Sparkling: Soutiran Perle Noire NV, Champagne, France ($60)
Many Champagne producers have told me lately that Chardonnay is the most important component in a Champagne blend, and the number of blanc de blancs (100% Chardonnay, by definition) coming to the U.S. seems to be on the rise, at least anecdotally. That’s fine, but let’s not make the mistake of overlooking great blanc de noirs Champagnes like this one. Made with 100% Pinot Noir from the village of Ambonnay, it offers a weighty mix of mushroom, brioche, baking spices, and some fruit: baked pear and fig, mostly. I’ll admit that some blanc de noirs can be rough or angular, but that’s not the case here; living up to its name, which means “black pearl,” it stays elegant from the nose to its long finish.
Serve with: Salmon or Tuna Tarta Fabio Trabocchi’s Trio of Tartars
More Champagne: Agrapart and Larmandier-Bernier
White: Pannonhalma Archabbey Rizling (Riesling) 2006, Pannonhalma, Hungary ($13)
Pannonhalma is a small wine area lying midway between Vienna and Budapest; the Archabbey dates back to 996, when Benedictine monks settled there and began growing grapes. Under Communism the vineyards were taken over by the state, but in 2000 the abbey reclaimed them, and renovated both the winery and the vineyards with the help of the late Tibor Gál, one of Hungary’s top winemakers. Its cool climate lends itself to crisp whites; this Riesling is light, dry, and refreshing; its lime and grapefruit nose transforms into a well-focused minerality on the palate. This is a great wine for the hot summer days ahead of us.
Serve with: Trout Jason Hammel and Amelea Tschilds’ Rainbow Trout with Sunchokes and Winter Radishes
More Hungarian wine: Tokaji
Red: Morlet ‘En Famille’ Pinot Noir 2006, Sonoma Coast, California ($90)
Luc Morlet, the winemaker at Vineyard 7&8 (and formerly at Staglin and Peter Michael), also has his own label, producing three Pinot Noirs and a white Bordeaux-style blend. The “En Famille” name is a nod to his family back in Champagne and to the tradition of bringing the family together to work the harvest. It’s the least fruit-forward of the Pinots, with forest floor, smoke, and earth notes taking their place alongside raspberry, strawberry, and light kirsch touches. The mouthfeel is more structured than many Sonoma Coast Pinots, making it both food-friendly and age-worthy.
Serve with: Salmon Jonathan Sundstrom’s Roasted Salmon with Creamy Lentils
More from Sonoma:
Vineyard 7 & 8
Dessert: Broadbent Vintage Port 1994, Porto, Portugal ($65)
Bartholomew Broadbent, in addition to importing various top-quality wines from family-owned wineries, has also gone right to the source in Port and Madeira to produce his own wines. If it wasn’t enough that he’s a top authority on both, he also had the input of his father, Michael Broadbent – Britain’s most experienced wine writer and lecturer, head of the Christi’s Wine Department. Not enough? How about winemaker Dirk van Niepoort putting the ideas of the Broadbents into practice? But really, this Port – their first vintage – speaks for itself: extremely elegant with date, boysenberry, and dark plum notes, as well as some spice and slate touches.
Serve with: Chocolate Matt Maslowski’s Chocolate-Coffee Pâté
More vintage port: 2003
Beer: North Coast Brewing ‘Le Merle,’ Fort Bragg, California ($7.50)
A beautiful blond and straw color, “Le Merle” is a rarity: an American take on the farmhouse or saison style of beer of Flanders that both represents the style well but has its own, American identity. It’s medium-bodied, with lemon, floral hops, and tropical fruit notes of pineapple and mango. “Le Merle” is refreshing and dry on the finish, owing to a firm but well-balanced dose of hops.
Serve with: Mature goat cheese Chris Santos’ Potato & Goat Cheese Pierogies
More Californian beer: Humboldt Brewing