Those Wine Moments With Food, Friends

Roberto Viernes
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Wednesday - October 08, 2008
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Perfect with sushi

Wine is about moments - those unforgettably special moments that live in your mind and in your palate when your senses are heightened for the experience that you shared with wine.

Though the wine need not be extravagant, many times it is. But it is what happens with that wine and with what food you drink it as well as with whom you share it that not only pleases your palate but may even lift your soul.

One of my friends and I went to check out a new sushi restaurant (new to us anyway). And we brought along a couple of wines to help us wash down what was recommended to us as some absolutely terrific sushi.

The freshness is impressive as they actually show you some of the live product before they serve it to you, kicking and all!

My friend brought a bottle of mature 1981 Leclerc Briant Cuvee Divine Champagne, which was harmonious with lovely complexity.

I brought a bottle of 2006 Brundlemayer Riesling Terrassen ($24), which was dry and mineral-laden but filled with lovely tropical fruitiness.

When we got our platter of sashimi, which included spiny lobster, abalone, scallops, salmon and ahi, I was eager to dig in.

The lobster is so delicate that both wines overpowered its nuance.

The abalone was tremendous, and with the Riesling, I just kept saying “Wow, wow, wow!” It took the meatiness and brininess of the abalone and turned it into something completely different. It elevated the already intensely fresh flavors. The combination was greater than the sum of its parts.

There were other adequate pairs between the salmon and Champagne, the scallops and Riesling.

But the singular experience I can still taste on my palate was the crunchiness of the abalone being washed down with the flavor of Austrian Riesling. WOW!

Another mind-blowing experience involved sushi again. Literally, this is the best sushi I have had in Hawaii, period, full stop. (Of course I’m always open to finding better.)

And yet what was awesome with it was a simple glass of 2007 Oroya Sushi Wine ($10). Alone, the wine is refreshing and quaffable, but it provided the perfect canvas for the beautiful array of flavors that were exhibited in a dish of fresh calamari stuffed with Louisiana blue crab meat, drenched in a Kabayaki sauce and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. Why struggle against the perfection of the flavors melded into this dish? The toastiness of seeds giving nuttiness, the sweetness of the sauce enhancing the sweetness of the crab and the texture of the calamari holding it all together was an amazing thing. I imagine if I had ordered a beer or Chardonnay, it would have overshadowed the beauty of the dish.

But wait, there’s more. We also ordered some albacore tuna sushi brushed with yuzu sauce that was less complex, but equally amazing. The purity, fattiness and flavor were simple and simply brilliant. Again using the backdrop of the Oroya Sushi Wine, it popped out like popcorn in a microwave. I can still taste it, and crave it now.

Another great pair was not so much with food, but with a moment. A friend of mine was having a rough go of things as of late, and I invited him for dinner at my house. We drank several wines over the course of dinner and conversation. He brought an older bottle of French wine that was unfortunately not showing well. Lest we finish the evening on a sour note, I reached into my cellar and pulled a bottle of 1979 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. I have really enjoyed many of the top Napa Cabernets from the ‘70s and this bottle performed exceptionally. Full of fruit still, tons of secondary aromas of earth, truffle and mocha, it helped to coat our deep and enlightening conversation and our palates until the early hours of the morning.

I hope it lifted my friend’s spirits as much as the experience did mine.

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. E-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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