It always helps to taste a wine with food. The other night, I found an elegant 2014 Foursight Charles Vineyard Pinot Noir ($48) far more memorable than the small plates of deep-fried calamari rings and salmon croquettes which it accompanied.. The Pinot Noir, from Foursight Vineyards in Anderson Valley in northern California, was silky smooth, with generous red fruit, and could stand well with a far more expensive French Burgundy. I drank more than my usual single pre-theater potion and did not suffer.
It’s a classy wine, suitable for vegetarians and vegans, and its label uniquely identifies its ingredients. Co-owner Kristy Charles and winemaker Joe Webb petititioned the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to permit “suitable for vegetarians and vegans” on labels since Foursight produces unfiltered wines without using animal-derived elements. Other wineries, in this age of vegan and sustainable and organic labelling, are adopting the same phrase.
When it comes to tasting wine and food, nothing, nothing can beat good Sauvignon Blanc, particularly from New Zealand, paired with oysters. What a treat it was recently to slurp down a batch of briny bivalves from the East and West Coasts at Zadie’s, which features oysters in all forms, Chef owner Marco Camora serves them raw, broiled, fried, pickled and notably, steamed with butter and vermouth, arguing that the latter cooking method prevents shellfish from drying out. Why, he asks, reserve it for just clams and mussels?
Pardon me, chef Marco, I prefer my oysters au naturel, occasionally with a tangy sauce. The New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc from Kim Crawford in Marlborough, was amazingly lively and potently acidic, notching up the minerality and brininess. These wines are not wallflowers; they’re more like wildflowers. At $17.99, the wine is a steal. The Kim Crawford tasting also included a Pinot Gris and sparkling wine with the unlikely name Fizz: Methode Traditionelle, which shows how far winemakers will go to circumvent the French lock on the names Champagne and Methode Champenoise, both fine but it is the Sauvignon Blanc that lingers in my memory of great whites.
It’s difficult to think of another wine that mates so well with oysters. Chablis, Muscadet, even Champagne come to mind, but none realizes the mouth puckering, flavor enhancing effect of a good Sauvignon Blanc.
Prosecco, the poor man’s Champagne, is a workable alternative and, in most cases, the price is attractive when compared to the cost of the French standard bearer. Zonin, one of Italy’s largest wineries, offers an attractive line of Prosecco, exploring that varietal’s increasingly appreciated potential.
Beringer, like Mondavi, is established as one of the great American Cabernet Sauvignon producers. Like Mondavi, it has also created a companion line of familiar wines.
Beringer’s latest venture takes it north and south in California. From vineyards in the far western reaches of northern Sonoma, it recently introduced 2014 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast ($25). Grapes also came from further inland in the Russian River Valley. This area is noted for foggy mornings sunny afternoons and cooler nights, ideal grape growing conditions. The 2014 are rich and expressive with a deep concentration of flavors. The Pinot Noir matured for ten months in French oak barrels, complementing its clove and allspice with oak, all held together with bright but not overpowering acidity.
The second offering is 2014 Waymaker Red, ($28) 56 % Syrah, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and smaller amounts of Petite Syrah, Malbec, Morvedre, Petit Verdict and surprisingly, Tannat, a basically South American grape., The juice rested in seasoned oak barrels for 16 months, nurturing scents of ripe blue fruits, cherry, and pomegranate. On the palate, the Waymaker offers appealing flavors of ripe plum, cocoa, and spice. The Red and the Pinot Noir are fine additions to the Beringer portfolio.