I’ve been to a few wine dinners. They’re mostly always fun. The system usually breaks down by the second course when the room starts to get loud after the wine’s been flowing. Last week, however, I attended a dinner with Josh Wesson at Jedediah Hawkins. It was the first of a series, Sessions in the Speakeasy, and it focused on wine and food pairing using exclusively Long Island wine. Wesson is best known for having started Best Cellars, a retail shop that organized wine by style rather than by region. He now writes book and does talks and things like wine dinners, and he’s really funny and entertaining; he kept everyone involved until the Martha Clara Clusters was poured with the chocolate cake. There was one line about a wine being not Chateau Lafite but Chateau Your Feet. He’s been a big supporter of Long Island wine, having emceed this year’s HARVEST East End. And he said something that I think a lot of people forget: “It’s not often you get to see a new wine region, and one so close to home.” Let upisland have their breweries, we’ve got wine, baby!
He started out telling everyone that he wasn’t going to tell us something that we didn’t already know, because we all know what we like, and every wine gets a thumbs up, a thumbs sideways or a thumbs down. On to the pairings:
The first course was to show that you don’t always have to drink the wine you cooked with. The sauce for scallops was made with the Sherwood House chardonnay, but just as many people liked the chenin pairing.
The second course was to show that still and sparkling wines can be paired with salads, vinegar be damned.
The third course was the lesson on red wine with fish. Again, just as many people liked the McCall pinot with the salmon as liked the Paumanok chardonnay.
The fourth course (not pictured above) of short ribs was served with the Lenz 2008 Gewürztraminer, a white wine, and the 2009 Roanoke Cabernet Sauvignon, which was drinking quite well, by the way. The lesson was white wine with meat; again, it was half and half, with the gewürz getting as many votes as the cab.
The final course was chocolate cake: one made with 62 percent cocoa, the other with 87 percent cocoa, paired with Jamesport’s 2007 Syrah Sidor Reserve, a dry wine, and the Martha Clara Clusters, a sweet fortified wine. This was to show that pairing sweet with sweet is a much better match.
Wesson’s theory and wit are present in the book that came with the evening: Williams Sonoma Wine & Food, A new look at flavor. Check it out.