Turnt Chenin

By Lisa Elbert | Antoinette Bruno | Alexa Bendek

By

Lisa Elbert
Antoinette Bruno
Alexa Bendek
Sea Perch Nodaguru, Daikon, Sake Broth, and Kinome paired with Kenbishi Kuromatsu Honjozo Sake at Noda
Sea Perch Nodaguru, Daikon, Sake Broth, and Kinome paired with Kenbishi Kuromatsu Honjozo Sake at Noda

At Noda, the eight-seat omakase counter in NoMad, Sommelier Damon Cohen has an ace up his sleeve—and it comes from Savennières, not a sake brewery. Cohen’s wine program is luxe and cosmopolitan, and though sake outsells most everything else, he still stacks his cellar with “big name baller wines,” as well as lesserknown labels. In the latter category is a wine at which other somms may turn up their noses because they believe it’s, well, turned. The thing is, they would be wrong.

Cohen has unearthed a 20-year-old, oxidized Chenin Blanc that drinks almost like a Sherry. “Older Chenin is a great value because demand and consumer knowledge is scant. So markups can be aggressive while still giving quality at a great price. That way both the guest and the restaurant benefit,” he says.

The Chenin in question is a ‘99 Domaine aux Moines from Savennières-Roche aux Moines. Other somms don’t buy it, confusing the aged and oxidative qualities for off notes, so Cohen is given the gift of a deal. “I only buy three to six bottles at a time, every month or two, from Polaner for $23.99 a bottle and I sell it for $100.”

“The potential is huge for old Chenin,” Cohen says. “With high acid levels paired with the complexity it gets from age, it’s a great white for richer or deeply flavored dishes.” Cohen pairs the Domaine aux Moines with Chef Shigeyuki Tsunoda’s monkfish liver, yuzu zest, sake, and wasabi dish, and it works for several reasons. “The decent acidity cuts through the richness, but doesn’t over-wash the flavor, and the Sherry notes and nutty flavors add a rich base to the liver,” says Cohen. “Additionally, ankimo (monkfish) is known as the foie gras of the sea, and the honey and honeycomb notes resemble a dry version of foie gras’ favorite pairing: Sauternes.”

Cohen has taken a Sherry-like Chenin thought to be turned and turnt it into a pairing that has really paid off. 

1999 Chenin Notes: 

Petrol

Burnt lemon

Cereal

Mild Manzanilla Sherry

Waxy honeycomb

Honeygrilled pineapple

Almond

Dark schist

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