2 oz. Pours - Favorite Pairing Moments Part 2

In our last 2 oz. Pours, Nikki shared a few of her 2016 pairing highlights, discovered at fun dinner parties hosted by her and husband Greg in their new CA digs.

Here’s my (Bridget’s) version: Favorite 2016 Pairings, The Restaurant Edition. Or, perhaps one in the same, The New York City Edition, as my tiny apartment lacks formal dining space and restaurant eating and drinking (and observing and analyzing and socializing) is a big part of my job as a wine rep.

Anyway, besides the restaurant setup, my top picks both involved the familar “ooooh, what IS this?” element of surprise wine geeks know and love. From there, discovering the right pairing was just that much better. 

The Wine: Hatzidakis Nikteri 2012, Santorini, Greece

Friends, and many clients, can testify that I will not shut up talk a lot about this wine. Pre-Wildman, my Greek wine-tasting experience was mostly limited to standard examples of the country’s best-known white, Assyrtiko, a citrusy, high-acid variety whose home base is the gorgeous island of Santorini. And, whose best examples can be formidable, more interesting alternatives to Sauvignon Blanc.

In this case, however, I encountered a totally different, traditional style of Assyrtiko. Made from late-harvested grapes that are pressed at night (#coolertemperatures) “Nikteri,” which translates as "night harvest," is a fuller-bodied, lightly oaked, turbo-charged Assyrtiko wine.

The sexy deep color (the result of six hours’ skin contact before pressing) tipped me off to the awesomeness of this lovely example from the renowned Hatzidakis winery. Sure enough, it was super concentrated, with a gorgeous, honeyed nose and beguiling honey/mineral/smoke/saline thing happening on the palate. Added perks: bright acidity, a cool, glycerol texture, lengthy finish, and plenty of Assyrtiko’s trademark freshness.

The Pairing: While it’s not the only Nikteri out there, my first, fantastic taste happened to be a wine I sell. As a testament to its versatility, I've had fun placing it at restaurants ranging from high-end sushi to a steakhouse. Admittedly, though, my No. 1 match is straight-up Greek: grilled octopus (htapothi scharas). The one pictured came courtesy of Pylos in the East Village, where they always seem to cook it perfectly. The wine's concentrated character was sublime with the smoky, tender meat; a slightly sweet balsamic reduction leveled off with the wine's aromatics and zippy acidity. Salty capers added a little pop to jive with the Nikteri's saline, smells-like-the-sea-in-Santorini-ness. In a word, yum.   




The Wine: Imbue Cellars Bittersweet Vermouth, Willamette Valley, Oregon

Late last year, I headed into midtown's Indian Accent with a craving for a kulcha – buttery, fluffy stuffed naan (in this case, butter-chicken-stuffed). As its proper mate, I had my sights set on Chenin Blanc, or another aromatic white.

Daniel, the somm, offered up a few delicious options, and then decided to steer me off course.

Eau, I am glad he did.

The alternative, Imbue Bittersweet Vermouth, was a winner. While I’ve explored a good bit of the fortified category (yaaaas sherry, yaaaaas Madeira), Vermouth, that aromatized fortified wine flavored with various herbs, flowers and other botanicals, hadn't been a go-to, or even on the radar, as an option for sipping solo.

Suffice to say, this has changed.

The Pairing: Made with Pinot Gris, and fortified with brandy of the same grape from Oregon’s Clear Creek Distillery (one of the earliest, coolest, U.S. microdistilleries, IMHO), Imbue features just a touch of sweetness and nine different botanicals, including Egyptian Chamomile, elderflower, bitter orange peel, cilantro, juniper, clove and sage leaf. The remaining two botanicals, apparently a secret, made for fun sniffing-and-guessing.

The distinctive botanical character, alongside the profile of the Oregon Pinot Gris (a style known for aromas and flavors of pear, citrus, white blossoms, and so on) were on point with the equally intense aromas and flavors of the butter chicken. Things got even better when Daniel hooked up some black dairy dal (creamy, buttery lentil and tomato soup). Not only did the shared intensity of the food and wine continue to shine, but the Imbue’s touch of sweetness, and especially its warming 17 percent alcohol, paired so well with the creamy texture that it was hard to distinguish where the food started and the wine began. While the combination called to mind the practice of using brandy or other booze to cut cream-based soups, it was on another level altogether. Vermouth, I will be experimenting with you in 2017.

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