Sparkling: De Meric Grande Reserve Sous Bois Brut 1er Cru, Champagne, France ($35)
Owing to the weak dollar and ever-increasing international demand for Champagne, prices on bubbly keep moving higher and higher, but this one remains a superb value in spite of all that. I guess it should be no surprise their prices aren’t keeping up with the times; their winemaking’s old-fashioned, too: fermented and aged in older barrels, riddled by hand, and Pinot-heavy in its blend, it shows impressive weight and complexity. It’s also very smooth and toasty, with notes of marzipan, pear, pecan, and a light smoky touch.
Serve with: lobster Sergi Arola’s Warm Lobster Soup
More Champagne: Champagne Terroir
White: Parés Baltà ‘Electio’ 2004, Penedès, Spain ($50)
Parés Baltà is a family-owned winery with over 400 acres of vineyards, all grown organically. They make a variety of wines, using traditional, native grapes as well as a few of the so-called international varieties This deliciously crisp wine is made from a local grape Xarel-lo, which usually only appears as part of a traditional Cava blend. While crisp, it’s still quite full, which can be a hard combination to find. Some of the steeliness of Cava is apparent on the nose, but lees-aging has tempered that well with brioche and bready scents; there are also some pleasing pear and lime notes, and the citrus persistence on the finish is mouthwatering.
Serve with: mixed seafood Alex Ewald’s La Tapa Paella
More Spanish Wine: Ana Martìn
Red: Edmunds St. John ‘Wylie-Fenaughty’ Syrah 2005, El Dorado County, California ($25)
The Wylie and Fenaughty vineyards lie only ten miles apart, but differ enough in micro-climate that the latter ripens almost two weeks later. Winemaker Steve Edmunds says that in 2005, both vineyards showed rich, ripe tannins on their own, but that bringing them together brought out the sweetness of those tannins, reinforcing the wine’s fruit while keeping it structured and smooth. Syrah’s spicy tones aren’t lacking, showing themselves as black pepper and licorice, but that fruit comes through, dark and strong, in notes of boysenberry and blackberry, complemented by a touch of chocolate.
Serve with: skirt steak Steve Johnson’s Grilled Skirt Steak with Kimchee
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Dessert: Gran Barquero Amontillado, Montilla-Moriles, Spain ($15)
Across the board, the Gran Barquero Sherries favor elegance and lightness, but never sacrifice complexity to those ends. Perhaps it’s because they’re made from Pedro Ximinez, rather than Palomino, as is more usual (Their vineyards, being based in and around Montilla rather than Jerez, are farther inland, and Palomino has trouble coping with the additional heat.). The Amontillado is dry (Yes, I know I’m putting it in the dessert category, but “white” didn’t seem right, either.) and possibly the best value of the bunch, with delicious quince, brioche, and marzipan notes and great length. It works well both as an aperitif or digestif, and can accompany dishes on either end of the meal as well.
Serve with: almonds Marco Moreira’s Young Garlic and Almond Gazpacho
More from Spain: Serving Sherry
Beer: Righteous Ale, Six Point Craft Ales, Red Hook, Brooklyn, New York ($6)
Rye is a strong flavor, and can sometimes be a bit overbearing. The Righteous Ale lets it have its say – lets it dominate, even – but not without giving supporting flavors their due. Apricot, walnut, and some floral hops notes come through, and roasted malt touches provide a well-balance base. Medium-bodied, it’s dry and firm on the finish.
Serve with: smoked salmon Marcus Samuelson’s Gravlax with Black Mustard
More Beer: Wheat