Many of the participants at Ken Mason’s wine seminar at the Hyannis Yacht Club arrived as skeptics. It wasn’t that they doubted the quality of the bottles they were about to sample—a flight from the highly rated Sonoma producer Ferrari-Carano. It was that they were going to sip the wines from expensive glasses made by Riedel, a famous Austrian crystal glassware company that pioneered the idea of making individual stemware for specific varietals. By contrast, some of the folks who attend Mason’s wine seminars, which he holds at various Cape restaurants, insisted that they could drink wine out of a grape jelly jar and the taste wouldn’t be any different. Mason thought otherwise.
Mason, who lives in Harwich, is a manager at Classic Wine Imports, a wine importer based in Norwood, Massachusetts, that also represents Riedel. Mason holds glass tastings on the Cape twice a year to demonstrate how Riedel glasses open up the nuances of the grape compared to all-purpose glasses. “Not only do the shapes of the bowl of Riedels enhance the aromas, the lip on the glass also directs wine to certain parts of your palate,” says Mason. For instance, he says, “The glass for chardonnay has a larger bowl and the glass’s lip directs the wine to the front of your palate. The riesling glass is tulip-shaped and the rim is bent out because riesling tends to be acidic. The glass directs the wine to parts of your palate that smooth the acidity.” For more tannic wines, like Bordeaux or Cabernet, glasses with narrow bowls are better vessels.
The prices of the Riedels can be steep: their best hand blown stems in the Sommeliers series can sell for $60 to more than $100 each. However, crystal, machine-made Riedels (the Vinum and Overture series) sell for about $15 a stem and offer different the same benefits as their pricier counterparts, like a large-bowled glass for Pinot Noir with a tapered rim to trap the wine’s more delicate aroma’s and flavors. “For the wine connoisseur, the Riedel glasses takes wine appreciation to the next level,” says John Kenney, the wine buyer for Harwich East Liquors in East Harwich. “You can step up your wine appreciation and identify more characteristics in a wine, but can you justify the cost?”
If the price of Riedel glasses is a bit out of reach, there are other reasonably priced glassware options on the shelves, like those from Schott Zwiesel. There isn’t the range of varietal specific glasses in this brand, but there are a few choices and the glasses have thin lips (best for tasting wine) and good-sized bowls for red wines and ones with large and narrower bowls for whites—and cost about $10 each. Schott Zwiesel wineglasses have an added benefit: they’re made from titanium and zirconium, so they’re resistant to chipping and breaking, especially in the dishwasher. Their larger size makes them good for swirling wine and getting a waft of the aroma.
At the Hyannis Yacht Club seminar, tasters found that the Riedel glasses allowed them to really appreciate the aromas and flavors in the wine. By the end, Mason says, the skeptics were convinced that the glasses made a difference. It turns out that it takes more than a jelly jar to get the most out of your wine.
It doesn’t matter if Wendy Koder is out at the fish market or out on her kayak: wherever she goes, almost everyone recognizes her as Wendy the Wine Lady. It’s a moniker that Koder has earned through three decades of educating Cape Codders about wine. The Upper Cape resident has worked in almost every aspect of the wine business, from a sommelier at Cape restaurants to a wine broker to a teacher at Sandwich Community School and other off Cape community colleges. These days, Koder handles marketing for Cotuit Liquors in Marstons Mills and Empire Wine & Spirits in Kingston. She also hosts wine classes and wine dinners through her own business, Wendy Talks Wine (www.wendytalkswine.com).
How did you get started in the wine industry?
After my youngest daughter was born, I started working at a very fine restaurant in South Carver, Mass. The woman who was purchasing the wine for the restaurant and writing the wine lists left. The owner handed me the wine list and said, “Here, you’re going to order the wine.” I didn’t know anything about wine; I didn’t even drink wine. Because I wanted to do the job correctly, I read everything I could and constantly went to trade wine tastings and seminars. I began to find wine very intriguing.
Have you seen wine styles evolve over the years? Read more…
Grilled Baby Octopus Salad with Lambs Lettuce, Manchego, Oven Cured Tomatoes and Lemon Herb Dressing
Presented by GreatBrewers.com, South Shore, Cape & Islands Beer Week is a great opportunity to enhance your knowledge of different beers and increase your appreciation of tasty brews with a week of events throughout Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, and Boston’s South Shore. The event, which takes place during the week of May 9 to 14, features more than 150 events including beer dinners, tastings, educational seminars, and local brewery tours. Here are a few regional highlights of the week:
- On May 12 at 6:30 p.m., Garrett Oliver, renowned brewmaster of the Brooklyn Brewery and author of The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food, hosts a beer dinner at the Chatham Bars Inn in Chatham.
- Cisco Brewers of Nantucket will conduct free VIP tours all week and is also hosting the national launch of the new Pechish Woods line at British Beer Company, Main Street, Hyannis on Wednesday, May 11 at 6 p.m.
Throughout the week, there are opportunities to sample many unique offerings from both international and regional brewers. South Shore, Cape & Islands Beer Week seeks to inform the public of the many kinds of beer and to illuminate the relatively unknown art of beer and food pairing. Traditionally, wine comes to mind as a beverage companion for a delicious meal. However, unlike wine, which is made from various grapes, beer is made of up millions of different ingredients from maple syrup to coriander. The vast and various ingredients in beer, along with carbonation (which acts as a natural way to cleanse the palate), makes beer easy to pair with many culinary choices.
In support of the local economy, South Shore, Cape & Islands Beer Week will donate $5 from every dinner served during Beer Week events as well as any donations received to local charities, including the Needy Fund of Cape Cod and the Childrens Hospital Boston. L. Knife and Son, a local distributor based in Kingston, Massachusetts, will match the proceeds raised.
When the snow stops falling on Cape Cod, you can be sure that the grills are about to come out of storage. Instead of the scent of woodstoves, the air fills with the smoky waft of baby back ribs and porterhouse steaks seared to mouth-watering perfection. With summer just around the bend, we need to pick wines that can stand up to charred foods slathered with sauces or seasoned with fiery dry rubs.
Foods that mingle with smoke and spice beg for well-structured, fruity, bold wines. For instance, a full-bodied red, like a young zinfandel with raisin fruit and spicy flavors, pairs well with the tangy sauces and the charred flavors of meats off the grill. A youthful shiraz from Australia’s Barossa Valley, with its distinctive black pepper spice, can also be a good partner for these heftier foods. The tannins that make your lips pucker in these big wines are offset by the fat and richness of grilled beef.
At the Brazilian Grill in Hyannis, steaks and other meats are pleasantly cooked on an indoor charcoal grill, and the restaurant complements the menu with a selection of wines from Argentina and Chile. Kelly Ayer, the co-owner of this churrasqueria (Brazilian steakhouse), finds malbecs from Argentina to be a good match for the restaurant’s grilled steaks, which are seasoned only with kosher or sea salt. “Malbecs have a lot of fruit, and the meat doesn’t take away the wines’ flavors,” says Ayer. The grape was originally grown in France and is used there mostly for making wines blended with other grapes. But in Argentina, malbec thrives in the Mendoza region and produces wines with grip and black fruit flavors—and sold at reasonable prices. Malbecs are some of Argentina’s best wines.
A traditional pairing for grilled steaks is an earthy cabernet, and Ayer serves selections from Chile where she says the “wines are very smoky and you can taste tobacco, in a good way.” Cabernets, which especially stand out for their quality, are some of the best wines in South America, and they possess a complexity that resonates well with beef.
At Trevi Café and Wine Bar in Mashpee, general manager Robert Rose makes selections for the wine list. When pairing with chicken and meatier grilled fishes like swordfish or salmon, Rose often picks red wines from France’s Rhône region, especially the Côtes du Rhône wines, made from blends of several grape varieties like grenache, mourvèdre, and syrah. There are many producers with a range of styles, but the wine typically has plumy fruit and softer tannins that don’t overpower. Rose also recommends some California pinot noirs because of their cherry and herbal flavors.
To enhance a plate of grilled shrimp or scallops, try the white wine albariño, from the Rias Baixas region of Galicia in northwestern Spain, one of the best seafood regions in the Iberian Peninsula. Albariños have peach and citrus flavors, a refreshing quality, and the right weight to match the day’s catch. Verdicchio, a creamy wine with punchy mineral and pear flavors from central Italy’s Marche region, is another fine selection.
Those with adventurous palates might experiment with contrasting flavors. Try pairing a sweeter wine like an off-dry riesling with a spicy grilled fish. The flavors offset one another, and they might provide a pleasantly surprising dining experience.
Picking wines to enjoy alongside grilled fare requires experimentation, but it’s not an exact science. Be bold, and keep an open mind.
The Nantucket Wine Festival commemorates 15 years of bringing some of the most celebrated winemakers to the island during this year’s four-day event, which takes place May 18 through 22. Presented by Nantucket Combined Charities, the 2011 festival once again toasts world-renowned wines paired with superb cuisine against the backdrop of some of the island’s most beautiful locations.
The festival traces back to 1990 when Denis Toner, then working as sommelier at Nantucket’s distinguished restaurant, Chanticleer, realized that there was no better place than the island for a wine and food festival. The festival got off the ground in 1997 and word spread organically to wine makers and wine lovers. Read more…
The Loire is one of France’s larger wine regions where a plethora of grape varieties grow, some near the long, winding Loire River that flows into the Atlantic. Its districts produce all types of wines—white, red, rosé, sweet, and sparkling. The region is a source of many wines that are crisp and refreshing with floral scents like a summer garden. “If I take a wine to a picnic,” says Florence Lowell, owner of the Naked Oyster restaurant in Hyannis, “my number one pick is a wine from the Loire.”
Loire wines pair well with the season’s lighter fare and are perfect warm-weather thirst-quenchers after a day at the beach. These are wines you may have left behind to experience new viticulture regions, but it’s worth revisiting these well-priced, familiar selections.
Take, for instance, the white wines from Muscadet, the area in the western part of the Loire. Muscadets are made from the melon de bourgogne grape. The better ones come from the Sevre-et-Maine district and have the words “sur lie,” a process in which the wine is bottled directly from the lees to improve its flavor and complexity, written on the label. A lemon-lime and mineral taste makes Muscadet the quintessential pairing for shellfish. “Muscadet is great with clams and oysters,” says Lowell, whose restaurant features a raw bar and a superlative menu of shellfish dishes.
Wines from Vouvray, a region on the right bank of the Loire River, are made from the Chenin Blanc grape and are know to be fruity and sweeter with a golden color. There are four levels of sweetness usually indicated on the label: sec (the driest), demi-sec (medium dry), moelleux (medium sweet) and doux (very sweet). Dry Vouvrays have flavors of green apples, tastes of oranges and pineapples, and can be softer and creamier than other Loire wines. For Lowell, a sweeter Vouvray is the perfect wine with a goat cheese: “The sweetness offsets the tartness of the cheese,” she says. Read more…
The sound of popping corks is music to the bubbly wine lover. It’s the cue to celebrate, especially during the holidays. The sublime flavors of true champagne might be your first choice. But the sparkling wine made exclusively in France’s Champagne region carries a high price tag—at least $30 for non-vintage releases. Here are some reasonably priced selections from other regions.
California’s cool micro-climates are well-suited for bubbly wines. Producers blend the same grape varieties, making their sparkling wine in the same fashion-—by méthode champenoise, where the fermentation that causes the bubbles takes place inside each bottle. There are good values ($20 a bottle or even less) among non-vintage releases from wineries owned by venerable Champagne houses. One is the Brut Classic from Domaine Chandon in Napa Valley (about $15). The winery was founded by Moët Chandon. Domaine Mumm in Napa, started by Champagne Mums, puts out a creamy style sparkler under their Brut Prestige label ($20). The owners of the Freixenet label founded the Sonoma winery Gloria Ferrer; their brut has a crisp, zesty style, and their blanc de noir (mostly pinot noir) is fruitier and lush with a slight rosé hue (Between $18 and $20).
There are other quality domestic sparkling wines made the same way as French champagne. The sparklers from Argyle in Oregon’s Willamette Valley are superb. Some selections are slightly more than $20, but well worth it. Good values come from Gruet Winery, based in a less known wine region: New Mexico. The winery is run by a family who own the French champagne house, Gruet et Fils. They make a variety of non-vintage selections by méthode champenoise. A toasty brut, a rich blanc de noir, and a demi-sec all sell for about $15 to $18 a bottle.
From Spain comes Cava, where the best are produced in the Penedès region. The sparklers are effervescent and toasty, labeled brut or brut nature. There are also many tasty rosés, like vintage dated Cavas ($13 to $20.) Freixenet, Cordoníu and Segura Viudas are the most known, but there are many interesting Cavas that are worth seeking out, like Juvé y Camps ($15) and Roger Goulart ($19).
Light, fresh, and trendy, Prosecco, produced in Italy’s Veneto region, is the perfect bubbly. Some of the best are from the Conegliano-Valdobbiaden area. Their quality has improved over the years. Excellent bottles can be found for $12 to $18. Look for producers Zardetto ($14) and Rustico Nino Franco ($18).
So raise a glass to bubbly wines that have good value and can still get a party started!
Gift suggestions to wow your favorite oenophile
- The Wine List, Hyannis: Que Syrah Shiraz Gift Basket: Five-pack sampling of four red wines and one sparkling wine made from the grape with two names. A bottle each of a Washington State Syrah, Australian Shiraz, Australian Sparkling Shiraz, French Syrah and South African Shiraz. $7
- East Harwich Liquors, Harwich: Three bottles for a dessert wine aficionado: 2009 Elio Perrone ‘Bigaro’, non-vintage Still River Winery ‘apfeleis,’ non-vintage Vinedo de Los Vientos ‘Alcyone.’ $85
- Jim’s Package Store & Island Market, Martha’s Vineyard: For a California chardonnay lover: A bowed basket with bottles of 2007 Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay and 2008 La Crema Chardonnay, two Riedel O Stemless wine glasses, wedges of Vermont brie and Grafton cheddar, and a box of sesame crackers. $110.
When it’s time to bring the sweaters out of storage, we’re ready to relinquish the crisp, light wines of summer. As groceries and farmers markets stock up on the season’s bounty, the heartier dishes of fall are often best paired with red wines. Yet some of us still want to stick with whites. And why shouldn’t we? Mouth-filling, meatier whites can satisfy, too, as we segue into the new season.
So what wines do you pick, and when? The scores of bottles on retailers’ shelves can make your head spin, so discerning palates need helpful advice. Here are some tips on selecting fall wines from Cape and Islands restaurateurs who have sampled a dizzying array of wines to assemble their wine lists this season.
The creamy, buttery flavors and richer bodies of chardonnays make them a good match for heartier foods, says Florence Lowell, owner of the Naked Oyster restaurant in Hyannis, which moved to a great new location on Main Street, right beside Puritan Cape Cod recently. Lowell loves French wines—a natural predilection, since she was born in France—especially the chardonnay-based wines from Burgundy. The top wines from this region, like those from Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet, are some of the most expensive, but those from Pouilly Fuisse and Chablis are more reasonably priced and wonderful accompaniments to heavier fishes and creamy cheeses. Lowell’s loyalty to French vintages wanes though when it comes to some California chardonnays, like the lush chardonnay from the Napa Valley winery, Far Niente. “It’s a very complex wine,” Lowell says. “When you drink it, you discover different layers.”
Rick Angelini, manager of the elegant new Starfish Restaurant in Mashpee, says pinot gris vintages from Oregon are among his favorites, especially those from King Estates. The grape is grown in various wine regions, and the ones from Oregon can be creamy and richly fruited. “With a blackened fish, either salmon or swordfish or halibut, it’s beautiful,” says Angelini.
Peter Hyde, the chef and owner of the ever-popular Blue Moon Bistro in Dennis, was bowled over when he tasted a pinot gris from Luxembourg, of all places, where wines are made near the Moselle River bordering Germany. Hyde has traveled through Europe and once worked at a hotel in Switzerland. He was intrigued when a customer, who just returned from Brussels, suggested Hyde seek out this Luxembourg pinot gris. Hyde did some research and discovered the wine, 2007 Clos Des Rochers, Grand Premier Cru, was available. “It was so amazing how nice it tasted,” says Hyde. “It has fruit—but its not too fruity—and finishes off with a buttery palate.”
This wine comes from the Friuli region in northeast Italy, close to Austria and Germany and can be lush with spicy, smoky, and mineral flavors. Felis Barreiro, the wine-savvy owner of Alberto’s Ristorante in Hyannis, says a Friulian tocai can stand up to the garlic and olive oil and big flavors of his southern Italian dishes. “The wines have a little more weight and are a little bossy,” says Barreiro, whose Main Street restaurant has long been known for its extensive wine list. Try one from producers Livio Felluga or Abbazia Di Rosazzo.
This Spanish wine, also the name of the grape, is made in the small region of Rias Baixas in the country’s northwest just above Portugal. The best wines from Spain are red, but very good whites come from the Iberian region as well. Some are lean and crisp and better suited to summer, but others are plumper, heftier with flavors of almonds and peaches, and pair well with bolder autumn foods. John Reed, co-owner of the Chapoquoit Grill in West Falmouth, has tried a lot of wine over the 30 years he has been in the restaurant business. Albariños, he says, are so versatile and stand up to the herbs and spices of his restaurant’s Mediterranean dishes. “An albariño can go with a good spectrum of foods,” says Reed. Look for one from Vina Nora.
The best white wines coming from the Rhône Valley in southeast France can be quite expensive. The white Côtes-du-Rhônes, made from blending three or four grape varieties like viognier, roussanne, and marsanne, are the most affordable, readily available, and delicious. The blend gives the wines good body and earthiness. “They make excellent fall wines,” says Matthew Hayes, wine director at 21 Federal on Nantucket. “They pair well with chicken and veal.” Hayes recommends the producer M. Chapoutier. And he would know: Hayes is a certified sommelier and is working towards the distinction of advanced sommelier.