There is wine and there is food. I could raise a glass of Thunderbird and pair it with a Big Mac – and I would have met the basic criteria for a food and wine pairing. While this may be an interesting experience it is not one that will rate above a D- on a report card.
So then – how to score an A+ for wine/dine?
Recently invited to Brooklyn to share Loire Valley Chinon Wines with BBQ at Northern Bell – I was more startled by the mix of France and Brooklyn then the pairings of wine with BBQ. No matter the time of day or season of the year – there is always a perfect wine to enhance the moment.
Although the Brooklyn dining scene has received accolades too numerous to list – I have a Manhattan attitude toward anything located in the BBQ (Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens) “outliers” and although I will travel for hours to get to Istanbul, I am hesitant about spending a subway hour getting to Brooklyn.
In order to get “over myself” I keyed into HopStop, got the transit directions, checked the time from start to finish – and began the trek to Northern Bell in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY. Exiting the subway I found a neighborhood with modest low-rising buildings, small mom/pop shops and thought about the wasted day ahead of me.
I checked the street sign for Metropolitan Avenue and walked the short distance from the L to 612 Metropolitan Avenue, reviewed the restaurant name on the invitation and opened the door – definitely surprised by the smart and stylish interior and, with a skip in my heart beat, it occurred to me that this might be the start of something delicious.
Start with the Loire Valley Wines. Specifically Chinon AOC
The grape varieties from this region include Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin, Cabernet Franc, Gamay and Pinot Noir. The terroir varies from the gravel terraces of Chinon to the hillsides of Touraine, from the valleys in Gien to the steep slopes of Sancerre. The area has 24 listed AOCs and all are considered to be quality wines for the viticulture of the region began in the 5th century.
For the wine/food pairings at Northern Bell the spotlight shined on the wines of Chinon. The town is located near the Vinne River in Indre-et-Loire. The vineyards include the steep banks of the Vienne northward to the lower lying areas of the Loire. The terroir is composed of erosional scree and gravel on top of Turonian limestone. Closer to the Loire the terroir becomes Jurassic rock. The three basic soils: near the river – sandy; the chalky slope is yellow or white limestone; the plateau a mix of sand, clay and limestone.
Some visitors come for the history and stay for the wine. The Chinon Chateaux was the favorite home of Henry II, his wife Alienor d’Aquitaine and his son, Richard the Lionheart. In the mid-15th century Joan of Arc visited with Dauphin Charles VII who was living in Chinon after losing most of his kingdom. Joan encouraged him to reclaim his throne and when he did he made Chinon his capital creating a century of good fortune. It is believed to be the birth place of Francois Rabelais, the Renaissance humanist, monk and Greek scholar who is known for his work Gargantua and Pantagruel. The town is registered as a preservation site (1968) and its restoration respects its historic and architectural integrity.
Wine and Fine Fare
The Wine of Chinon and the Barbeque of Northern Bell, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY
• First Course
Charred Iceberg Lettuce, Homemade Bourbon Beef Bacon, Crumbled Blue Cheese, Roasted Corn, Ranch dressing
Paired with Beatrice et Pascal Lambert, Domaine des Chesnaies, Rochette 2012. Chenin grapes
Pascal and Beatrice Lambert developed Les Chesnaies in 1987, went organic in 2000 and was certified Organic Ecocert and in 2005 went biodynamic (the practice of creating harmony between plants, soil and the environment). The Lamberts’ goal has been to develop vines free of pesticides and chemicals and their wines are distributed throughout Europe, Japan and the USA.
Located in Cravant, the vines are aged 12-15 years and planted in calcareous soils. The harvest is vinified and aged on the lees in 500 and 600 liter oak barrels for 10-12 months before bottling.
– To the eye the wine present a bright sunny hue suggestion the start of morning sunshine. The wine presents a harmonious fruit forward taste with suggestions or kiwi and apple with hints of yellow raisins, young green grapes and freshly mowed grass; leading to delicious moments of lemons and limes with the outcome enhancing the complex nature of the salad.
• Second Course
Cherrywood Pit Smoked Wing. Wide variety of homemade sauces
Paired with Domaine JM Raffault Cabernet Franc 2014. Cabernet Franc grapes 100%. Planted on alluvial sand and gravel soils in former Loire river bed
The Raffault family has been cultivating vines in Chinon for 14 generations. It was Mathurin Bottreau who bought his first vines in 1693. Today the Chinon appellation includes both banks of the Vienne River and embraces 19 communes with a total area of 2400 hectares with Cabernet Franc grape under cultivation. Only wine grapes are cultivated and each parcel is named and linked to the individual sites.
Many connoisseurs consider the Rose to be the finest in the Loire Valley. The day following the pressing the must is clarified (debourbage) and solids are removed. The Rose ferments at low controlled temperature using only the grapes’ native yeast until completely dry. The cool temperature prevents start of malolactic fermentation while the Rose develops on its fine lees in tank for 5 months. It is bottled in late February and racked to diminish the CO2 levels and then lightly filtered to ensure clarity.
– The Cabernet Franc displays a brilliant pomegranate-red color to the eye; presents berry and citrus, young pink roses and fresh strawberries to the nose, slightly sour to the palate from hints of limes and slightly under-ripe peaches to the palate; the delicious finish is fresh, long and smooth.
• Third Course
Homemade Biscuit, Poached Egg, Sage Port Sausage with Country Gravy paired with Bernard Baudry Les Granges 2014; Philippe Alliet 2014 and Domaine Grosbois, Cuisine de ma Mere 2012
– Personal Wine Favorite: Philippe Alliet Cabernet Franc 2014
Philippe Alliet owns this small domain in Cravant-les-Coteaux and it is considered to have some of the best Cabernet Franc vineyards in the Loire Valley. Alliet is dedicated to producing low yields, optimally ripe fruit against a background of careful management that is inspired by his regular visits to the Bordeaux region.
To the eye the Cabernet Franc is a dense purple, deliciously light/ fruity and perfumed to the nose, slightly sour to the taste with low tannin, ending with a dry finish and keen for the next sip
• Fourth Course
Memphis-style dry rubbed Ribs, Milk Stout reduction
Paired with Complices de Loire La Petite Timonerie 2011, Domaine de la Noblaie, Chiens 2010 and Couly Dutheil Clos de l’Echo 2009
– Personal Wine Favorite: Domaine de la Noblaie Chiens 2010 Cabernet Franc
Deep purple to the eye like old exquisite plush velvet, refreshing hint of pineapple to the nose mixed with berries and cherries, sensuous on the palate like a long and lingering kiss, clean and fresh experience lingers and adds to the delightful palate experience.
• Fifth Course
Chocolate Bourbon Croissant Pudding and Apple Tart
Paired with Sauvion Les Roches Cachees 2014, Chair St Laurnet La Vigne en Veron 2013 and Marc Plouzeau Rive Gauche 2013
– Personal Wine Favorite: Marc Plouzeau Rive Gauche Cabernet Franc 2013
Since 1846 this Domaine has been located on the “rive gauche” of Chinon. Marc Plouzeau began to manage the estate in 1988; in 1999 started to convert the property to “agriculture biologique” and the vineyards are currently certified by Ecocert.
To the nose, memories of raspberries and tart cherries with a hint of violets and earthiness. Spicy and tangy entertainment for the palate brings a joyful slightly acidic delightfully long and lingering finish.
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