An Homage to (and the Perfect Wine Pairing for) Joe’s Stone Crab

As a late birthday present this week, I received a box of stone crabs from Joe’s, the legendary Miami restaurant which has its own fleet of boats to source the world’s best sweet, meaty crustaceans.

What wine was grand enough for this epic and luxurious crab feast?  I splurged on a similarly decadent 2002 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru, a white Burgundy of creamy texture and intense concentration, with notes of apples and peaches and a stony tang.

One need not resort to a wine of this dizzying specialness to flatter the butter-and-saline magic of stone crabs.  Equally compelling would have been a high-quality California Chardonnay, an Albariño from Spain, or richer-style Champagne or sparkling wine.

The meal: Joe’s stone crab claws, clarified butter, Joe’s mustard sauce, creamed spinach, hash browns, and key lime pie.

wine pairing stone crabs

Hungry for your own? You can order in from Joe’s here on their website.

For more on wine pairing, check out my latest book, How to Drink Like a Billionaire!

Are You Drinking A Safety Blanket?

pinot grigio is a safety blanket

 

Let me guess: your favorite white wine is Pinot Grigio, or what I like to call “the safety blanket” of wines. It’s loved by millions of Americans because it’s easy to drink, easy to say, and, with its light, clean taste, it serves as a welcome counterpoint to the plethora of leaden, oaky Chardonnays crowding store shelves.

But is it really worth $12 to $30 per bottle—not to mention the calories—to drink a wine with so little personality? Break out of your comfort zone this weekend and consider my favorite alternatives listed in my new book.

  1. Assyrtiko: The Palate-whetting Assyrtiko from the isle of Santorini is particularly lemony and minerally, wines like this and others from Greece are light- to medium-weight rejuvenators with an enduring crush on white, flaky fish
  2. Friulano: A pride of northwestern Italy, this wine is the mellifluous secret password for middleweight revivification.
  3. Sauvignon Blanc from Chile: Sold for a song, bought for flavorful meln-y zingers and the softer, Californian style.

For more alternatives to Pinot Grigio, check out my book, How to Drink Like a Billionaire (Regan Arts), and remember to drink bravely, drink richly, and #DrinkLikeABillionaire.

Wine and Wheels on Valentine’s Day

valentine's dayReprint of a Q&A with Mark about lovable wines for Valentine’s Day and his beloved “El Tigre.”

Q: What is the perfect Valentine’s Day wine?
Mark: For those willing to endure its vertiginous pricing and notorious inconsistency, the answer, unequivocally, is red Burgundy from France. It has a splendidly shimmery glow, a kind of ruby translucence that is a world away from midnight dark wines like Zinfandel and Syrah. The best examples have an intoxicating fragrance of berries and rose petals as well as a satiny coating that seems to leave a talcum trail across your palate. They often show an underlying hint of earthiness — think mushrooms or forest floor or autumn leave piles — a kind of primal sexiness that stands it apart from any other wine, especially on Valentine’s Day. You’ll earn extra points if you secure a bottle from the Burgundian village of Chambolle-Musigny and the perfectly-named but hard-to-find “Les Amoureuses,” i.e., “The Lovers,” premier cru vineyard.

For love on a budget, go with a cru Beaujolais, which is a slightly more serious cousin of the more familiar Beaujolais Nouveau. You’ll say it all with a “St. Amour,” the northernmost of the cru Beaujolais villages. Like most wine from Beaujolais, it is irresistibly light and fruity and costs less than $15 a bottle.   Excellent producers include Georges Dubeouf, Marcel Lapierre, Mommessin, Château de la Chaise, Jean Folliardand Michael Tête. Perfect for

Q: Tell us about your television show.
M: I’m a judge on PBS’s The Winemakers, which features 12 folks competing to have their own wine label. It’s compelling television; you’d be surprised at how intensely people yearn to break into the wine industry. We filmed the first season in California’s beautiful Paso Robles wine country and will soon be shooting the new season in France’s Rhone Valley. You can check out clips of the show at: www.TheWinemakers.tv.

Q: Word on the street is that you have a muscle car – do tell.
M: Ah, you mean “El Tigre,” which is one of 500 “Grabber Orange,” 400-horsepower street-legal racecars made by Saleen, a boutique manufacturer-modifier of high-performance Mustangs. In power, color, and form, the car pays homage to race legend Parnelli Jones’ 1970 Boss 302 Mustang, which ruled the SCCA Trans Am Series in the early seventies.

Q: So the car has a 70’s feel?
M: Undeniably. It’d be right at home in Starsky and Hutch or a Beastie Boys video. It comes complete with a “shaker scoop,” a cannon-like pipe protruding through its hood and “window louvers,” which look like black venetian blinds screwed into the back window. Besides giving the car an exquisitely menacing, Stegosaurian rear, I haven’t figured out a purpose for the louvers beyond making would-be tailgaters imagine that the driver is a once and future felon.

Q: What is it like having a muscle car in Manhattan?
M: In a city of solemn sedans and generic SUV’s, El Tigre is a mobile joy machine, a retro representation of West Coast tire-burning culture. Unlike your typical animosity-generating exotic car, I get the sense that El Tigre engenders goodwill in those it rumbles past. It has a certain democratic appeal: cops smile, street hustlers wink approvingly, and buttoned-up business types get Matchbox flashbacks. European tourists often stalk it with their camera phones, as they seem to take special pleasure in its unapologetic Americanness.

Q: Are people surprised to learn that a wine expert has such a car?
M: Often they are, and I like that. Life, like wine, is most interesting when it embraces the complex. The ability to experience many dimensions, some them pleasantly unexpected or seemingly contradictory, can be greatly satisfying.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day, and remember to drink bravely!

Report from the 2009 Aspen Food & Wine Classic

Food & WineThe Aspen Food & Wine Classic last week was once again one of the most promiscuously flavorful weekends of the year.

I also had the good fortune to visit with other illustrious speakers, including cheese-goddess Laura Werlin, wine-goddess Lettie Teague, the perfectly pocket-squared Brian Duncan, and the smartly-sweatered Tony Giglio. There truly is no better pairing than food & wine.

Another highlight of the weekend was the Best New Chefs Dinner, which featured delectable creations such as the a crab cocktail shooter from Bryan Caswell of Houston’s Reef, pork meatballs from Nate Appleman of San Francisco’s A16, and a grilled pimento cheese and bacon sandwich from Linton Hopkins of Atlanta’s Holeman & Finch.  I practically feel to my knees in bliss sampling the succulent pork belly sandwich topped with kimchi from Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook of LA’s Animal.

My own seminars at Food & Wine this year were entitled “Hard to Say, Easy to Drink” and “Outsmarting Wine 101”.  To select the final twelve wines from 186 contenders, I once again employed a tasting panel of wine-passionate friends.   On a mild Saturday night this March, we diligently swirled and spit around a table in the techno-cool offices of my pal Mark Hernandez’s electronic interior design company, Cliqk.   After the evaluative part of the tasting, the evening somehow transformed into a raucous rager with dozens of thirsty friends somehow finding the stamina to help us drain those 186 bottles.

Food & Wine

The twelve winning selections that I included in my Aspen Classic seminars were:

“Hard to Say, Easy to Drink”
Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition Grand Cru NV ($70, France)
(Egg-lee Oo-ree-ay)
Txomin Etxaniz Txakoli 2008 (Spain, $22)
(Sho-MEEN Ex-TAN-ess Choc-oh-lee)
Boutari Moschofilero 2007 (Greece, $11)
(Mosque-oh-FEEL-arrow)
Feudi di San Gregorio Aglianico “Rubrato” 2006 (Italy, $17)
(Ah-LYAH-nee-koe )
Quinta do Crasto Touriga Nacional 2005 (Portugal, $65)
(Tou-REEGA Nah-shu-nal)
The Black Chook Sparkling Shiraz NV  (Australia, $15)
(hard Ch, rhymes with “hook”)

“Outsmarting Wine 101”:
Adriano Adami Prosecco di Valdobbiadene 2007 (Italy, $23)
Te Kairanga Sauvignon Blanc Martinborough 2008 (New Zealand, $19)
Plantagenet Unoaked Chardonnay 2007 (Australia, $18)
Erath Pinot Noir Dundee Hills Estate Selection 2006 (Oregon, $32)
Gundlach Bundschu Merlot Rhinefarm Vineyard 2005 (California, $30)
Justin “Isosceles” Paso Robles 2006 (California, $55)

The Biggie Show: Aspen ’08

Once again, the Aspen FOOD & WINE Classic proved itself a gastronomic Shangri-La — a confluence of sips, sustenance, and setting of Mr. Roarkian wondrousness.

aspen

My seminars this year were “Rosé Renaissance” and “ABC’s of Wine”.  To ensure that each wine was worthy of the Classic’s illustrious attendees (including my sister), I again enlisted the palates of my Manhattan-based “Civilian Tasting Panel,” a circle of discerning but non-professional tasters organized by my buddies Mark Hernandez and Judge Kirby.  After sampling close to 90 wines this winter, these winners emerged:

Rosé Renaissance:
1) Delamotte Rosé Brut NV (France, $90)
2) Domaines Ott, Chateau de Selles, Rosé 2006 (France, $38)
3) Domaine de la Mordorée, “Dame Rousse,” Tavel Rosé 2007 (France, $28)
4) Tablas Creek Rosé Paso Robles 2007 (California, $22)
5) Crios de Susana Balbo Rosé Of Malbec 2007 (Argentina, $12)
6) Bodegas R. Lopez de Heredia, Vina Tondonia, Rosado 1997 (Spain, $28)

ABC’s of Wine:
1) Mionetto “Sergio MO ” NV (Italy, $22)
2) Saint Clair Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2007 (New Zealand, $20)
3) Beringer Chardonnay Private Reserve 2006 (California, $35)
4) A to Z Wineworks Pinot Noir 2006 (Oregon, $19)
5) Hess Collection Cabernet Sauvignon Mount Veeder 2004 (California, $50)
6) Peachy Canyon Zinfandel Paso Robles Westside 2006 (California, $29)

Being at the Aspen Classic also affords the opportunity to visit with various superheroes of food and wine, including, this year, Gail Simmons, the irresistible judge from Bravo’s “Top Chef.”

Finally, I offer a grateful knuckle-knock to the Aspen Daily News for their kind words in this Monday’s issue:

“Mark Oldman had to be the most entertaining wine speaker of the weekend.  In his seminar, Rosé Renaissance, the wine author managed to incorporate some Biggie Smalls lyrics while discussing a $90 bottle of French champagne; led a little chant and dance on how to taste wine; and shared his method of pouring undrunk rosé into a Gatorade bottle when unable to finish a bottle of the pink stuff in a restaurant.  While his seminar slightly overlapped the Saturday Grand Tasting, very few looked as though they wanted to leave as the volunteers signaled that his time was up.”