Every year I try making a Mint Julep around the time of the Kentucky Derby. And every year I realize, again, that I don’t like them. This year I went out for a Mint Julep, invited to meet Hollis Bulleit at a party she was giving for the occasion, on the patio at Boston’s Intercontinental Hotel . Normally a lovely space overlooking the Bay, on this early May afternoon it had a real Arctic wind coming in off the ocean. Read more
Posts Tagged ‘Boston’
Longtime winemaker Daniel Baron surprised me with some of his theories, when he was in town for dinner the other day on the Silver Oak 40th Anniversary tour. (They were towing a replica of the water tower symbol of Silver Oak around the country but we never got to see it… that’s another story.)
Baron is in charge of sister winery Twomey as well as Silver Oak (both wines I tend to enjoy), and he’s also a great frontman for the wineries. He gives the impression he’s seen it all – then gone home and distilled out the information he wants to use, For example, about four years ago he started a new program of tasting the grapes to see when they’re ready to harvest. He calls it “sensory berry analysis.” Probably what winemakers have been doing for the thousands of years before laboratories were the available.
This method must require plenty of vineyard experience, the kind that’s handed down from generation to generation. Now that Baron is in the older generation category, maybe he’s just trusting his own experience, rather than following the latest fad of, say, waiting to harvest till the grapes’ seeds are super-brown.
“We don’t make wine with seeds,” he points out. “We make wine with grapes, with skins.” He wants to “capture that moment when the grapes are ‘fresh fruit.’” He looks at technical ripeness, phenolic ripeness, sugar and acidy in the pulp, as well as factoring in seed ripeness, and puts this all together. Which is one reason that his wines are slightly lower in alcohol than many Napa reds, somewhere in the 13-14% range. And Baron claims the percentage listed on the bottle is the actual alcohol percentage, unlike at some other wineries.
As somewhat of a myth-buster, Baron also doesn’t believe that wines are damaged by pumping, so he’s not a convert to the vogue for gravity-flow wineries — purely for wine quality standards. I’m sure there are other reasons, like energy-saving, that make gravity-flow a good idea, but we didn’t have time to get into that.
He also doesn’t believe that crop thinning promotes concentration in the grapes. Is this heresy? It’s such a trend worldwide, I’m wondering how he knows this…
Actually, I don’t think about Muscadet wine a lot. I’d rather it simply showed up in a glass so I could just drink it. So when I was given a chance to sample several Muscadets with oysters, of course I said yes. The SecondGlass people combined forces with Loire Valley Wines at a lunch in Boston yesterday, at the Island Creek Oyster Bar.
It’s a medium white wine, ranging from somewhat crisp to a bit fruity — elements in common with chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, meaning it can have tropical fruit, honey or grassy aromas. It’s not super-crisp, but has a strain of limestone citricity (is that a word?) running through it at the best of times, which makes it lively on the palate.
A classic pairing is muscadet and oysters – which really works. It was even more fun to have the Island Creek oysters with three choices for the first course, all in the $12-$14 range: 2009 Guy Saget “Les Clissaes d’Or” Muscadet Sèvre et Maine; 2009 Domaine de la Quilla Muscadet Sèvre et Maine; 2010 Domaine de la Louviere Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie.
“Sur lie” means the wine is left on the lees, or the dregs of the yeast cells and other grape particulate matter – which sounds awful but imparts a depth of flavor to the wine. Until now, it was common to leave the wine on the lies for no longer than a few months. Now, there’s a movement to leave the wine there for 17 months, and new regulations have recently been proposed (expect an update in a year or so).
Muscadet, by the way, refers to an appellation, an area of the Loire region. It’s not a grape, but so many more people know the word muscadet and so few people know the name of this wine’s grape (Melon de Bourgogne) that muscadet is now a stand-in name for the grape.
Three more wines were served with bright green pea soup with poached oysters. These, all under $18, were Michel Delhommeau “Cuvée Harmonie” Muscadet Sèvre et Maine; 2009 Domaine de l’Ecu “Expression de Granite” Muscadet Sèvre et Maine; and 2009 Domaine les Hautes Noëlles Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu. The best pairings for me were the first and third wines. The Michel Delhommeau started super-crisp, with the flavor almost disappearing on the palate, then finishing with lingering limestone. The Domaine les Hautes Noëlles had a big body that somehow lightened up with the food. Interesting.
For the final course, we had a few beautiful Scituate scallops with a sprinkling of gnocchi in brown butter sauce. The food was minutes old; the wines were at least a decade old. Most people think of Muscadet as a wine to drink young, but they aren’t all like that. We had three – and all were under $25 – each one a different hue of bright gold: 1995 and 1999 L d’Or de Luneau-Papin “Cuvée Medaillée” Muscadet Sèvre et Maine; and 2000 Domaine du Haut Bourg Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu.
The 2000 Domaine du Haut Bourg was a combination of youth and evolution with a cantaloupe nose, crispness, chalk and limestone throughout. The 1995 was calm and serene, with butter and vanilla-yeast notes, while the 1999 was hearty, reminiscent of wet beaches on the nose, and a big, long finish. Each one brought out different notes in the food.
I guess that means I need to keep trying more Muscadets. It shouldn’t be too difficult. At least in Boston the whole month is Muscadet May.
I like the way marketing spirits and wines is changing. Instead of summoning the press to a morning seminar or mid-afternoon comparison tasting, some companies are demonstrating the way their wines or spirits fit into our lifestyle. They’re doing this especially for younger bloggers, I think, but it works for me.
Last week I went along to a dinner at Mooo in Boston, where the menu said we were “Guests of The Macallan Scotch.” And we were – guests.
Upon arrival, we were offered glasses containing small pours of The Macallan 17-year-old. We stood and chatted, nibbling appetizers, meeting the other guests.
After a time we sat down to dinner, and several entrée choices. We drank red or white wine with our meal, depending on our own preferences.
We ate, we conversed, we sipped our wines: it was a dinner party.
After the meal, there was another offering of several Macallan single malts — each in a different glass to avoid confusion. Along with more of the 17, a few mouthfuls each of the 12-year-old, 18-year-old, and finally the 25-year-old.
Instead of spending the evening analyzing and scribbling tasting notes, I relaxed and got to know some of the other people at the table. Then I sipped and considered the scotches.
The sum total of my notes for the evening was a short observation from early in the meal: “When I think of Scotch I think of earthtones, of mushrooms and brown things.”
My favorite? The smooth 25-year-old. I can remember that without copious jottings in a notebook.
A good lifestyle lesson, I’d say.