Just as wine evokes some anxiety in many otherwise confident people, so does peanut butter and jelly offer a sense of calm. Even if you did not grow up with the classic sandwich in your lunchbox, even if you do not particularly care for it, you cannot help but feel at ease at its mere mention. But that’s not what led Peconic Bay Winery’s Megan Hamilton to pair PB&J with their 2010 Riesling. That, in fact, was a happy coincidence.
“The [wine’s] acid and low sugar is in perfect balance with peanut butter’s saltiness and jelly’s sweetness,” says Hamilton, who discovered the perfect pairing while working in the tasting room last summer. The PB&J aficionado (it’s a near daily meal or snack) also notes the play between the texture and weight of peanut butter and the wine’s mouthfeel.
Peconic Bay’s 2010 Riesling—which won a gold medal this March at the 12th annual Finger Lakes International Wine Competition—is a clean, dry wine with a bit of acidity and only 1 percent residual sugar. The winery considers it to be among the best they have ever produced. Best, however, does not mean reserved for a select few.
“Wine can be perceived as highbrow,” says Hamilton, “but as you can see from our farm, wine comes from dirt and is consumed by real people. It levels the playing field when you realize that.” Making food and beverage approachable is part of her culinary DNA.
Last May, Hamilton moved to Long Island from Minneapolis where she worked as a line cook at Haute Dish (a rift on “hotdish,” the casserole a Midwesterner might bring to a potluck or have as simple dinner at home). The concept of the modern-American restaurant, says Hamilton, “is to make fine dining approachable by using really fine ingredients for everyday meals.”
And that sentiment is part of her personal philosophy as well, informing every choice. Hamilton’s PB&Js are made of whole-grain bread, crunchy organic peanut butter and Really Good raspberry fruit spread (made in Cutchogue and sold at the winery).
“PB&J is not just children’s food. You can’t refuse it. It makes you smile. It relaxes you. And wine has similar qualities. Together they’re the perfect picnic.”
Now Peconic Bay’s full-time hospitality manager, Hamilton recalls a Friday last summer: a friend joined her for her signature pairing and live outdoor music at the winery. An ideal evening. Suddenly she realized this wasn’t just a seasonal job—she was here to stay.
Peconic Bay Winery’s tasting room—31320 Main Road (Route 25), Cutchogue—is open daily 11 a.m.–5 p.m. (9 p.m. on Thursdays). They have outdoor seating and many special events. 631.734.7361; peconicbaywinery.com