Sparkling: Bele Casel Prosecco NV, Veneto, Italy ($16)
Many Prosecco producers seem to favor a touch of sweetness to their wine, perhaps to smooth things—covering up flaws, essentially—but often at the cost of complexity and interest. The Bele Casel doesn’t need that kind of insurance, so it can stay truer to Prosecco’s purpose as a classic aperitivo. While not bone dry, it’s dry enough to avoid the simple, cloying character of some of its competitors. Good vineyard sites are the starting point; all of their grapes are sourced from two well-regarded sub-districts of Valdobbiadene, Santo Stefano, and Saccol. The Prosecco grape’s fruit (peach, lemon, and pear) and mineral notes come through cleanly, complemented by aromatic floral touches.
Serve with: eggs (Tony Maws' Egg en Cocotte with Crab & Rock Shrimp)
More from Italy: Chardonnay
White: Etienne Sauzet ‘Champ Gain’ 1er Cru Puligny-Montrachet 2006, Burgundy, France ($87)
While 2006 in Burgundy has a reputation for being an earlier-drinking year than its highly-rated predecessor, at the Premier Cru level, many of the producers are working against that belief, creating closed wines that are often a bit over-sulfured—a quality that will fade in the bottle with time, but which for now needs some decanting if you want to enjoy them. Sauzet has avoided that problem. The Champ Gain vineyard has come through with its characteristic full, fruitier style, with great notes of peach, apricot, and even a touch of mango along with floral and honeyed touches and a slight undertone of marzipan. Its mouthfeel is smooth and round, with good focus and length.
Serve with: cod (Hiro Sone’s Sake-Marinated Black Cod)
More Burgundy: Summer in Burgundy
Red: Matthiasson Napa Valley Red 2005, California ($75)
Steve Matthiasson spends his days as a vineyard consultant for sites scattered across Napa and Sonoma; distracting as that might sound, it seems to mean that when it comes to his own label, he doesn’t try to make a lot of wine, or even a lot of wines, producing just one white and one red in some vintages. The 2005 Red is a blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 60% Merlot; the latter of which is more dominant on the aromatic nose, showing lots of plum, cassis, blackberry, and milk chocolate. The Cabernet’s job is to provide structure, reining in the expressiveness to give the wine focus, structure, and tannins. The wine is aged in a 50/50 mix of new and older French barrels—a quite moderate and well-balanced touch of new oak by Napa Valley standards allowing the grapes to do the talking. The end result is delicious, drinking well in its youth and not overpowering or heavy.
Serve with: lamb (Geoff Gardner’s Pecan & Molasses Crusted Spring Lamb)
More from Napa: Vineyard 7 & 8
Dessert: Trimbach Gewurztraminer Vendange Tardive 2000, Alsace, France ($60)
In Alsace, outside the dessert wine styles, Trimbach’s wines are known for being among the driest of the dry. That doesn’t stop them from making quality dessert wines. In that endeavor they remain stylistically consistent, favoring elegance and complexity over weight and richness. This late harvest Gewurztraminer carries its sweetness lightly, with ethereal notes of rose petals, yellow plums, Meyer lemon, and a touch of spice; it’s long on the finish, relatively light-bodied, and smooth.
Serve with: avocado (Rodelio Aglibot’s Avocado Mousse with Lychee Sorbet)
More from Alsace: Pinot Gris & Gewurztraminer
Beer: Avery Brewing ‘Out of Bounds’ Stout, Boulder, Colorado ($2.50/12oz.)
Perhaps it’s because of the current interest in seasonal beers; perhaps it’s the demonic label; perhaps it’s the American sweet tooth or the beer’s high alcohol (16.1%!), but Avery Brewing’s Mephistopheles’ Stout seems to get more attention than their year-round stout, ‘Out of Bounds.’ And while I’ll gladly drink the Mephistopheles on occasion, the Out of Bounds is a great session beer—one you can drink several bottles of through the course of an evening without too much trouble. Lighter alcohol (5.1%) does not mean less flavor; the beer’s dark malt, chocolate, roasted espresso, fruit notes (i.e. prunes, dates) are expressive and delicious. The roasty character dominates, leavened by a bit of hops to maintain the dry character on the finish.
Serve with: oysters (Elizabeth Terry’s Oyster Sausage Turnover)
More from Rogue: Irish Stout