The Wine Diaries: Grapes and Peaches

Má Pêche, Momofuku – Duck Two Ways PHOTO: GABRIELE STABILE

as seen on canada.com

If I had my little way

I’d eat peaches every day

Eat a peach. Listen to the music. Taste wine. Feel like a president. My wine codex is in full, binary cross-cultural mode. These days I can’t help myself singing (in a quiet whisper) Dave Grohl songs – I’m not even such a big fan of his music! Maybe it’s because he seems to be everywhere; in tweets about the SXSW Festival, on the cover of Delta’s in-flight magazine, on satellite radio in the rental car. Recent wine events and food experiences have left me with the distinct impression that “it’s times like these you learn to live again.”

Passionate chefs, exceptional “100km” wines, and a good cause are a triumvirate for success. Also, a city that never sleeps, a superstar chef’s empirical outpost, and sublime food are a second triad for victory. And what do these two scenarios have in common? Grapes and peaches.

BAAH! The Great Lamby Cook-Off, Thursday, March 21st, 2013, Imperial Ballroom, Fairmont Royal York Hotel

BAAHTony Aspler knows more about wine than just about anyone I know. That he has taken his knowledge, his craft and his contacts in the food and wine world to champion a noble cause, well that is something to be admired. The organization he gives time to is called Grapes for Humanity, globally providing much needed relief to those less fortunate. Mr. Aspler organized yet another memorable GFH event, to benefit a child’s education by constructing a needed school in Guatemala. Twelve chefs, 12 lamb dishes, 12 wine pairings. You couldn’t spit without hitting a sommelier or a local oenologist. Chef Michael Pataran took home the top prize for his Goan Lamb Shoulder with a coconut, chili, lime chutney and paddle skewer. The best wine pairing went to the Henry of Pelham Baco Noir Reserve 2010, poured alongside Pataran’s “curry”; a double win. Stock Sommelier Zoltan Szabo directed the room with tireless energy.

Here, my favourite three wines at “BAAH”, plus a gorgeous Gigondas tasted in NYC on Saturday night.

From left: Rosewood Estates Merlot 2010, Tawse Merlot ‘David’s Block’ 2010, Norman Hardie ‘County Unfiltered’ Cabernet Franc 2011, and Domaine du Gour de Chaulé Gigondas 2007

Rosewood Estates Merlot 2010 (211896, $22.00) on this night walked a Niagara Wallendian tightrope of balance between heft and deft, sidling effortlessly up to Barque Smokehouse chefs David Neinstein and Tony Starratt’s ‘Mici‘ and travelling further on up the evolutionary road past “enjoyable if unremarkable.” From my earlier note: “Continues to show a reductive note in the form of vanilla and maple syrup, no honey actually, but all signs point to further excellence. High quality chocolate spiked by cherry, orange and a peppery, nasal tickle open up beautifully and expressively towards the dusty, berry main event. Knock your baby’s socks off with this double-stuffed Oreo and let the night unfold.  89 @Rosewoodwine

Tawse Merlot ‘David’s Block’ 2010 ($49.95) from certified organic and biodynamic estate fruit puts the double ‘L’ back in lush. Endowed of a caressing cashmere. Could act as spokesperson for Niagara Merlot announcing, “there are 10 kinds of people in the world, those who like Merlot, and those who don’t.” Calm, confident and marked by an insouciant nature. Earlier note: “Suffers no stenosis and instead flows as a sanguine and savoury riverine expression. Olives and the smokey whiff of yeasty bread on the grill. Not surprising considering the quality of Pender’s lees so often collected and added back to the next generation’s barrels.”  91  @Tawse_Winery  @Paul_Pender

Norman Hardie ‘County Unfiltered’ Cabernet Franc 2011 ($25) rolls the barrel out from a velvet underground into the Prince Edward County sun, pours singular Foster Vineyard fruit over crushed limestone then infuses the juice with ripe cherries. The warmth of 2010 lingers on in the ’11 CF’s pale blue eyes. Makes “the world as pure and strange as what I see.” Persists as the definitive expression of this grape in The County.  91  @normhardie

Dinner at Momofuku, Má Pêche, 15 w. 56th street, New York City, @momofuku

Má Pêche knows how to treat a lady, the President of the United States, and me. David Chang’s midtown eatery located in the Chambers Hotel opened in April, 2010. The Executive Chef is Paul Carmichael, a Barbados native who transmits Chef’s vision through elegant, restrained and poetic flavours. Carmichael and Chef de Cuisine Johnny Leach compose dishes as colourful canvasses but they are never over-painted nor monochromatic abstractions. Food of distinction and singularly distinct from plate to plate. Vegetables, many of the root kind, are succulent, glossy, al dente, and clearly defined. Service offers no pretense, no hovering, no massaging. Casual and professional. No hipster attitude neither.

Má Pêche AppetizersPhoto: Michael Godel

Má Pêche Oysters
Photo: Michael Godel

Oysters, especially New Brunswick Hurricane and Salt Pond Rhode Island are fresh makers, like spirits moving through the ocean. Washed those suckers down with 21st Amendment “Bitter American” Extra Pale Ale. Spanish Mackerel is a smokey, charred wave of umami with crisp, crunchy romaine and a silken tofu sauce, like citrus-spiked tahini. Barnegat Light Scallops are buttery, whispering, ethereal.

Appetizers

Má Pêche Appetizers

Chatham, MA Cod is foam cloud-enveloped, braised fish and brussel sprout ‘chips’ attenuated by malt vinegar. Jurgielewicz Farm, PA Duck two ways is perfect pink breast accented by candied orange rind and also piquant mici-like sausage, bucked by peppery spice. Provitello Fams, NJ Veal is fall apart, rosy neo-osso bucco, soft, supple and flat out delicious. The only non-wow moment comes from Barnegat Light, NJ Monkfish which shows indifference and a dry, dusty mole that barely mingles with needs to be further-rendered skin.

The wine list is more than thoughtful, embracing many needed food companion varieties, like Sylvaner, Trebbiano, Scheuerebe, Cabernet Franc, Nerello Mascalese and Teroldego. I opted for a southern Rhône Grenache blend imbued with just the perfect amount of age.

Domaine du Gour de Chaulé Gigondas 2007 ($31, Menu: 375 mL $32) of black/crimson mephitic and inky berry blush and lush, full-on sun-drenched fruit has reached full resolve. Licorice, kirsch and stony, meta-anthracite show off in the wine’s perfect window.  Decadent Gigondas.  92

Good to go!

Big night of wine at Barque Smokehouse

Wine and BBQ. Photo courtesy Jill Chen @ freestylefarm.ca

as seen on canada.com

On Tuesday night Barque Smokehouse welcomed South African winemaker Marc Kent and RKW Imports for an eight course paired tasting event alongside eight wines from the Boekenhoutskloof portfolio. The ambitious Kent is the vintner equivalent of an air force pilot. Thrill seeker, pioneer, risk-taker, restless soul and difference maker. Very few South African outfits manage to fill two polar niches with such a high level of success ; the Porcupine Ridge and Wolftrap ranges appeal to the market inhabited by the everyday drinker and Kent’s serious Syrah goes out to the collector.

Barque Smokehouse

The cellar master from this outrageously efficacious Franschhoek operation works tirelessly to champion Syrah and to indulge in atypical varietals (for South Africa) like Semillon. Now in his (very) early 40’s, the buoyant Kent’s wines continue to express a longing for the northern Rhône,  though they fall into their own, unique category. To a red, the sanguine, savoury, warm climate, mountain and maritime sensation is always present. Syrah of liquid white pepper sprinkled over a periodic table of elements.

Marc Kent

The affable Kent and master of ceremonies Zoltan Szabo led a group of 85 diners through the Boekenhoutskloof range concomitant to an astute and benevolent menu from chefs David Neinstein and Bryan Birch.

Shrimp with tarragon crème fraiche, garlic chips

Wolftrap Rosé 2012 (169409, $12.95) talks turkey and shrimp of a Turkish delight, candied strawberry and cream tongue. Sprinkled with spiced nuts. 86

Salad of warm fior de latte, heirloom tomatoes, basil and reduced balsamic

Wolftrap White 2011 (263608, $14.95) makes use of a balanced and warmer vintage, allowing the honey and pep of Chenin Blanc to truss the Viognier and Grenache Blanc together as one. “It’s richer in ’11, ” says Kent, “and still commercial, if I can use the term.” My thoughts too.  87

BBQ Chicken and Goat Cheese croquettes

Porcupine Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2011 sees no oak, only the cool, steel walls of the tank. High acidity and herb pistou, unctuous and great value for SB, anywhere.  88

White Fish En Papillote leeks, oyster mushrooms, lemongrass broth

Boekenhoutskloof Semillon 2009 is my WOTN. Made in miniscule quantities, a near-Bordeaux ringer attributed with white CDP-like Marsanne, Roussane vigor. Runs a gamut of aromas and mouthfeel; honey, wax, acorn, lime, ginger, peach and orange blossom. “The truth is in the second half of the bottle, ” notes Kent.  91

Marc Kent wrapping briskets

Pulled Duck Tacos , pickled carrots, scallions, ahoy sauce

Wolftrap Red 2011 (292557, $13.95) is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Dictionary red fruit in every sense of the inclination. The South African version of broad appeal Australian Shiraz. The only bottle without SA typicity. Tasty yet homeless and residing in Smallville. Begs the question. “What are you, man or Superman?”  86

Brisket (photo courtesy of Jill Chen @ freestylefarm.ca)

BBQ Brisket with hush puppies

Porcupine Ridge Syrah 2011 (595280, $14.95) the consistent one outsells all other VINTAGES Essentials. Why? Because it’s well-made, affordable and precocious. Dips into Northern Rhône waters and swims with the fishes. Walks out unscathed, vintage after vintage.  88

Braised Short Rib, creamy polenta, green peppercorn jus

The Chocolate Block 2010 (129353, $39.95) sends Syrah to study abroad. Though the blend is Rhône plus 13% Cab, the intense chocolate notes (go figure) seem not unlike Chile’s elite Carmenère and Cabernet blends. Montes Purple Angel and Don Melchor come to mind.  Dusty Theobroma cacao, purple flowers and reduced red berries join forces for what really is an elegant brew.  Knows the pathway to your heart. 89

NY Striploin with black pepper dumpling

Boekenhoutskloof Syrah 2009 (52076, $59) is the doctrine to preach Marc Kent’s ability to procure excellence. Balanced and focused to a sip and in every sip. Distinctly Guigal and even Delas in refinement. A varietal likeness no other SA Syrah can touch. Never over the top, here “quality is in the second half of the bottle.” Kudos Kent.  90

Good to go!