By Jim Clarke
July 2007

Sparkling: Sparkling: Chateau Frank Celebre NV (Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars) Finger Lakes, New York

Two generations of pioneering work come together here. Dr. Konstantin Frank was the leader in planting vinifera grapes into the Finger Lakes, introducing techniques he had learned and developed in the Ukraine to help the vines survive the harsh winters. His son Willy began making sparkling wines under the Chateau Frank label as his own project. The Celebre uses Dr. Frank’s most successful vinifera grape in sparkling form; it shows floral, lemon, and baking spices on the nose, and broadens into brioche and honey notes on the palate. It’s light-bodied and elegant, with good focus and length. Chateau Frank makes several sparklers, many using traditional Champagne varieties, but this is my favorite to date.

Serve with: Omelettes and other egg dishes Scott Campbell’s Poached Eggs with Smoked Salmon and Hollandaise
More from New York: Beachfront Wines

White: Albariño de Fefiñanes 2005, Rias Baixas, Spain

Fefiñanes consistently makes one of the most elegant Albariños around; the winery is set in a wing of the Marqués de Figueroa family’s 17th century palace, and the wines reflect their aristocratic pedigree. The 2005 is medium-bodied, with good length and clean, crisp acidity. It has a satisfying mix of flavors: apricot and a granite minerality at its core, with complementary notes of clove, hazelnut, and a touch of vanilla.

Serve with: Seafood Robert del Grande’s Seared Scallops with Avocado Relish
More from Galicia: Rias Baixas

Red: Cantina Zaccagnini ‘Dal Tracetto’ Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Reserva 2003, Abruzzo, Italy

I’ve always had a soft spot for the Montepulciano grape; its chunky, dark fruit character carries itself like a friendly, lumbering Labrador puppy, and it’s handy to have around when you need help explaining what you mean by a “rustic” red. Happily, there are also a few producers who demonstrate that Montepulciano is also capable of richness, grace, and maturity, even in a hot vintage like 2003. The Zaccagnini has plenty of black plum, cherry, and spicy notes; it’s full-bodied and quite smooth, with well-integrated tannins and length.

Serve with: Boar or venison Lidia Bastianich’s Venison Ossobuco with Spaetzle
More Italian Reds: Carmignano

Dessert: Laurent Perrier Demi-Sec, Champagne, France

Is this sweet enough to put in the dessert category? It is in the summer, certainly, when it’s nice to finish a meal with something sweet, but a rich botrysized or fortified wine might be too much. Refreshing bubbles and a softening touch of sugar are more like it. The Laurent Perrier Demi-Sec starts with some peach, floral, and lemon curd aromas on the nose and then deepens on the palate into notes of hazelnut and honey. It’s quite soft, but acidity and refined bubbles keep it clean and refreshing.

Serve with: Key lime pie  Norman van Aken’s Frozen Lime Souffle
More from France: French Dessert Wines

Beer: Staropramen Premium Lager, Czech Republic

This was a fave of mine when I lived in London; after the pubs closed, the usual way to continue the party was to head out for a curry – restaurants were allowed to continue serving beer as long as they also served food, and many of my vindaloos and jalfrezis were accompanied by Staropramen. I only recently rediscovered it here in the U.S.; it has the hoppy bite that has made its compatriot Pilsener Urquell so distinctive, but is a bit softer and fuller, which makes it good for extinguishing heat – from a curry, the stovetop, or the sun.

Serve with: Indian cuisine  Atul Kocchar’s Coconut Lobster Curry
More from Eastern Europe: Tokaji

Spirit: Gran Centenario Plata, Mexico

There’s a danger sometimes in attaching quality to the expense that goes into making something. For example, reposado and añejo tequilas tend to overshadow the “simpler” silver tequilas. They cost more to make because of the barrel-aging, but the difference is ultimately more one of style than quality. A top-notch silver tequila like the Gran Centenario has all the quality of its barrel-aged relations, but focuses on the flavors of the agave itself. That means lots of fruit – citrus, pear, and melon – as well as earthy undertones and a good dose of white pepper. Far superior to reposados and añejos in a margarita or other cocktails (where the oak-derived flavors can often be clumsy), this plata also has the complexity to be enjoyed on its own.

More Mexican Spirits: Del Maguey Mezcal



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