By Mark Grimaldi, Director, Marketing and Events
Wednesday night's sold out New York Cork Report Artisan Dinner, featuring Paumanok Vineyards chenin blanc, at Luce & Hawkins was one for the books.
With several members of the Massoud family in attendance, Kareem and Charles (pictured right) took the stage, along with Chef Luce to give a play-by-play for each individual course. Kareem and Charles have a great way of playing off of each other, taking turns adding their thoughts on the vintages and wines.
Chef Luce, always eloquent, really lets you know just how far he goes to make sure that every wine is paired perfectly with only the freshest and most special local ingredients.
The Vertical Pairing in order of tasting:
2008 Chenin Blanc: A beautiful wine, drinking at it's peak right now. Kareem and I went back and forth about how it shared many old world (Loire) characteristics, displaying a perfect mix of primary and tertiary qualities. It had its ripeness but it's backed up by a stony minerality. It bordered on a demi-sec style, with some residual sugar that offered a richness, but the acids cut right through it bringing the wine back to being perceivably dry to many.
Completely elegant from front to back, it had a deeper color, showing that even under screwcap, the wine aged gracefully. An absolute wonderful chenin, making me wish that the Massoud's could hold back a good amount of production so that consumer'scould experience this wine at it's peak in the tasting room.
This was paired with three poached "Naked Cowboy" oysters from Blue Island Shellfish Farms, a local oyster company on the south shore of Long Island. Chef Luce served them sitting in a bath of Thai spices, coconut milk and sliced melon to compliment the tropical fruits and melon notes he often finds in Paumanok's chenins. The "sweetness" of the chenin was perfect with the subltle Thai spices of the dish.
2010 Chenin Blanc: We all know that 2010 was a very warm year here on Long Island, and the wines are RIPE. The 2010 was no exception. But nonetheless Kareem and his brothers kept impeccable balance in this wine from vineyard to bottle with an acidic backbone to slice through the ripe fruit. A riper-style chenin, it still shows some of the baby fat and racy characteristics of a young white wine.
This was paired with utter ridiculousness -- a house-made oversized ravioli, stuffed with foie gras and lobster. Not just a little bit of lobster, but HALF of a lobster tail. On top were two slices of poached rabbit. This dish practically got a standing ovation from the dining room.
2009 Chenin Blanc: This wine completely shifts gears. With 2009 being a cooler vintage, I think that local whites really shined. This was my favorite of the three recent vintage chenins. It was vibrant and racy. Like a laser beam. You stick your nose in the glass and you are brought right to the North Fork of Long island. It was salty, and wreaked of the sea, seashells, oysters. Though lean compared to the others, it was so elegant. The fruit and acids were perfectly integrated and unfolded like a storybook from back to front on your palate. If I were blinded on this wine, I would never even think Chenin. This was amazing Long Island Chablis. Take that comparison as you may, but I mean it as an utter complement.
This was paired with local duckling that Chef Luce had prepared two ways. One roasted medium rare with a crisp skin, and the other house-cured and sliced, rolled up and tucked nicely next the roasted breast, surrounded by local beets, honeyed yuzu pepper, and smoked walnuts that Japanese chef Minoru Suzuki had a hand in preparing.
The highlight of this dish for me was the Matsutake mushrooms that Chef Luce had sent directly from his forager friend in the pacific northwest. The Matsutake is one of the most sought after mushrooms in the world, and he managed to get the first of the season. This was not like any mushroom I had tasted. It grows as a companion to pine trees, and is not earthy like the typical mushroom is. It was eaten raw, and had a fresh, clean, herbal, subtle pine note to it. An excellent complement to the richness of the duck.
1994 Late Harvest Riesling: Some issues unfolded the day of the dinner that were quickly solved. Kareem had miscounted how many bottes of 1993 Late Harvest Chenin he had, and could only find two, so we went with the 1994 Late Harvest Riesling as a substitute. Not a problem!
This wine was ALIVE. It was dark gold in color and did not drink in a cloying, dessert style.
Again, it was backed up by high acids, cutting through the sugars, making it just sweet enough to have with Chef Luce's local orchard fruit crumble with cinnamon, basil, and white chocolate-corn ice cream (which by the way was 100% sweetened by the chocolate and sugars from the corn). The wine had plenty of honey, caramel and nutty notes. A really special bottle shared by the Massoud's that was absolutely delicious. It gives some insight into what their current late harvest/icewine Riesling could be like with age.
1993 Late Harvest Chenin Blanc: To our surprise, Charles brought those last two bottles to share with everyone anyway. As a joke, Chef Luce brought out about 40 eyedroppers filled with the '93 to each guest so they could have a small taste of it before the dessert course. But luckily, there was some left over that we poured from bottle after dinner.
The '93 was dark, almost caramel in color, exhibiting the typical nutty, caramel, honey notes of older dessert wines. It was certainly alive, but did not show as well, in my opinion, as the '94 riesling. Nonetheless a superb wine made by Charles that is one of the highlights of my Long Island wine drinking experience. It is so rare that wineries held back inventory in the 80s and 90s, so being able to taste these wines was extremely rare and such a treat.
Thank you to The Massoud Family for sharing these wines with us and for Chef Luce and staff for an impeccable evening.
Please stay tuned for more announcements on dinners, including next month's dinner with Greenport Harbor Brewing Company!