Pictured: Shadowbox Cellars 2013 Forty Sixth Leaf Chardonnay
IT’S TIME FOR WINE AND OTHER THINGS
by Monty and Sara Preiser July 13, 2020
“All the Lobsters We Know Crave Chardonnay”
Everybody seeks out something they love to help get them through this terrible period in our history. If we Americans weren’t ¬“persona non grata” in Europe these days because of our incomprehensible infection rate, that is probably where we might plan an escape – to one of the countries that have apparently fought the virus intelligently and beat it back.
One of the things we are doing is to take time to make our dining experiences at home more personal than usual. We choose some of our favorite dishes, experiment with others, and accompany what materializes with the best wines we can. That’s our mission today – to talk about wine – to have some fun! Though we don’t eat it every night, we love lobster.
Just as Bubba in Forest Gump recited all the ways shrimp could be prepared, lobster is almost as versatile. You can enjoy it steamed, broiled, grilled, baked, boiled, fried, poached, dipped in butter, in a creamy bisque, in a sauce (Newberg), with Bechamel sauce and cheese (Thermidor), on a roll with mayo and lettuce, mixed in with macaroni, on a grilled cheese sandwich sold by Omaha Steaks (surprisingly decadent), and who knows how many other concoctions? Selecting a wine pairing for each of the above might seem like a daunting task, but, in our opinion, there is only one white varietal that can handle the tastes and textures of lobster in this vast array of recipes, and that is Chardonnay. We know, we know – there are those who consider Chardonnay boring, but it is unlikely these people have ever spent enough time sampling and learning all the different profiles that the grape can show depending on place of origin and winemaking procedures, the latter of which encompasses dozens of decisions designed to influence the character of the final product. What is it about Chardonnay that makes it such a pleasing pairing with lobster? As to body, lobster dishes are usually full and show nice weight on the palate.
Chardonnays usually project a heavier balance than many other varietals, and so are quite complimentary. It’s a good bet that the enjoyment of Chards with lobster has to do, at lease to some degree, with the innate citrus nuances (lemon, grapefruit, lime) that are discernable in both the nose and taste of the grape. It is a better bet that Chards that pair exquisitely with lobster have spent at least some time in oak, are stirred on the lees, and/or and have gone through malolactic (second) fermentation. All of these influencers bring perceptions of butter and cream to the wine – often so pleasing that one need not even use a dipping sauce. Granted, there are other highly aromatic wines, some with touches of spice, that are more than satisfactory pairings. These might include Viognier or Pinot Grigio, as their minerality can go well with the sweet nature of the lobster. But, generally, we suggest Chardonnay, sometimes full bodied, sometimes less, sometimes creamy, sometimes not, depending on the way your entrée will be served. It will take some experimentation to ultimately discover what wine you prefer with what sort of preparation. We would like to recommend some Chardonnays for you to consider with the various preparations common to lobster. Naturally, these pairings are our perception, and swapping them around probably won’t significantly affect your enjoyment of the feast. With one exception, we have, by design, omitted vintages, as the wines from these producers, while certainly not the same every year, are always close enough in style for you to feel comfortable ordering them today, or twelve months from now.
For steamed, boiled, or poached: Frank Family Carneros ($38) and Frank Family Lewis Vineyard ($70): There is little doubt that the Lewis is the more exquisite of the two, but for this particular meal we don’t think you need to spend the extra $32. The Carneros is brilliant. Rombauer Carneros ($38) and Rombauer Proprietor Selection ($70): With the prices being coincidentally identical to the two Frank Family recommendations, we could simply copy the material above and leave it at that. However, we feel that the Rombauer Carneros is hard to improve upon. It has been winning world-wide awards for a long time, and the winery has modified it as taste preferences have evolved. Del Dotto Fort Ross-Seaview ($85): A spectacular wine from a spectacular region. It is difficult, however, for some to pay $85 to pair with lobster, especially when there are much less expensive choices that are as pleasing. Shadowbox Cellars Orchard Vineyard ($48) and Shadowbox Cellars 46th Leaf ($70): The usual disclaimer: We are co-owners of this winery, and are hesitant to name it amongst our recommendations – we might be a touch biased. But, to our palate this Chard can be perfect – and vintage is important as they age beautifully – much like a quality Montrachet. Shadowbox is in fact creating a niche for the consumer to enjoy older wines. Here you can taste Chards back through 2010, and the 2014 and 2015 Orchard Vineyard are marvelous perceived blends of Burgundy and California. The 2013 46th leaf, with only a few cases remaining, is as hugely mouth filling with butter notes as is any wine in America. Maldonado Family Los Olivos Napa ($42): The terrific Los Olivos vineyard is in the southern area of Napa called Jaimeson Canyon. Though not as famous as the Carneros region, the area is influenced by the same type weather, water, and winds. Ramey Ft. Ross-Seaview ($42): Drinks like a $75 wine, coming as it does from just off the Pacific, and benefitting from David Ramey’s deft hands and palate. Complex and elegant, a distinctive nose and long finish, with layers of flavors and creaminess in between. For broiled, grilled, or baked: Frostwatch Estate ($30) and Frostwatch Ophira Reserve ($45): An under the radar winery we have featured before, Frostwatch’s wines are perfectly balanced, and emit touches of citrus notes that lead to a medium body that compliments the above. Nickel & Nickel Truchard Vineyard ($55): A bright, classic Chardonnay, with huge flavors of citrus that make this wine especially pleasing earlier in the day. Lunch anyone? Hanzell Winemakers Selection ($36) and Hanzell “The De Brye” Selection ($68): Always a beautiful finish. Once again, the qualitative differences in the two Chards, even tho they are from different locations, does not require buying the more expensive for the lobster. V. Sattui Carsi Vineyard ($42): For those who enjoy the enhanced influence of quality oak, this nicely bodied wine is perfect for the lobster charred on the grill. Corley Family Block III ($60): A rich wine with a noticeable citrus nose, creaminess (surprising how much, as it is only partial malolactic), and, not just butter, but butterscotch. Something a little different, but it works well here. For bisques, sauces, and Thermidor: Blue Farm Laceroni Russian River Valley ($70): It was difficult to pick out any one characteristic here, given its layers, integration, and balance. A wine that could easily move up and down these categories and fit anywhere. Castello di Amorosa Reserve ($59): Round and full bodied, with a full mouth feel, some buttery notes, and good structure. It is made for richer dishes. JCB Collection No. 81 ($52): Just as with a valued utility player in baseball, this Chardonnay could play in any field here. We think its crispness, however, allows it to hit a home run with any preparation in this category. For fried and rolls: Jordan Russian River Valley ($35): Beautifully crisp and bright to both compliment the condiments on a roll, and cut through the oils on the fried dish. Keenan Spring Mountain ($40): A wine that zings its way to accompany foods, it offers citrus for the fried lobster, a sur-lees creaminess for steamed lobster on a bun, and a medium body. Truchard Rousanne Carneros ($28): Well, a “Ringer,” not a Chardonnay. This lovely Rousanne possesses all the flavors of a Polynesian luau, which will easily accompany fried shellfish.
We love lobster in all its preparations, and we love well produced and balanced Chardonnays. Our mission today has been to discuss, and maybe persuade, how much a perfect Chardonnay enhances the natural flavor of the lobster meat.
A Little Lobster Humor
A girl lobster meets a crab boy and they quickly hit it off. Unfortunately, the girl lobster’s father is dead set against inter-species relationships and tells his daughter “If you keep seeing that crab boy, I’m cutting you off. No daughter of mine will be with a ‘sideways walker’, I will not stand for it.” Upset, the girl lobster tells her crab boyfriend about her father’s feelings. The boy crab is so in love with the girl lobster that he resolves to learn to walk forwards and backwards to prove his love, and win her father’s blessing. He practices for weeks, and finally overcomes his natural urge to walk sideways. Ready to show his true love’s father that love conquers all, he arrives one morning at the girl lobsters house. As he is making his way up the sidewalk, in a perfectly straight forward line, he hears the father yell from inside the house, “That does it, that good for nothing crab is here, and he’s already drunk.” ===========
George was driving through Maine and he saw a man with a push cart holding a sign that said, “Two lobster tails – $4.00.” Knowing what a good deal this was, George pulled off, went over to the man and paid his money. “I’m ready for my lobster tails now, George said.” The fishmonger put a pipe in his mouth, sat down on a rocking chair, and began, “Once upon a time there were these two lobsters . . . .”
============ What do you call a crab that throws things? A Lobster
============ Cathy and Tiffany are talking. Cathy: “That cute George Johnson asked me out for a date. I know you went out with him last week, and I wanted to talk with you about him before I give him my answer.” Tiffany: “Well, I’ll tell you. He showed up at my apartment punctually at 7 P.M., dressed in a beautiful suit. He brought me flowers and we went to the restaurant in a limousine with chauffeur. Dinner was my favorite – lobster, champagne, dessert, and after-dinner drinks. Then we go see a show. Let me tell you, I enjoyed it so much! So then we were in the limo going back to my place and he changed – he tore off my expensive new dress and, well, you can imagine . . “ Cathy: “My Goodness. So you are telling me I shouldn’t go out with him?” Tiffany: “No, no, no , , , I’m just saying, wear an old dress.”
S T A Y S A F E !!
Monty and Sara Preiser reside full time in Palm Beach County, Florida, and spend their summers on the west coast where they have a home in Napa. They honed their wine skills as they traveled the country while Monty practiced law for 20 years, and for many years were wine columnists for The Boca Raton News and other publications. They are now the principal wine writers/editors for numerous lifestyle magazines including Coastal Isles on the Atlantic Coast and Living on the Suncoast on the Florida west coast. They own Creative Professional Programs, a company devoted to continuing education for professionals in conjunction with fine wine & food instruction. The Preisers have served as judges for several wine competitions from east to west coast, are frequent guest commentators on wine radio shows, and they publish the most comprehensive guide to Napa Valley wineries and restaurants titled, appropriately, The Preiser Key.
For more information, visit www.preiserkey.com