Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Old World vs New World Wines at Market

Last week I had the tremendous pleasure of attending two wine dinners.  The first, at Harvest in Cambridge and the second was at Market by Jean Georges in the W hotel downtown.  These two events couldn't have been more different.  The first, at Harvest, showed the gracious co existence of food and wine, artful dishes paired with wine from the single winery and offered an incredible lesson in that winery and in wine making.  Market, however, pushed wine to the front of the evening, and allowed the food, as elegant and delicious as it was, to serve a simply supporting role.

We were treated to an evening hosted by manager Sean Prinz, a man who not only knew his wines, but brought an immense amount of joy to his role introducing us to each of the wines we enjoyed.  The evening concentrated on the differences between "Old World" and "New World" wines.  "Old World" of course referring to wines that are made from old vines, utilizing old vines and old practices.  These are wines that stem from century old practices in vineyards that have been handed down generation after generation. "New World", by contrast, are vineyards often found in the Americas, with wines created both from newer vines and often incorporating more "science" and technology into their process.

We began with a Chablis, the Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin Vaillons 2009 vintage from Burgundy, France.  The Chablis had earthy tones, surprising for a white wine, and also had strong influences of lemon zest.  It was acidic, perhaps too acidic for my taste, but others appreciated it's overall lightness.  This was definitely a great pairing wine.  Chef de Cuisine Matthew Barros at Market served a red beet carpaccio accented with fresh ricotta cheese, black bread croutons and wasabi.  The dish itself was a wonderful combination of textures and felt incredibly rich and decadent.  The flavors were bold, and the Chablis added a nice acidity into the dish.

Our second course was served with the New World answer to the Chablis, the Hirsch Vineyards Chardonnay, 2009 vintage from the Sonoma Coast. Prinz walked us through the employment of technology that was used in this wine, in contrast to the Chablis which was dry from its Oak cask aging, this Chardonnay was aged in not only Oak, but also Steel and Glass.  I have grown somewhat fond of steel aged wines, as I find that the steel tends to lend a softer, rounder feel to the wine Oak only wines can be very sharp in their delivery.  The Chardonnay had this softer feel to it and came out almost creamy tasting with notes of citrus and star fruit.  This was paired with rice cracker encrusted Ahi Tuna lightly sprinkled with a citrus chili oil emulsion.  The rice crackers crusted around the tuna was one of the better presentations I've had of tuna.  The crackers were impossibly crisp and with a full flavor that  stood on its own without overpowering the delicate and yet robust fish.  The emulsion added a very gentle heat, and a lovely onion flavor.  The Chardonnay was full bodied enough to not drown in comparison, but played a wonderful role next to the other components, a creamy relief if you will.

Throughout our meal, Prinz spent his energy trying to liven what I'll admit was a shy audience.  As our evening kicked off I suspected that he had his work cut out for him, but as he wandered between out tables, talking passionately about the wines that he had selected for the evening, how he had sought them out and the beauty that they brought to a meal, the room relaxed.  And then we got to our third wine of the evening.  As it was listed on the menu, it didn't stand out.  It was the Peter Franus Brandlin Vineyard's Zinfandel, 2008 vintage from Mt. Veeder California.  It didn't seem special, until Prinz shared it's beautiful story.  A previous vintage had been involved in what can only be a timeless love story of non other than the owner of the Peter Franus Brandlin Vineyard.  I will not do the story justice here, so I urge you to seek Prinz the next time you dine at Market (tomorrow) and ask him to share it with you.  He will bring you into his world- the world that links wine and food and love- in an instant.  The wine itself? It was a complex Zinfandel, a nose of walnuts and an acidic flavor. It's base was in blueberries and it shown through with a remarkable freshness.  It was paired with Market's slider- a tall burger presentation that was exceedingly delicious, and yet I failed to photograph it or enjoy it's own complexities as I basked in the glow of the chance encounters of love.  

As we reveled in the joviality of the evening, Prinz broke out the piece de resistance for the evening.  A highly coveted wine, no longer available in distribution here in the US, the Domaine de Marcoux, Vieilles Vignes, 2009 vintage from Rhone, France.  This classic Chateauneuf-du-Pape was spicy and full of deep, rich berry flavor.  It was decadent in its nose, and even more so on the palette, yet finished cleanly and contained enough acidity to allow it to be easily paired.  Here it was served with two delicious Black Truffle and Comte fritters, a wonderful mix of both earthy undertones and salty deliciousness.  

As we lingered over this last course, savoring our wine, and relishing the new found friends of the evening it was clear what Prinz and his staff had done.  They had shown us that other side of wine.  So often wine tastings are regarded as stuffy, as quiet events where one thoughtfully sips and appreciates.  Appreciation is key, but at Market they also show the fun, the passion, and the wondrous excitement that wine. Rumor has it that they will be conducting a few more of these wine journeys in the upcoming months- watch for them.  They aren't to be missed. 


Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic said...

I love the W and Market. Looks like you had some really fantastic wines!

Kristen said...

another awesome evening. sounds really fun!

Jen said...

I love hearing about the food and wine from you. That is a very unique preparation on the tuna. I'm definitely intrigued. And the wine sounds amazing as well.

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