by Jenny Benzie, Advanced Sommelier of Épernay
The most wonderful time of the year on Nantucket has arrived, and that means there is a lot to accomplish in the next few weeks. Restaurant week will soon be approaching to leisurely enjoy a repast at your favorite local dining establishment without the crowds. You look forward to hosting a festive cocktail party to celebrate and spend time with your friends and neighbors that you haven’t really seen much in the past few months. Before us is an opportunity to enjoy some of the finer things in life that our fair isle has to give in the last few weeks of summer. Here are a handful of perfect pairings for island indulgence as a reward for making it to other side of summer and into the next season.
We are always looking for the perfect pairing. The right shoes with that amazing dress, Mr. or Mrs. Right to spend the rest of your life with, and the more common one is simply a decadent wine and cheese pairing. Riesling is an often misunderstood white grape varietal and frequently judged before even opening the bottle. But this aromatic wine has more to offer than meets the eye on the wine label. Reeve “Prism” Riesling from Mendocino County is a small batch California wine label by Noah and Kelly Dorrance. Missouri natives now based in the Dry Creek area, this winery that follows biodynamic principles and organic farming is named after their young son. The wine is called Prism because they know that great Riesling has the power to have such “an array of flavors and aromas that calls to mind the refraction of white light into Technicolor.” Aromas of pear and rainwater are followed by a green apples and lime zest. The finish is shockingly dry, almost zingy with a juicy edge of acidity, and a perfect addition to any neighborhood table.
Thinking outside the box, these qualities are what make this wine a perfect accompaniment with a hard, aged cheese. Beemster XO is a premium Dutch cheese from South Holland made from cow’s milk. It is an artisanaged Gouda (“how-da” as the locals pronounce it) revered for its rich flavors of butterscotch, whiskey, and pecan. It has a deep ochre colored interior and a firm, crumbly texture. Even though it is aged for more than two years, it still has a creamy mouthfeel along with its crunchy, mouthwatering crystals due to its aging in wax that surprises the palate. Serving this coveted favorite cheese and delicious wine combination will make you the talk of the town!
LOBSTER MEETS ITS MATCH
Nothing like indulging in lobster to complete your summer wish list on Nantucket. A staple of New England dining, you don’t have to venture far or wide in order to find the perfect lobster dinner. Souza’s Seafood, located mid-island, is a complete retail fish market that will cook and crack your lobster for a dinner to take home or take to the beach.
All that buttery richness and the full texture, yet slightly sweet taste, of lobster is well-complemented by Domaine de Masques Viognier “Viognadictif.” The estate where this wine is grown and produced is located in a small village, high up in the region of Aix-en-Provence of France. It stands at over 550 metres above sea level on the Cengle plateau overlooked by Mont Sainte- Victoire, the well-known emblem of the region thanks to painter Paul Cézanne. Winemakers Sébastien Ballester and Yves Cuilleron craft this beautiful 100% Viognier wine that is fresh, full bodied and with a rich, aromatic nature. The delicate nose is dominated by floral aromas and fleshy yellow fruits, such as peach and apricot. The mouth reveals a fine freshness while being full bodied and silky, balancing well with the sweetness and softness of the shellfish. Oh-la-la! CHAMPAGNE + CAVIAR
Knowing who your farmer is makes all the difference. The taste, texture, and tone (color) of caviar is as much about where it comes from as well as the species of caviar. Calvisius Caviar Oscietra Royal is extracted from the sturgeon of the same name, also known as Russian Sturgeon. This elegant caviar has a subtle fruity and nutty flavor, with tones of dark brown to beige in color. The pearls are medium to large in size, and the velvety yet firm texture is complex and persistent in character. The caviar comes from Calvisano, a typical Italian farm town located in the middle of the Po Valley, an area rich in fresh spring water—the foundation of the ecosystem that enables Calvisius caviar its authenticity and freshness.
Our duo would not be complete without a Champagne of such great quality to match. Eric Rodez non-Vintage Blanc de Noirs Champagne is bubbles of pure happiness. This ninth generation vineyard manager and head oenologist was once the may of Ambonnay, the Grand Cru village where this wine comes from. Eric was also the cellar master at Krug where he developed his winemaking and blending methods that would later be employed on his own estate. He hesitates to use the word organic, because he is not certified, but as a grower he uses no pesticides, fertilizers, or synthetic sprays on his plants in his efforts towards organic and biodynamic farming and water management on the estate. This Brut Champagne is made from 100% Pinot Noir. It is complex yet elegant, with a slight hint of red fruit and offering a longer finish— it can handle the richest of wishes and caviar dreams.
Rain or shine, we will always have rosé. Imagine setting sail for a sensational sunset cruise on the waters of Nantucket with your favorite bottle and an entourage in which to share it. Sail aboard the friendly sloop Endeavor with Captain James Genthner on the boat that he built himself. The Endeavor is the longest operating sailing charter on Nantucket, with more than 30 years charting our local waters. It is located in Slip #1015 on Straight Wharf, just a short walking distance from any location in the downtown area. Regular daily sailing cruises are offered May through October, with a tour of Nantucket Sound as the tête de cuvée during the prime time as the sun sets into the horizon. No matter your previous sailing experience, you are welcome to help the crew set sail or simply relax and enjoy the ride.
An experience of this magnitude requires a bottle of magnanimous size as well. chene Bleu “Pont des Arts” Rosé, Réserve Speéciale, 10th Anniversaire en magnum is your answer to such an equation. This winery owned by Nicole Rolet has achieved Super Rhône status for their high quality, biodynamic wines grown and produced in the mountainous UNSECO heritage area Dentelles de Montmirail in the Southern Rhone. This wine is a blend of 95% Grenache and 5% Syrah, all from old vines with low yields that adds both complexity and a long finish to the wine. What also sets this wine apart is that it is a collection of art work as well. The label was designed by wellknown Spanish contemporary artist Miquel Barcelo depicting a bullfight, a perfect way to illustrate the “fiesty” nature of the wine (and how some may feel during the grueling months of working all summer). Olé to that!
As you compile what is on your end-of-summer Nantucket bucket list, hopefully this is a time for you to take a deep breath and care for yourself and your family first after tending to the needs of others for awhile. It also enables us the opportunity to relax and regroup, with an eye on our island community involvement as the seasons evolve and when the weather begins to change.
Jenny Benzie is an Advanced Sommelie and owner of
Épernay Wine & Spirits at 1 N. Beach Street
You can follow her at @epernaywines and #yeswayepernay.