Dabble’s libations expert Jameson Fink could never be accused of having a chip on his shoulder. On his appetizer menu, sure. But never his shoulder.
The only thing I like as much as Champagne and popcorn is Champagne and potato chips. Crisp, salty snacks and bubbles forever. Homemade or store-bought, a single thick potato chip with a dollop of cream cheese, a few buttery flakes of subtly smoked salmon and a sprig of fresh dill just begs for bubbles.
Jameson’s Pick: Vilmart Grand Cellier NV
What? Bubbles leave you flat? Well then, let’s stick with France and reach for a Sancerre. These seafood-loving Sauvignon Blancs from the Loire Valley have an acidity that pairs perfectly with tangy cream cheese and fresh dill.
Jameson’s Pick: Gerard Boulay Sancerre Chavignol 2009
Salt lovers may want to toss on a few briny capers, in which case I recommend heading straight over to Riesling territory. I’m thinking of the criminally underrated dry Australian Rieslings from the Claire Valley.
Jameson’s Pick: “The Merle” Reserve Riesling 2010
Blue Mountain Brut gets its bubbles using the same high-quality method as in France’s Champagne region, making it rich enough to appreciate solo, yet packing plenty of refreshment for a wide variety dishes.
What makes the two so cozy? Well, no wine loves fried food more than sparkling wine. Its sparkle cuts through any crunchy exterior with refreshing aplomb. And with a lively zing, a wine like the Blue Mountain Brut can hang with a tangy combination of green tomatoes, goat cheese and tomato chutney. A lovely duo for celebrating a laid-back afternoon.
The App: Seared ahi tuna with roasted serrano créme fraiche, shiso aioli and blonde frisée and citrus salad.
Jameson’s Pick: 2010 Pazo Señorans Albariño
I have acquired an unbridled fondness for Italian white wines, especially those from Campania. (Don’t worry France, I have not forsaken you.) Seared tuna, frisée, citrus? No problem for this ultra-pure and refreshing white, which accommodates zesty fruit, snappy greens, and seafood with aplomb.
The App: Arugula salad with parmesan cheese, chopped bacon and balsamic vinaigrette.
Jameson’s Pick: 2010 Hofer Gruner Veltliner (1L)
The start to nearly every healthy meal is a hearty salad and the perfect glass of wine.
Salad and wine may not be as classic a pairing as a tenderloin steak and Cabernet Sauvignon, but when summer’s heat rolls in this light combination is a cool choice. With peppery arugula, I look to Austria’s signature white wine grape, Gruner Veltliner. Gruner, as wine geeks affectionately refer to the grape, produces many lively wines that are vegetable-friendly. It might seem obvious that a name like “Gruner” (meaning “green” in German) would partner naturally with leafy fare and it does, but the green is also a reference to the freshness of the wine. (Though, with everything in the world of wine, there are exceptions to the rule and you’ll find some rare and costly Gruners fine enough to be aged alongside other, more famous white wines.)
When selecting bottles of well-priced Gruner you’ll come across many packaged in one-litre bottles, rather than the standard 750 ml size. Who wouldn’t want an extra third of a bottle of wine? This size makes a Gruner a great choice for parties, for sharing, or for cooking and keeping a few glasses for the cook. My choice, the 2010 Hofer Gruner Veltliner comes sealed with a bottle-cap top, so there’s no fussing with a corkscrew. Not only will a one-litre bottle of wine sealed with a bottle cap get attention at your next dinner party, it will also be enthusiastically consumed.
The App: Shrimp Escabeche with peppers and onions.
Jameson’s Pick: Domaine André Neveu Sancerre “Le Grand Fricambault Silex” 2010, Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc 2010.
As we finally enter the summer months and the weather gets warmer, I think about having the oven on less and eating outdoors more. What could be better than a cooling dish of escabeche (marinated seafood) with shrimp? Zesty with citrus, complemented by the crunch of sweet peppers and onions, and brightened with fresh herbs…all that’s left to do is decide what wine to add to the ice bucket.
Hopefully, you already have a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc in the fridge. Not only is it a seafood-loving wine, but its citrous notes and slightly herbaceous, grassy flavours are particularly charming with escabeche and other light, fish dishes. Feeling fancy? Then look for a Sancerrewhich is produced in a region of France’s Loire Valley that—in my thirsty opinion—produces the finest Sauvignon Blanc in the world.
If you’re throwing a patio party and need larger quantities and great value, choose a Sauvignon Blanc from Chile. I am mightily impressed with these refreshing, and refreshingly priced, white wines. Consider too, a country like Chile, with over 6,400 kilometres of coastline, knows a little something about seafood and making wines to match.
Long before iPad, burgeoning party throwers spent hours pouring over sticky-thumbed cookbooks in search of the perfect bite to feed wine drinking guests. Since every party starts with an appetizer, Dabble wine expert Jameson Fink shares some inspired pairings.
Asparagus: Nothing sticks in my craw more than the old saw that asparagus is ‘difficult’ to pair with wine. Boo. A crisp, grassy New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc like the 2009 Spy Valley is a perfect complement.
Portabella Mushrooms: The earthiness of mushrooms cries out for Pinot Noir. Look for a bottling from Oregon such as the 2009 Evesham Wood or a Burgundy like the 2007 Robert Chevillon to produce a fine match.
Swiss/Gouda with Dried Apricots/Apricot Jam: I love a cheese board with an assortment of dried fruit and preserves. With firm, milder cheeses such as Swiss and Gouda, I’m thinking German Riesling. My pick is the 2009 Leitz Dragonstone, which has a zippy character that cuts through rich dairy, and brings wonderful fruit and a touch of sweetness along for the ride.
Sliced Turkey and Chicken: Think dry French rosé is just a summertime porch-pounder? Au contraire. A slice of a rustic loaf of bread, dab on some garlicky aioli, and top with sliced chicken or turkey to achieve rosé nirvana. I recommend the 2010 Commanderie de Peyrassol.
Individual cheese plates hold a tasty assortment of meat, cheese, dried fruit and jam; allowing guests to easily hold an appetizer while mingling. Look for small wooden boards at the dollar store.
The App: Chicken Liver Pâté and Toasted Bread.
Jameson’s Pick: Pierre-Marie Chermette Domaine du Vissoux Cuvée Vielles Vignes Beaujolais 2009.
It’s hard to overstate the comforting decadence of a beautifully made pâté. Is it only the heartiest wines that can handle this French classic?
Absolutely not. Surprisingly, a lighter-style red with some zip, like a well-made Beaujolais, easily cuts through all that richness. And when you have some traditional accompaniments like cornichons or spicy mustard, often a wine that has a good amount of acidity is the perfect bridge from the substantial pâté to its refreshing complements.
The quality of Beaujolais from producers like Chermette makes me want to beat the drum for drinking Beaujolais year-round. Cru Beaujolais cellars beautifully, if you have the strength to resist its considerable charms. (The bottle pictured is the Nouveau, which drinks surprisingly well, but I recommend the Cuvée Traditionnelle Vieilles Vignes as an introduction to Chermette’s wines to enjoy while your Crus are tucked away for a few years.
The App: Devilled Eggs and Sardines.
Jameson’s Pick: Gruet Brut NV.
I’d call deviled eggs a guilty pleasure, but I feel no guilt about enjoying them. A tray of deviled eggs is a party on a platter, bringing back waves of nostalgia of being a child at potlucks and adult cocktail parties. Now, as an adult myself, I can enjoy a drink along with the deviled eggs being passed around.
With the ultra-rich filling of egg yolk, which depending on your preference is mayonnaise, sour cream, or creme fraiche, I suggest something to combat the heaviness.
I’ve always been a fan of Chardonnay and eggs and also I think a Chablis is lovely. But since we’re being festive (this is a party, after all), I say bring out the bubbles. Since I like my wine to be a bit of a conversation-starter, I’m picking a sparkling wine from New Mexico. Yes, New Mexico. Gruet produces a quality sparkling wine at a fantastic price for over two decades. The high elevation vineyards keep the grapes cool, creating a lively sparkle in the glass. Now, when is that tray of deviled eggs coming around again?
The App: A thin crust pizza with tomatoes, red onions and cheese. Oh my.
Jameson’s Pick: Felsina Chianti Classico 2008
Like many, I initially thought Chianti came in a straw-wrapped bottle that, when empty, you stuck a candle in to adorn the kitchen table of your first apartment. Since that time I’ve come to appreciate Chianti as an underrated gem that delivers quality and the ultimate in food and wine comfort when paired with any red-sauced Italian dish. With apologies to spaghetti, when I think red sauce, I think pizza. Who doesn’t love pizza?
The hardest part of a pizza night is getting everyone to agree on the toppings. The bad news is, this is an argument that can get heated. The good news is, Chianti, a smooth elegant red with a perfect style-to-substance ratio, is versatile enough to go with whatever ends up adorning your pie. Veggies? Meats? Both? No problem. Chianti is the pizza peacemaker.
We covered the best design shops, travel destinations and restaurants in the latest issue, but here are the top 3 wine bars in Ottawa.
Decorated with the work of local artisans
Small, but well-chosen wine list
Small menu but each dish is tantalizing
Produce harvested in Ottawa
Extensive wine list that changes weekly
Modern & elegant
Blind tasting menu & wine pairings
Light bar menu
Wine sampling of over 50 wines
Worth the splurge