I had a pretty productive day yesterday, and got some garden processed for cold storage so we can enjoy bright, cheerful meals during the long dark night of winter. I took every ripe tomato we had, which worked out to a roughly 50/50 mix of eating and paste varieties, trimmed off anything unseemly, and threw them all in a big stockpot with a bit of shallot softened in olive oil. After about 10 minutes, they had all pretty much disintegrated, so I stick-blended them all smooth and pushed the result through a strainer. The result, after the judicious application of salt and pepper, was just shy of a gallon of dreamily perfect tomato soup. Into the freezer it went, after I parked all the containers in sink full of cold water for a few minutes to cool them off.
The rest was lunch:
I then made 6 of the small deli containers worth of basil pesto, keeping it simple for maximum versatility at the other end: oil, salt, and a bit of cider vinegar plus the basil. And I brined yet another gallon jar of cucumbers with garlic and dill. Succession-planting the cukes was a very good idea; they’re coming in at a prolific yet manageable rate. And the pickles are as good as they get.
Dinner was brandade made from cod and sweet potatoes, with pesto added in, and a crust of bread crumbs mixed with butter and more pesto. The pictures didn’t come out very well, but it was good. I opened a recently purchased bottle of rosé from Long Island, since I heard some good things about it and am always eager for high quality local and semi-local wine.
First off, the packaging. I find much of Long Island to be pretty annoying, and much of the wine to be overrated, so my first impulse upon seeing this bottle was to go hang myself with a tennis sweater; the name evokes awful aspirational clothing for douchey Dirk Bogarde wannabes in topsiders and popped collars. The ribbon doesn’t help diminish that association (it looks like a sweater knotted around the neck), but in fairness a dollar of every purchase is donated to a breast cancer charity. Having said that, though, the whole yachting motif is off-putting. And custom bottles are always suspect–smacking as they do of aggressive branding– since we the consumers end up paying for them as well as for the wine inside. Who thinks a bottle shaped like a dildo is a good idea?
The color also made me nervous, since it’s pretty dark pink and that is a color I tend to associate with the candy-flavored rosés that I do not like. See here for my helpful treatise on the subject. The back label says that the wine is inspired by the rosés of Provence, which I love, so I bought it. And it’s not bad. Apart from the color, what sets it quite apart from Provençal versions is the fruit. Where those tend towards strawberries and red currants, this was straight-up jammy plums; as a result, I guessed that it’s made mostly from Merlot, but in fact (according to the internets) it’s mostly Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s not overpowering, though, and there’s good acid, but there’s a disconnection between the fruit on top and the structure beneath; there’s no herbaceous, mineraly middle to tie them together as there is in the pink wines that I love.
So here’s the question: does the New York Stateness of this wine trump its minor flaws and mean that I should buy it instead of my Provençal regulars? At about $15 a bottle, the price is roughly comparable. Is geographical proximity worth the dollar or three more for slightly unbalanced wine with ever-so-slightly cloying candied fruit? As rosé season rounds third, I’m contemplating my next mixed case. How many pink yacht dildos should I include?
Also, too, my editor at Chronogram sent me this link a few days ago on a related topic. There’s no doubt that many seriously local-focused restaurants have wine lists that roam far and wide; when he and I ate at Red Devon prior to my profile of them, we noticed that their list is heavy on international offerings and light on local ones. I can’t say I blame them–we unhesitatingly ordered a white and a red both from France, since that’s our taste–and it’s no secret that I think the Hudson Valley wine underachieves, but for an establishment so thoroughly rigorous in their sourcing of all else, isn’t their wine list kind of a sore thumb? If I had a restaurant in this area, I’d offer a tasting menu with matched wine pairings that ranged near and far as a way of warming people to the well-made local products and setting off certain flavors to make a point.
Having said that, restaurants make most of their money off drinks, and it’s hard when a $10 Spanish bottle offers more pleasure per dollar than the local equivalent, especially when that hypothetical Spanish bottle then sells for $30, and the local analog for $40. That markup fills me with fury, and explains why I don’t go out to eat more often than I do (which isn’t much). And personal taste matters, too; lest you think I’m just a snob about New York wines, I’d have this same problem in California. I really really like the wines from a few parts of the world, and have not much time for the rest. I’m warming to the idea of incorporating some of our local wines where they do well: as aperitifs, or to accompany lighter first courses, and I can see where this one could work with something on the richer side that helped elide its lacunas, but though I (just about) always drink wine with food, ultimately I drink wine for pleasure.
I feel very strongly that the move toward local food is driven by pleasure; when it’s as good or better than the imports, making the change is a no-brainer. So many of our local products are world-class that eating locally is eating the best possible food available. Who doesn’t want that? But if the product is not competitive with other offerings from far away, it’s not going to gain market share. As much of an advocate as I am for local food, most wine looks to remain on my standard exceptions list for some time to come. But at least now I feel guilty about it, so it’s ruined.