Sparkling: Pierre Peters ‘Cuvée Reserve’ Champagne NV, France
This bubbly shows lots of floral, honey, and ripe fruit (apple, lemon) aromas, on the nose, while the palate comes through with a more minerally focus. But what’s really enjoyable about it is the mouthfeel: full-bodied, but not weighty or dense. This soft texture gives it a summery feel without being simple – like Mozart’s music, it has the complexity, but doesn’t insist that you pay attention to every note.
Serve with: rich, white fish, like Todd Gray’s Bacon-Wrapped Monkfish with Risotto of Summer Tomatoes
More Oregon Wines: Duval-Leroy
White: Weinbach Pinot Blanc Réserve 2005, Alsace, France
In Alsace, Pinot Blanc is often little more than an innocuous aperitif wine – a hint to the palate that more interesting things are forthcoming. When a winemaker gives the grape more attention, though, it sometimes takes on some interest of its own. With great aromas of pear, cinnamon, and flowers, Weinbach’s 2005 is fairly weighty, and shows good length as well as a clean, crisp finish.
Serve with: all sorts of pork, like Susan Spicer’s Pork with Prosciutto, Fontina, and Marsala Sauce
More Alsace Wines: Alsace Wines with Food
Red: Mesa Buio Buio 2004, Sardinia, Italy
Sardinia, like much of southern Italy, has been shaking off its past of rustic bulk wines. Sometimes an old company learns new tricks, and sometimes it takes an outsider or new business to breathe new life into the scnene. Mesa is the latter, a young winery nonetheless dedicated to Sardinia’s native varieties – the Buio Buio is made from 100% Carignano. There’s nothing rustic going on here; its dark fruit aromas and touches of slate and smoke are wrapped in a smooth mouthfeel and firm tannins. It may not speak deeply of Sardinian tradition, but it’s worthwhile to question a tradition that had in many ways degenerated into wines best counted by the tanker truck rather than by the bottle.
Serve with: grilled meats, especially game, like Jonathan Sundstrom’s Wild Boar Ravioli with Chanterelle Mushrooms and Huckleberries
More Italian Reds: Carmignano
Dessert: Eric Texier Ô Pâle 2005, Rhône, Germany
While he was born in Bordeaux and moved to Lyons in his teens, Eric Texier did not grow up in the wine business. In some ways that means his eyes – and wines – look farther afield than some, and he actually makes wines in both the Rhône and Burgundy. Looking even further abroad, he developed a taste for German Riesling, and Texier makes the unusual Ô Pâle by harvesting his Viognier early to get a similar light and refreshing character. While the style may not say “Rhône,” the varietal aromas remain true to Viognier – orangeblossom notes on the nose, with touches of golden raisins, apricot, and a little honey to back it up.
Serve with: fresh fruit, like Bobby Flay’s Watermelon, Grilled Peach, and Blackberry Salad
More Dessert Wines: Candy for Adults
Beer: Reissdorf Kölsch, Köln, Germany
I lived in Cologne for a year and developed a taste for Kölsch, the traditional local beer of Cologne, despite the fact that they serve it in small glasses which are the complete opposite of those enormous steins you see in Munich (an important cultural tidbit: it’s completely acceptable to order your little glasses of Kölsch two at a time). It’s golden-colored and relatively light-bodied, making it a good summer beer, but it still packs in lots of flavor: touches of peach, malt, bread, and a faint touch of mint.
Serve with: grilled vegetables, like Kirk Avondiglio’s Napoleon of Grilled Vegetables with Goat Cheese, Garlic, and Rosemary
More Beer: Hitachino Nest
Spirit: Hendrick’s Gin, Scotland
Scotland is not the first place that comes to mind when you think of gin, so maybe it’s no surprise that Hendrick’s is a bit different. Infused with cucumber and a touch of rose petal along with the more usual gin aromatics, it’s a spicier, more aggressive style that’s full-bodied but still refreshing and dry. Like Scotch (in fact, it’s made by Glenfiddich), it’s got so much character of its own that it doesn’t need mixing in a complicated cocktail – in truth, it’s a bit too assertive for many of today’s fruitier concoctions. Instead it goes best in classic cocktails that highlight the spirit itself – gin and tonics, martinis, or sours.
More Gin: Dutch Gin