Sparkling: Clinton Vineyards Seyval Naturel NV, Hudson Valley, New York
Hudson Valley may be home to the first US winery, but the region is less known for its savvy wine drinkers than the Finger Lakes and Long Island, where New York’s oenophiles go to play. If that’s not enough, Hudson Valley’s Clinton Vineyards specializes in a grape that many aren’t familiar with: Seyval Blanc. It’s a hybrid – a cross between European vinifera vines, the kind quality wines are traditionally made of, and American vines, which are more winter hardy and disease resistant. Its crisp acidity also makes it a handy grape for sparkling wines. Here its green apple and floral aromas are complemented by a touch of bready, toasty complexity, courtesy of lees-aging. It’s a medium–bodied wine, with a smooth mousse and finish.
Serve with: ham or Prosciutto di Parma Makoto Okuwa’s Shikaimaki with Prosciutto di Parma
More Bubbly: Rosé Champagne
White: Oremus Mandolas Dry Tokaji 2004, Tokaj, Hungary
A dry wine, from Hungary’s most famous dessert wine region – well, Hungary’s most famous wine region, period. While dessert Tokaji is typically medium–bodied – viscous, sure, but at a modest alcohol level around 12.5% — this Furmint (a native variety) is a big, full–bodied, firm wine. As such, it takes well to some time in oak; the end result has a complex nose of marzipan, figs, and stony minerality, with a touch of yeasty, biscuit-y aromas you normally associate with Champagne or perhaps even Sherry. For all its muscle, it keeps its acidity, so it stays crisp and doesn’t fatigue the palate.
Serve with: mushrooms Shannon Galusha’s Wild Mushroom Soup with Seared Day–Boat Scallop
More whites from the south of Hungary: Tokaji
Red: Valli Waitaki Valley Pinot Noir 2006, Central Otago, New Zealand
Valli’s winemaker, Grant Taylor, spent quite a bit of time in the U.S., most notably at Archery Summit in Oregon and Domaine Napa and Pine Ridge in Napa Valley. He’s now back in his native New Zealand, and now it’s his wines that are making the trip Stateside. His Pinots are sourced from three different locations in Otago; a newer winegrowing area, Waitaki Valley is exceptional for the significant amounts of limestone in its soils, which seem to yield quite aromatic wines. The 2006 shows touches of licorice, plum, and raspberry, with a soft but still well–structured mouthfeel.
Serve with: pork loin Mindy Segal’s Pork Tenderloin Sandwich
More New Zealand Wines: Nelson
Dessert: Bründlemayer Gelber Muskateller Auslese 2006, Kamptal, Austria
Bründlemayer — great Grüner Veltliner, sure. No news there. Riesling, too. Gelber Muskateller? OK, this isn’t new in the “first time they’ve ever made it” sense, but the tendency is to concentrate on those more familiar grapes. Gelber Muskateller is more familiar than you might think; it’s simply the less pink–hued grape among two variants of “Muscat Blanc à Petit Grains” — a traditional Muscat, really. This Auslese carries those tell–tale floral notes, along with peach and tangerine. It’s beautiful on the nose, and gentle on the palate — not too sweet or unctuous — with great length.
Serve with: Serve with: sorbet Brad Farmerie’s Pineapple and Pink Peppercorn Sorbet
Austrian wines: Leo Hillinger
Beer: Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Maerzen, Bamberg, Germany
As experimental as America’s microbreweries can be, few have taken on the challenge of Rauchbier; perhaps because the Aecht Schlenkerla has got it so right that they needn’t bother. “Rauch” means “smoke” — the malt is dried over smoking beech wood, and the flavor sticks with the beer. It sounds like an un–subtle process, but the smoke is matched by and well–balanced to aromas of toffee, bitter chocolate, and sausage. It’s medium to full–bodied, and finishes dry.
Serve with: Barbecue Mark Miller, Stephan Pyles and John Sedlar’s Coriander–Cured Beef Tamales with Barbecue–Onion Marmalade
More beer: Irish Stout
Spirit: B & B, France
For all practical purposes, most cocktails that come pre–mixed in the bottle wave a warning flag that screams, “low–quality.” B & B comes from an older tradition, though; a blend of Benedictine Liqueur and Brandy, it was developed at New York’s 21 Club, and only later took on its status as the world’s first pre–packaged cocktail. It works so well, I suppose, because both elements are spirits already — no fruit juices or preservatives. The brandy, with its vanilla tinge, smooths out the Benedictine’s herbal and citrus aromas, and lends it some extra weight and body.
More spirits: Halloween Spirits