Virginia Bordeaux at Momofuku

By Jeff Harding


Jeff Harding
RdV Vineyards 2010 Virginia Bordeaux
RdV Vineyards 2010 Virginia Bordeaux

In the time of Thomas Jefferson, grapes were not a successful crop in Virginia. Nutrient-rich soil and abundant rainfall are not what you seek in a vineyard. But thanks to technological advances in the last 40 years or so, soil scientists and winemakers are finding success on rocky slopes with plenty of wind. These conditions mimic Bordeaux, so winemakers are finding success with Cabernet, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. Another factor is the camaraderie among the winemakers and the generosity of Jim Law of Linden Vineyards, who has mentored many of the best winemakers in the state.

This mashup of classic and “new” is a metaphor for the scene at Momofuku CCDC, as well. People are drawn by the fame of David Chang but return for the cuisine of Maryland native Chef Tae Strain, who breaks free from the noodle origins and champions local and seasonal menu items. The combination of classic technique, global spices, and rich history of East Coast ingredients allow Strain endless opportunity for variation and innovation.

Beverage Manager Ryan Ward takes advantage of this no rules mindset, too. His D.C. clientele was initially put off by a “New York” style wine list (grower Champagne and big-name producers), so Ward adapted and has gone all in on supporting wines from Virginia. Bordeaux blends are a comfort zone for skeptical wine lovers and allow for a conversation—which inevitably ends with Virginia wine in the glass.

Grilled lamb leg, carponata, mint, carrot pureé
Merlot/Petit Verdot/Cabernet, RdV Vineyards, Rendezvous Cuvée, Virginia, 2010

Continuing the theme of classic with an international update, Strain grills and cross-cuts the lamb leg here. This exposes the connective tissue and highlights the fatty richness in the cut. Countered by eggplant caponata and mint, and then a bitter rapini with a ginger-garlic Szechuan dressing, the lamb is still center stage, with notes of heat and spice sending you back for more meaty richness. The wine again focuses on the lamb, letting the dish shine, but with its own balance of supple fruit and acid tension, which take a bit of the spotlight and show what is possible in Virginia terroir. Vibrant acidity from the Merlot draw attention to the brown butter carrot purée, which point out the char on the meat and the black vinegar and garlic. Then you notice the black currant which reminds you of the Petit Verdot and Cabernet, and it’s time for another bite. And another glass.

Barboursville Vineyards
Lindeen Vineyards 
Michael Shaps Wineworks 
Breaux Vineyards
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