Sparkling: René Geoffroy ‘Empreinte’ Brut NV, Champagne, France
Geoffroy’s Champagnes are generally dominated by red grapes; this particular cuvee is 39% Pinot Noir, 33% Pinot Meunier, and 28% Chardonnay. It also sees a lot of time in barrel, which adds smoke and spice aromas. While not labeled as a vintage wine, the current release is all 2003 fruit, and shows the power of that hot summer. There are touches of floral and red-fruit aromas – cherry, and even red currant – but the bread, smoke, and baked pear notes provide the center to this fuller-bodied bubbly.
Serve with: Richer chicken or other poultry dishes Stephan Pyles’ Smoked Chicken Nachos
More Champagne: Rosés
White: Kalin Semillon 1997, Livermore Valley, California
Kalin is one of those rare producers who have the space to hold their wines for a long time, and also apparently don’t feel too much financial pressure to get the latest vintage into the market. Consequently, they don’t release their wines until they feel they’re ready – this Semillon has been maturing in the bottle since the summer of ’98, giving you the chance to get a well-aged wine without auction prices or a long wait in your own cellar. Outside of Bordeaux, Semillon is a rarity, but it can make a deliciously full-bodied and complex wine. This one shows the grape’s classic beeswax aromas, plus touches of fig and pear; its mouthfeel is rich and creamy, but firm.
Serve with: Chicken or white fish Steven Raichlen’s Lemongrass Chicken
More Semillon: Australia and South Africa
Red: Black Rock Shiraz/Carignan/Grenache 2004, Swartland, South Africa
The Black Rock brand is sister to Radford Dale and Vinum Africa, and devoted to vineyards in the Swartland region (putting the “black” in Black Rock – Swartland translates as “black land,” so named for the dark bushes that grow there, and which once served as rhinoceros fodder). This dry region north of Cape Town doesn’t have the name recognition of Stellenbosch, but is producing some remarkable wines. Black Rock’s winemaker Edouard Labeye is actually based in France’s Northern Rhône, so it’s no surprise that this Rhône-style blend comes off so well. Full-bodied and muscular, it has a smoky, dark fruit nose, offset by a touch of lavender; earthier notes and some peppery spice emerge on the palate.
Serve with: Braised short ribs Gregg Wangard’s Prime Short Rib Osso Buco with Beets and Salsify
More from South Africa: Cape Blends
Dessert: Yves Cuilleron ‘Ayguets’ Condrieu Liquoreux 2006, Rhône Valley, France
The Rhône tends to be overlooked by winedrinkers as a place for dessert wines, but they’re becoming more common and available. Cuilleron makes a number of dry Condrieus; the ‘Ayguets’ is a sweet, late harvest version. Like the dry wines, it’s 100% Viognier, and the 2006 is exceptionally expressive, with floral and honeyed notes that stay consistent and balanced from the nose to the finish; nectarine, apricot, and a little nutmeg add complexity, especially on the palate. It’s full and smooth, but not heavy or cloying at all.
Serve with: Fruity meringues Michael Smith and Debbie Gold’s Warm Persimmon and Apple ‘Pot Pie’
More dessert wines: French Sweet Wines
Beer: Brasserie de Blaugies La Moneuse, Blaugies, Belgium
From a brewery on the French-Belgian border, this is smooth, complex stuff, named for an 18th century highwayman. Unlike some Belgian beers, that complexity doesn’t come from spices or other additions – it’s all about the classic ingredients: two kinds of malts, sugar, yeast, hops, and water. An amber ale, it has a moderately hoppy, fruity nose, with touches of pear, plum, and apricot. The palate is broader, with yeast, banana, malt, and a slight buttery touch. And it’s very, very smooth – much more so than its namesake, who generally resorted to burning his victims’ feet to get money from them.
Serve with: Brie Mindy Segal’s Pork Tenderloin Sandwich
More Belgian Beer: Scaldis
Spirit: Duncan Taylor Auld Blend Single Malt Scotch, Scotland
Where does the fruit come from? I don’t really know, but it’s there; the ‘Auld Blend’ starts with pear and citrus notes, but quickly reveals tropical touches like kiwi, mango ands passion fruit. The fruity character is garnished with a bit of vanilla and malty sweetness, plus a light, fresh leather touch. The original casks were laid down in the 60s, then blended together in the 80s and allowed to age even further. The fruit flavors and warming power make it Caribbean vacation in a glass – but you’ll never doubt its Scottish heritage.
More scotch: Scotch and Food