Wednesday, August 16, 2006

W.W.W.S. ~ Which Wine With Shark

It’s Wednesday Week 3 – WWIII on the Pacific Coast - and we’re wondering, which wine with shark?

I have asked a few folks along the way for their thoughts, so short of a guest posting today, we will turn parts of this over to their ideas.

First, my rant must be paid.

I’m on a train from San Diego to Orange County. Here is where you can sometimes find signs of “early California”, the California of my childhood, the California of Junipero Serra and Fig Tree John. The California of scrub desert and coastal coolness, mission architecture and low-slung, arts-and-crafts dwellings. The California in my past has receded from the present but not from my heart. One of the reasons I cannot come back home, home isn’t here anymore. Tough thing for a native, one who grew up among the Agua Caliente and the Pala, who climbed Tahquitz and camped in Temecula, before the glossy winged sharpshooter real estate developers got hold of this special place. So, as long as the memory holds, I’ve got it here, inside. And that will have to do.

It’s Ferragosto in Italy, and here in Old San Diego, waiting by the tracks for the train, there’s’ a cool breeze. It’s slightly hazy and not too crowded. It made me wonder why I wouldn’t take a shorter flight more often and come here? There’s good wine and great produce, seafood is fresh and the living is casual, easy, relaxed. And the waves are better.

Yesterday. Low tide, seaweed and an advisory out for sting rays. Perfect weather for a swim. Along the California-Mexico border, we saw a family of sharks hugging the body-surfing lanes. And who’s to argue with them? But if they can eat us, we can eat them, too. But which wine to go with it?

Some of the folks submitted suggestions straight off, and some prompted me for the way we are going to prepare the aquatic beast. I’ve asked newspaper food section editors, wine importers, an exceptional chef who has one of the best restaurants in the country and is landlocked in Dallas, a gypsy freelance wine and food writer, a Master Sommelier, a Master of Wine, a bay area (SF) Italian restaurant wine director, an American turned Italian ex-pat who knows food and wine and the financial markets, and a few other folks. So it should be an interesting cioppino of ideas were simmering on the stove.

Michael Bauer sent this back. His was the first (and quite expeditious) response. Michael is the San Francisco Chronicle Chronicle restaurant critic, and executive food and wine editor. “The 2004 Lucia Pinot Noir goes with anything; it might even cover up the ammonia flavors in Iceland’s famous fermented shark dish.”

Sharon Hage, the chef and proprietor of York Street in Dallas, Texas ( the best little restaurant in America and one I can walk home from if needed), sent me this note. “Shark is one of those 'meat-fish.' The texture is so firm (yet not really oily) that, depending on the accompaniments, you could even do a light red. The meatiness of the fish also lends itself to more acidic or even fruit-type accompaniments (mango/pineapple). You may want to consider dry riesling or chenin.”

I asked Guy Stout, a Master Sommelier, to work with her suggestions, and here is what he came up with.
“Villa Maria Private Bin Riesling from Marlborough on the South Island of New Zealand: aromatic hints of peach and spicy yellow plum with a touch of chalky mineral, moderately dry with a hint of green apple, soft round texture on the palate, no oak is used, with a medium-crisp citrus length to the finish.”
“Burklin Wolf white label 'The Doctor' 2005 dry Riesling: ripe, rich with delicious stone fruit, peach, pear, green apple, slate, mineral... juicy man. The juice.”
“Ch d' Epire Savennieres 2004 from the Loire from Chenin is as lean and mean as Chenin Blanc gets, must have food.... Drooling is optional, or risk indigestion.”
And then on his own, Guy recommended these: “Depending on a sauce that is used, I would go with Lucien Albrecht Pinot Gris Cuvee Cecile, for the minerality and luscious round fruit and No Oak.... King Estate Pinot Gris - more fruit-forward and ripeness, with a bright crisp flavor of pear and plum, and again, No Oak.
Red wine: I would go with something that has firm acidity, but not too sharp. A Chianti Classico from Castello Monastero, or Perrin Bros. Cotes du Rhone Villages with a slight hint of cranberry and vanilla to lift the flavors without overpowering. Both wines are lightly oaked.”

Alice Feiring lives in NY when she is not on the Wine Trail somewhere in the world herself. She is a Wine/Travel columnist for Time Magazine and has won a James Beard Award for an article she wrote for the NY Times, to which she is a frequent contributor. We had a few notes back and forth, and she had a good question.

“Well, how are you preparing your shark?”

I sent her back 3 possible preparations. Her response was marvelous.
(1) Grilled shark steaks with soy sauce, orange and lemon juice marinade with garlic and parsley:
“A Rhone Village, something less intense than a CDP or Gigondas. A little floral, but with guts like a Lirac, or a Sablet, or a Seguret. Conversely, we could go north for a syrah...St. Joseph Offerus from Chave.”
(2) Shark steak au poivre:
“Probably either a Tondonia Rosé, or a Gravonia White from Lopez de Heredia....or a Loire Valley Cabernet Franc...perhaps a Chinon from Jean Raffault."
(3) Shark tacos - with chipotle, cilantro and garlic - cubed like kebobs, grilled and then prepared into tacos, with avocado, cilantro, lime and onion.
“The above choices could work for this as well, but also plenty of other fun choices: Muscadet from Pepiere or Jo Landron, a good solid Chablis from the 2004 or 2005 vintage, or the A&P de Villaine Aligoté.”
Thank you, Alice!

David Anderson, an American expat, Italian expat, now living in America. But his head, much of the time, is in Italy, and he had this to say about squalo (shark):
Pomino Bianco
Don Pietro Bianco di Sicilia
Rivera Ligure di Ponente Pigato
Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi
Regaleali Bianco di Sicilia
"In Umido:
Trentino Pinot Grigio
MonteCarlo Bianco
Etna Bianco
Riesling Friuli
Acquilea Renano
Torgiano Pinot Grigio
Bianco d'Alcamo
"Aceto Balsamico:
Collio Bianco
Vernaccia di San Gimignano
David is an Amici dello squalo. Grazie, Davide!

While we are in squalo territory, let’s hear from Shelley Lindgren, the Wine Director of one of my favorite Italian wine and food spots in the US, A16 in San Francisco. Shelley replied,“I selected some wines for you to pair with shark. I think medium-weight whites with firm acidity, long finishes and volcanic minerality would be sublime:
Feudi di San Gregorio 'Campanaro', Campania 2004
Vestini Campagnano 'Le Ortole', Pallagrello Bianco, Campania 2004
Benito Ferrara, 'Vigna Cicogna', Greco di Tufo, Campania 2005
"I also selected some reds that wouldn't overpower the shark, but add a range of earthiness, structure, fruit and tannins. Plus, I recommended some wines I love and imagine would be ideal with the earthy, bitter and acidic capers:
Molettieri 'Vigna Cinque Querce', Riserva, Taurasi, Campania 2001
Marisa Cuomo 'Furore', Costa di Amalfi, Riserva, Campania 2001 (Aglianico/Piedirosso)
Palari, Faro, Sicilia 2001 (Nerello Cappuccio/Nerello Mascalese/Nocera)
Punica, 'Barrua', Isola dei Nuraghi 2002 (Carignano/Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot).

"I hope this is helpful. Let me know if you would like me to elaborate on any of these wines. It's really nice to hear from you. Besos from your honorary squalo, Shelley."

Much better a beso from Shelley than from a squalo. Great suggestions. Grazie Tanti!

Alison Smith is a pistol! She and Shelley are the next wave. Dividing her time among Texas, California, South America and Japan, Ali sent this in from her Bluetooth Corporate Hang Glider somewhere overlooking the Brazos River.
“Ahh, I just sipped a 2004 Schiopetto Pinot Bianco, so this popped to mind first. Pending the shark recipe, the Crios Rosé of Malbec would be lovely. It's a wonderful wine for heartier fish. For a red, a nice Barbera d'Alba might work - again, pending the recipe.”

Not bad considering she sent this while managing not to crash into Michael Dell’s house. Thanks, and besos to you!

Bill Watson had an excellent suggestion. Bill was one of the first wave of ambassadors who spread the Gospel of California Wine. He was one of the first who went out into the hinterland of America with bottles of Robert Mondavi wine. He is now a business manager for a portfolio of wineries at a large distributor in Middle America. But he hasn’t lost his edge. The poor guy does have to listen to me talk to myself a lot; we have cubicles next to each other. I try and stay out in the heat most of the time so he can get his work done. Thank you, brother, for bearing my rants.

Bill responded: "Itsas Mendi Txakoli 2005, made from 100% Hondarrabi Zuri grapes, a varietal native to the Basque area where this wine is produced. The nose of the wine is explosive, reminiscent of Sardinian Vermentino, herbal and floral at once, even a bit tropical. The palate carries this impression through and amplifies it, supported by vibrant acidity. The body is medium, but the complexity and length of the flavors create a big, memorable experience.

“The slight lemon zest in the nose and the crisp acidity on the palate would dance with lemon and capers as if life's script planned it that way! The shark would be extremely pleased just knowing it would be bathed in Sardinian oil and grilled over used Burgundian Never or Allier French Oak chips.”

Thus spake Zarathustra. Thank you Bill. Sounds like something for El Bulli or Etxebarri to tackle?

And Charles Curtis, an American Master of Wine, author and Director of Wine & Spirit Education for Moet Hennessy USA, also a young one, had these ideas: “Shark, huh? Well, a lot depends on the method of preparation and the accompaniments. It's a thick, meaty type of fish, though, and I think I would choose a broad, rich white wine without too much of a pronounced aroma. From our book (MH USA), I'm thinking the Friulano (my note: Tocai, soon not to be called that) from Felluga or the Terre Alte.

"You would also do quite well with the La Nerthe Blanc. Outside the book, I would look at a (dry) Alsatian Tokay Pinot Gris (maybe Deiss?) or a (dry) Pinot Gris from California (Hendry, maybe?).”

And my choice? "Well this seems to be a difficult food. The creature has no way to eliminate and hence has some gnarly uric acid buildup. I’d be a bit on the aggressive-angry side, too, if that were the case with me. Shark and wine? I’d vote for the
Gravner Breg, a white wine with a soul as dark as the shark. Here’s a winemaker who, along with his son, turns philosophy into wine. And the Breg fits the bill with my chosen preparation, which would either be as a steak with capers and lemon and olive oil, or as an experiment in place of stoccafissa for the Portuguese dish, bacalhau."
[By the way, Eric Asimov wrote a very good piece on
Gravner for the NY Times, if you have a subscription you can access the article here]

Thanks to all who responded. By the way, all but two of the folks responded. (my writer friend in NY, on vacation, and the other, an uber-blogger, who is probably too busy to join in this exercise and swim in the tank with all these luminaries and devotees of the wine and food world.) You folks were great! Let’s do this again! Anyone else who wants in, leave on comments, or
email me, and I'll pop you in the tank with the rest of us.

So there you have it. Even on vacation, the beat goes on.

Fig tree John, my hero

1 comment:

Tracie P. said...

good god that's scary

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