bright fruit and a subtle minerality.

“The one thing we might love more than a chilled glass of rose on a hot summer day, would be rescue animals! If you follow us on Instagram then you know we love our rescue pup Turk. The only thing that makes rosé taste better, is knowing you’re helping save animals while drinking it! ” #AdoptDontShop

20% of the proceeds go to support various rescue organizations. #RESCUErosé

 

Grilled Pork Chops with Grilled Peaches and Balsamic Vinegar
________________________________________
For the pork chops:
2 (1-inch-thick) bone-in pork rib chops
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil

For the Peaches
2 peaches, sliced in half
1 tablespoon Olive oil
2 teaspoons Honey
Salt and pepper

Fresh basil
2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1. Season pork chops and let come to room temperature while grill heats up to medium high.
2. In a bowl, combine the peaches, honey and olive oil. Season with pepper and toss to coat evenly.
3. Place chops on the hottest part of grill for 2 – 3 minutes until you have a nice scoring. Turn and move to a cooler part of grill cook for another 3 – 4 minutes depending on thickness of chop, until cooked through but not dry.
4. Prepare a medium-hot fire in a grill, or preheat a cast-iron grill pan on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Remove and let rest for 5 minutes.
5. Place the peaches over direct heat and sear, until you have a nice color. Chop the peaches into smaller pieces.
6. Transfer the chops to a platter and top with peaches and basil drizzle with balsamic and serve.

 

Tacos al Pastor and Fidelitas Malbec

I recently ventured up to Red Mountain to taste some wines, walk some vineyards and see old friends. There are few places in Washington that produce better wine, some say, some of the best in the world. But, for me it’s the people. The Williams’ family, the Holmes’, the Hedges’, the Hightower’s, the Frichette’s, the Pearson’s – Red Mountain is the smallest AVA in the state and it feels more like a neighborhood than an appellation.

If Red Mountain had football team Charlie Hoppes would be the head coach. He is the sergeant at arms, the baby whisperer, Charlie Hoppes is the Wine Boss.

Charlie Hoppes is one of the most respected winemakers in Washington State. A Yakima Valley native with a degree from UC Davis he got his start in 1988 working with Mike Januik at Snoqualmie Winery and followed him to Chateau Ste. Michelle in 1990 becoming the head red wine maker until 1999. After stints at Waterbrook in Walla Walla and Three Rivers he started his own winery Fidelitas. In 2007 he purchased his first 3 acres on Red Mountain and built a tasting room.

Did I mention that he has a degree in economics? Instead of taking up prime vineyard land on Red Mt he has a 30,000 sq ft production facility in nearby Richland – “Wine Boss”. There he produces his wines plus makes wine for a half dozen clients. The tasting room on Red Mountain has a beautiful panoramic view of the valley.


I first visited Charlie and the tasting room shortly after it was built. Tasting the wines with the “Wine Boss” himself and eating some of the best tacos I have ever had is one of my fondest memories. Charlie is one of the most generous, easy going and intelligent people working in the Washington wine industry. 2017 marks his 30th vintage, and in that time he has made quite a name for himself including being named Seattle Magazines Winemaker of the Year in 2013. His wine continue to garner high ratings from press – his 2012 Ciel du Cheval Cab rated 94 from Parker and the 2013 Quintessence was ranked #4 in Seattle Metropolitan Magazine Top 100. Recently 6 of his 2014 releases received 93 -95 pt scores from the Wine Advocate!

Did I mention every time I go to Red Mountain I end of having tacos? Just thinking about Red Mountain makes me crave Tacos.

So today I give you my  simplified recipe for Tacos Al pastor. Paired with some of Charlie Red Mountain Malbec and you have winner!

FIDELITAS MALBEC RED MOUNTAIN 2014 

Tacos al Pastor
________________________________________

*****Marinade
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon dried ground cumin seed
3 chipotle peppers, packed in adobo sauce, plus 2 tablespoon adobo sauce
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 Tablespoon Paprika
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 Tablespoon Cider Vinegar
3 whole cloves garlic
2 Tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
½ cup pineapple juice from canned pineapple
½ cup water

3 pounds boneless Pork Shoulder

To Finish and Serve:
1 14 ounce canned pineapple diced
20 small flour or Corn tortillas, heated and kept warm
1 medium red onion, finely diced (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup finely minced fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
4 ounce Cotijo cheese
1 cup Pico de Gallo, salsa
3 to 4 limes, cut into 8 wedges each for serving

1. In bowl of blender combine the ingredients for the marinade. Puree until smooth about 3 minutes.
2. Cut Pork roast into 4 or 5 large pieces toss with marinade. Place into large roasting pan or Rondeau and cover.
3. Place into 275 degrees oven and roast for 4 hours.
4. Remove and let cool. When cool use two forks to pull pork apart. Stir to combine.
5. Serve meat and garnishes immediately with warmed tortillas, pineapple, onions, cilantro, salsa, cotijo, and lime wedges. Meat will be very moist and should be packed into double-stacked tortillas for serving

 

Weekend Wine Pairing – Churrasco Style Pork Ribs and Prazo de Roriz

The story of wine in Portugal is at its heart a paradox: home to some of the world’s oldest greatest and best known wines, yet years of poor political leadership and oceans of plonk wine have all but destroyed the once great reputation. Portugal has a history of winemaking that goes back thousands of years. Long before the Romans and Moors came through the native people of the southwestern Iberian Peninsula were making wine with indigenous grapes. During the Age of Discovery Portugal became a major world power, with Prince Henry the Navigator, sending his armada around the globe.

Most famous for Porto, the fortified wine of the Douro, Portugal has some of the oldest recognized wines in the world. The wines of Portugal were famous throughout the world, Madeira was favorite of the young American colonies, and was even used to toast the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

With the decline of colonial power the wine industry in Portugal fell on hard times. During the 20th century the wine industry was hit with the double blow of fascist dictatorship and cheap jug wine (Mateus and Lancers). In 1974, “The Carnation Revolution” put an end to 5 decades of dictatorship and in 1986 Portugal entered the European Union. With membership came foreign investment and complete overhaul of the wine industry.

Today, Portugal represents one of the Best Value wine producing regions in the world. The combination of ancient wine growing traditions and modern technology means that you can buy a wine with outstanding pedigree made from ancient vines for a relative bargain. The Prazo de Roriz is a great example of what I am talking about. Crafted by Prats & Symington family, Port producers since 1882, and Bruno Prats, former owner of the famed Chateau Cos d’Estournel. The wine demonstrates the incredible potential of combining winemaking expertise from the Douro Valley and Bordeaux, two of the world’s best wine regions.

QUINTA DE RORIZ “PRAZO DE RORIZ” DOURO 2015 $14.99 

The 2015 Prazo de Roriz is a roughly equal blend of Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional and Tinta Barroca, with small bits of Tinta Roriz and Tinta Amarela, aged for six months in used French oak. This is typically a good value. This might be my favorite in some time. There isn’t a lot of concentration in the mid palate and it isn’t the type of wine you want to age for 20 years. It’s not $50, either. It’s a very nice bargain with many virtues. The fruit here is just gorgeous, vivid, pure and clean. The structure lifts it and delivers it beautifully to the palate. The texture is silky and the finish is just a bit tight. Overall, it is hard to lean up more on this since it doesn’t have a lot of upside potential, but if you drink it over the next few years, you might like it even better than the score would suggest.

It’s summer so I am grilling everything. A wine like the Prazo beckons for grilled meat. The traditional dish of Costelas Vinho d’alhos, roasted spare ribs, transfers well to the American barbecue grill.

Churrasco Style Pork Ribs (Costelas Vinho d’alhos)
________________________________________
4 – 6 pounds meaty pork spare ribs

Marinade:
3 Tablespoons piri-piri sauce
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons Soy
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup orange Juice and zest
¼ cup lime juiced
¼ lemon juiced
1 cup onion, minced
2 teaspoons oregano
½ cup Red wine
1/2 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper
More oil for grill

1. Prep the ribs by removing any meat or fat that dangles from the bone side. Also trim any tough sinew (silver skin) on the meaty side. Remove the membrane on the bone side of the ribs. Cut into 3 bone segments.
2. Combine all ingredients for the marinade in the bowl of a blender and puree until well combined. Reserve a cup for basting.
3. Place prepared ribs in large container or Ziploc bag and cover with marinade. Marinate for 2 hours.
4. Prepare charcoal for grill and move coals to one side, you can put an aluminum pan on one side to catch drippings.
5. When grill is 250 degrees place ribs opposite side of the coals for indirect heat. Cook turning every 30 minutes for 3 hours. Brushing with marinade occasionally. If necessary add a few more coals to the fire.
6. Wrap ribs in foil and Cook for 1 or more hours until ribs pull away from meat.
7. For Oven: reheat the oven to 350 or 325 degrees F. according to the method of cooking.
8. To roast, reserve the marinade and place the pork in a roasting pan and cook at 350 degrees F. for about two hours, not more. Baste periodically with the marinade.
9. Serve with Potatoes, a big salad and a nice big red.

2008 Bordeaux: We Do The Hard Work

bordeaux wine 2008Not to be outdone by my tasting in an ornate hotel ballroom, our Arnie Millan recently attended a whirlwind tasting of the 2008 Bordeaux vintage. Here is his report:

I flew into San Francisco last for an intensive tasting of top Bordeaux from the 2008 vintage. The Union of Grand Cru de Bordeaux put on this tasting of 100 top estates. It’s almost easier to list who wasn’t there: all the five First Growths (Mouton, Lafite, Latour, Margaux and Haut Brion), Cheval Blanc, Ausone, Petrus and other high priced exotica of that ilk.

Alas, we were to taste only the other remaining top classified, or otherwise renowned, estates and have the rare opportunity to meet the Chateaux’s owners; people whom we only heretofore knew by name, mentioned in print in somewhat hushed tones. How cool is that? And they were all pleasant and unpretentious.

Overall, this is an excellent vintage which favored the Right Bank (Pomerol, then Saint-Emilion) and the estates of the Médoc, particularly Pauillac, Saint-Julien and Margaux. These wines are drinking well now and I think they’ll show even better with age.

The biggest disappointment was the wines of Graves and Pessac-Léognan. They did not show well at this tasting. I hope age will be kind to them. This was the only region from which we tasted dry whites. The superior white was from Château Pape-Clément followed by Domaine Chevalier. One of my favorite estates there is Smith Haut Lafitte but the wines were disappointing, especially after tasting Pape-Clément immediately beforehand. On the plus side, I was able to meet and chat with the charming proprietress Florence Cathiard and her husband.

My list of the top wines of the tasting must start with Pomerol’s Château La Conseillante and Pauillac’s 2nd Growth Pichon Baron (de Longueville). They were extraordinary and smoked the rest of the pack. They were both distinguished by a vibrancy, a depth and complexity of flavor which was transparent and fresh. Amazing.

Other top wines were Les Ormes de Pez, a Saint-Estephe I tasted with Sylvie Cazes whose family owns this estate along with Lynch-Bages (tasted but not as good) and whose brother is the famed Jean-Michel Cazes. What a lovely, unassuming person!

bordeaux wine 2008Also, I enjoyed Saint-Émilion’s Pavie Maquin with owner Nicolas Thienpont (right), whose family also owns Pomerol’s elite Le Pin. Canon La Gaffelière was delicious, represented by the irrepressible and perpetually grinning Count Stephan von Niepperg (see below, dressed in amazing style).

bordeaux wine 2008A surprise was the Médoc’s Chateau La Tour de By. This is an obscure small estate whose inexpensive wine was first-rate. Here are the others I enjoyed, not already mentioned:

Saint-Julien

Léoville-Poyferré, Léoville-Barton, Talbot, Branaire-Ducru, Lagrange, Beychevelle, Gruaud-Larose and Saint-Pierre

Pauillac

D’Armailhac, Clerc-Milon, Grand Puy-Ducasse, Haut-Bages Libéral, Pichon-Lalande

Margaux
Rauzan-Segla, Brane-Catenac, Giscours, Kirwan, Lascombes

Pomerol

Clinet, Gazin

Saint-Émilion Grand Cru
Angelus, Canon, Clos Fourtet, Figeac, Larcis Ducasse, Troplong Mondot

So those are Arnie’s thoughts on the 08 vintage. Do you have any questions for Arnie about Bordeaux?

I Love Esoteric Wines: Moscatel Seco

Moscatel SecoI’ve always been a fan of Spanish whites, especially Verdejo, Viura, and Albariño. These wines are all great porch-pounders and crush it with seafood. Recently I was presented with the 2008 Botani Moscatel Seco and was intrigued; I’ve only seen sweet versions of Spanish Moscatel, which I’m guessing is why they make a point of putting “Seco” (“Dry”) on the label.

I was pleasantly surprised to read that the Botani is a collaboration between Jorge Ordonez and the late Alois Kracher. Most famous for legendary Austrian sweet wines, it was exciting to find out Kracher was involved in making dry whites in, of all places, Spain.

The Botani was also a geographic discovery.  The grapes are grown on the slopes of the town of Almachar. It’s not an area I am familiar with, and when I did a quick search I found an idyllic photograph. Wowzers! It’s funny how right it is that this wine comes from this place: I couldn’t dream of a better view to soak up nor a better wine to drink up. This wine is all blue skies, billowy clouds, and clean, thoughtful structure.

So are you a fan of Spanish whites? What are some of your favorites?

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The World’s Most Underrated Wines Part I: Loire Cabernet Franc

Breton Cabernet Franc
France’s Loire Vally is home to many of my most-cherished whites, like Sancerre and Vouvray, but lately I’ve been on a kick for the reds, especially Cabernet Franc. Breton is one of my favorite producers and this lineup of 2009s did not disappoint. These are medium-bodied wines with some tannin but have moderate alcohol and oak influence. They may be the ultimate food wines; I could see enjoying Loire Cab Francs with everything from salmon to chicken to pork to beef to…you get the picture. Extremely versatile, they’re the Swiss Army Knife of red wines.

My favorite of the lot, pictured on the left, was La Dilettante. It actually undergoes carbonic maceration, the process which makes Beaujolais so damn gulpable and thirst-quenching. I find myself wishing it was July and I had a slightly chilled glass of this delightful Cab Franc, while sitting under the shade of an umbrella, eating burgers and dogs. (YES!) I can’t think of a wine that’s more fresh or fun than this charmer.

But since summer is long gone and we’re approaching the second half of November, I’d say Loire Cab Franc deserves a place at your Thanksgiving table. I have a few more Turkey Day selections that I’ll detail in an upcoming, ubiquitous post that will be delivered with aplomb, enthusiasm, and vigor!

So what wines do you feel are underrated?

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I Love Esoteric Wines: Gelber Muskateller

Nigl Gelber Muskateller
Out of the hundreds of wines I taste a week, sometimes it seems it’s like a never-ending parade of the same thing, over and over again. Wow, another Napa Cab, one more Washington Syrah, hey, an Italian Pinot Grigio. Yawn. It’s not that I don’t enjoy these wines, but there is so much of them out there that for one to get my attention it really has to stand out. Thankfully every now and then, something comes across the tasting table that is unusual and exciting enough to make me forget about the unremarkable monotony that preceded it. One recent example is the 2009 Nigl Gelber Muskateller from Austria.

Gelber Muskateller? Huh? Even I had to look this up. It’s a type of muscat (wow, Sherlock Holmes) that is not only one of the most ancient, but one of the most ancient grapes, period. The first thing that struck me about the Nigl was the gorgeous aromatics: very floral, loads of peaches and pears reminicent of an Italian Moscato d’Asti. But that’s where the similarities end as this is a dry, steely white. I love the contrast of the aromas that make you think you might be getting a sweet wine but it finishes dry; just another delightful aspect of the Nigl. It would make a killer pre-dinner or lazy afternoon bottle. And as we get into November, I can’t help but think it would be nice on the Thanksgiving table. (Since I’m already seeing commercials for Christmas on TV, I feel comfortable talking about Turkey Day.)

Possibly the only thing nicer than having this wine on your holiday table would to be at the winery, drinking a well-chilled bottle. You’ve got to check this place out! Not only is the winery building itself full of charm, but it also houses a restaurant and hotel. (Yes, I will have another glass. I’m a guest at the hotel.) What’s not to love about being in a rural setting, surrounded by vineyards, and looking up at a striking castle ruin? Peruse the Nigl website and dream. The second best way to capture the magic of the wine and the region is to read the Austrian catalog put together by the man who discovers and champions these wines: Terry Theise. To call it a catalog is like calling the Sistine Chapel a room with a painted ceiling. It’s required reading for any wine geek; full of passion, humor, wit, contention, and a bit of stridency. And when you’ve finished the Austrian catalog, move on to Theise’s Champagne and Germany tomes. Theise will convert you to love the wines that are close to his heart; if he doesn’t, it certainly won’t be for a lack of effort nor prose!

So what are some of the more unusual wines you have tasted recently?

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Eat Your Vegetables (With Wine)

Romanesco
I can’t make it through my farmers market these days without getting broccoli, cauliflower, or some exotic variant like Romanesco. (Especially the latter, because it looks so cool. And it’s a fractal.) Though we all probably have recurring nightmares of steam-table vegetables at school, all mushy, bland, and lifeless, I encourage you to (re)discover Romanesco broccoli via roasting. All you need are three ingredients: Romanesco broccoli, salt, and olive oil. Here’s the technique. (Don’t sweat it.)

  • Preheat your over to 400 degrees.
  • Slice the broccoli lengthwise into fairly thin slices. You’ll have florets (and bits of florets) everywhere as well as slices of stem; that’s OK. (Don’t discard the stem; it’s tasty.)
  • Toss in olive oil to coat, put in a single layer on a baking sheet, and sprinkle with salt. Put the baking sheet on a lower rack in the oven.
  • Check often; you’ll want to toss the pieces around to make sure they cook evenly. The florets and pieces of floret get nice and crispy and, when the root pieces are tender and slightly browned, you’re done!

Now while you are eating this straight from the oven (the sheet pan is your plate), what wine should you pour into your glass? Excellent question. I love Sauvignon Blanc, Gruner Veltliner, or even a good-quality, dry sparkling wine. I would say this goes for all salad greens and green vegetables; even asparagus. I’m still mystified that the old saw about asparagus being difficult (as if it were a petulant child) to pair with wine. It’s good with all the above whites, and I’d add a dry, unoaked Chenin Blanc to the mix.

Some of my favorites we have on hand:

  • 2008 Gerard Bouley Sancerre $24.99
  • 2008 Hiedler Grunder Veltliner Loss $15.99
  • 2009 Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc $13.99
  • NV Adami Prosecco $14.99

And two more esoteric picks that are my all-time favorite whites in the $20ish range; both are Italian. The more I drink wine the more I love Italian whites, especially from the North.

  • 2008 Abbazzia di Novacella Kerner $21.99
  • 2009 Vietti Arneis $22.99

So what are your favorite wines to pair with vegetables? And are there any foods you find difficult to match with the right wine?

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