Sparkling: Raumland Rosé Prestige Cuvée Sekt NV, Rheinhessen, Germany
“Sekt” is the German name for domestically-produced sparkling wine; most of it is consumed domestically, too, as the Germans are enthusiastic bubbly drinkers. A few wars back in the 19th century gave them some direct exposure to not just Champagne, but the Methode Champenoise itself (Heck, some of them stayed in Champagne – hence names like Krug, Deutz, and so on). Raumland’s rosé is made without blending in red wine; they prefer the saignée method, bleeding off pre-fermentation juice from 100% Pinot Noir grapes. Full-bodied and firm, this rosé has lots of red fruit notes like raspberry, strawberry, and redcurrant as well as some almond and brioche touches on the finish. It’s quite smooth, with good persistence.
Serve with: Ham Jan Birnbaum’s Oyster-Ham Hock Stew
More from Germany: Spätburgunder
White: Patz & Hall ‘Dutton Ranch’ Chardonnay 2006, Russian River Valley, California
Patz & Hall is a pretty well-known name for Chardonnay, so you might assume that this wine would fall into the stereotypical Californian model: big, buttery, and rich. But it’s not any of those things, and that’s great. Yes, it’s pretty full, but not overwhelming. And there is a toasty-vanilla-spicy touch of oak-aging apparent on the mid-palate. But there’s also a lot of fruit, and that’s what makes it special. Notes of lemon, peach, and honeysuckle on the nose broaden into pineapple, pear, and fig on the palate, which linger on the finish. Still Chardonnay, but fresh and balanced.
Serve with: Chicken Zach Bell’s Tagine of Chicken with Preserved Meyer Lemon
More Chardonnay: Italy
Red: Kay Bros. “Amery Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, McLaren Vale, Australia
Kay Brothers is a relatively old producer for the McLaren Vale, and have been making wine for four generations. The winemaking is also old-school, with basket presses, open-top fermenters, and American oak barrels (mostly used, not new) rather than French. It’s full-bodied but very well-focused, with lots of cassis, blackberry, smoke, and cedar. If you’re craving a new-fangled touch, there is one: the screwcap closure; everything else is classic fruit-driven Aussie Cab.
Serve with: Rack of Lamb Kristine Subido’s Rack of Lamb with Chickpea Purée and Merguez Casoulet
More from Down Under: Annvers
Dessert: Etienne Dupont Cidre de Givre 2005, Normandy, France
Ice cider like this isn’t like icewine, which by law has to freeze on the vine (or tree, in cider’s case). It’s more like German eisbock beers, which is frozen after fermentation. Etienne Dupont takes his cider, freezes it, and then scoops out the ice, leaving more concentrated alcohol, sugar, and flavor. This happens several times, eventually getting the cider up to a modest 7.5% alcohol. The apple flavors become more complex, showing a mix of fresh green apples, riper reds, and even caramelized notes you’d expect only in a baked apple or apple pie, with a similar touch of spice. For all that, the sweetness is well-moderated, and the finish clean.
Serve with: Apple Tarts Gordon Hamersley’s Warm Apple Tart
More From Apples: French Ciders
Beer: Brooklyner-Schneider Hopfen-Weisse, Brooklyn, New York
A collaborative effort between Brooklyn Brewery and Schneider, in Germany. Brewmaster Hans-Peter Drexler came over to New York to work in the Brooklyn Brewery’s facilities, yielding a wheaten bock beer with lots of American hops. It’s actually dry-hopped, a technique that is rare in Germany but which many American brewers have adopted from British models. Dry-hopping encourages the aromatic qualities of the hops, and it certainly shows. The Hopfen-Weisse has lots of floral and hops aromas, supported by lemon, grapefruit, gooseberry, and coriander touches; it’s medium-bodied, and bitterly, refreshingly dry on the finish. (The collaboration has gone the other direction as well; Brooklyn Brewery’s Garrett Oliver has gone to Germany to make a “Schneider-Brooklyner Hopfen-Weisse, which uses German hops instead of American.)
Serve with: Salads, goat cheese Phil West’s Nettle-stuffed Pasta with Goat Cheese and Olive Oil
More Wheat Beer: Summer Wheat