Sparkling: Eric Bordelet Poire Granit 2006, Normandy, France
Sommeliers, like lawyers and doctors, often harbor a not-very-secret desire to make their own wine. Eric Bordelet instead left the profession to take over his family’s orchards; if you need convincing that cider can attain the smoothness and minerality of Champagne, he’s the guy to show you the way. This pear cider is fairly dry, and light bodied, with good length and a pleasing mix of pear, spice, and mineral aromas, living up to the granite terroir from which it comes.
Serve with: Salads Ann Cooper’s Pear, Walnut, and Celery Salad
More Apple Juice: French Hard Cider
White: Willakenzie Pinot Gris 2006, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Oregon Pinot Gris often can’t decide whether to live up to its Alsatian namesake or go for something lighter and crisper in the hopes of grabbing a piece of the Pinot Grigio market. This one goes for the former, with lots of fruit – pear, honeydew melon, and peach – as well as honey and flinty notes. Medium-bodied, it may not be crisp, but it steers clear of the oiliness that one finds in some of the richest versions from Alsace.
Serve with: Onions Mark Bittman’s Onion Quiche
More from Oregon: Willamette Valley Visit
Red: Roagna Barbaresco Pajé 2000, Piedmont, Italy
The Pajé vineyard has a reputation for being hard and austere, so maybe it’s the much-trumpeted, forward style of the 2000 vintage that’s bringing out the nose and elegance of this wine. The wine’s already showing a lot of lavender, cherry cola, and licorice aromas. It’s quite full and firm, and the tannins are powerful but not masochistically drying. It should age well, in keeping with Roagna’s house style, but there’s no reason not to open it now if you’ve got an itchy corkscrew finger.
Serve with: Risotto Barbara Goodman’s Risotto with Mushrooms
More from Piedmont: Visiting Barolo
Dessert: Rare Wine Co. New Orleans Special Reserve Madeira, Madeira, Portugal
About ten years ago, the Rare Wine Company introduced their “Historic Series” Madeiras as a complement to the older (often much older – from the 19th century, even) Madeiras they offer. They named their first three releases after Boston, Charleston, and New York – cities where Madeira was once the wine of choice; the New Orleans came along this past year as a way to help out the Big Easy, post-Katrina. They chose Terrantez as the main grape for the blend, perhaps because it, too, endured a battering (not from a hurricane, but from the phylloxera aphid), but is making a comeback. The wine itself is moderately sweet, with raisin, fig, toffee, and light walnut touches; it’s full-bodied, and held together by a powerful acidity that keeps the sweetness and alcohol in line.
Serve with: Nuts Maura Kilpatrick’s Black Walnut Steamed Pudding
More dessert wines: Madeira
Beer: Birrificio del Ducato ‘Nuova Mattina’, Parma, Italy
Perhaps it’s because Parma is known more for its foodstuffs – cheese, prosciutto, pastas and grains – than for its wine, but whatever the reason, Giovanni Campari got it into his head to make beer – the sort of beer you’d normally find in Belgium. At the moment he only makes one beer, the Nuova Mattina, and considering the number of ingredients that go into it, he may already have his hands full. Several different types of malt, oats, two kinds of hops, and a ton of herbs and spices (coriander, ginger, green pepper(!), licorice…) make their way into the brew. When all that comes out the other side, you end up with a dark blond beer, with notes of mandarin, tangerine, floral hops, and white pepper, complemented by touches of chamomile and coriander. The flavors are more assertive than many Belgians, but with a lighter body and dry finish, it adapts well to the warmer climes of Italy.
Serve with: Soft, mildly tangy cheeses Mark Peel’s Fettucini with Mascarpone and Olive Oil)
More Beer: Rochefort
Spirit: Espolon Añejo Tequila, Jalisco, Mexico
When I think of Tequila, I often favor the blanco variety, which highlights the flavor of the agave – an especially important feature when you’re making margaritas. However, cool weather suits sipping tequilas, and the oak-aged lushness of an añejo fits the bill. In the Espolon, the agave has a small presence, manifesting itself in smoky, meaty undertones; the oak provides butterscotch, vanilla, and cola notes. It also smoothes out the heat on the lengthy finish. Neat or on the rocks, it should help you shake off the chill in the air.
More from Mexico: Del Maguey