A taste of something new - Wine & Spirits Magazine

A taste of something new

My friend Gilian Handelman, the director of education for Jackson Family Farms, spent the last year researching the interaction of cabernet and beef. I don’t eat much red meat, so I hadn’t paid close attention to her latest passion, until she and Julia Jackson came to New York to host a seminar. They joined forces with Marc Sarrazin of DeBragga & Spitler, presenting three cabernets and six different cuts of beef.

It was the grass-fed beef with the Alexander Mountain cabernet from Christopher’s Vineyard that caught my attention. This New York strip came from cattle raised in the Finger Lakes, where they grazed on herbs and grasses that added their fragrance to the meat. What took me out of the room was the way that meat tasted and felt with the cabernet, which was suddenly open, clean and as fragrant as the meat. The beef made the wine taste completely different from any North Coast cabernet I can remember: It made the tannins light and airy, allowing details in the wine’s flavor to show. It lightened the tannins in a way that made them transparent.

It was the kind of mind-shift that’s sparked by the work of talented purveyors, vignerons, sommeliers and chefs: More than a delicious taste, it’s a taste that changes perception. As we found in our Annual Restaurant Poll, dining out is more about tasting than ever before, whether in the preponderance of tasting menus, or the explosion of by-the-taste wines on offer. By-the-glass lists have gone from a few generic wines to a wide array of the esoteric, the rarified and the aged.

And still there are times we just want comfort, when we’re in the mood for the tried and true—cabernet and steak. On New York’s Upper East Side, Tina Vaughn, queen of the revelatory wine and food match at her small principality of The Simone, acknowledges that even she has a guest who always wants to drink the same wine.

That tension between our lust for adventure and our demand for comfort plays out across the wine world, whether in the radical stylistic divergence David Darlington investigates in contemporary Russian River Valley pinot noir (page 46), in the lists and menus at our favorite new restaurants in New York City (page 38), or in the everyday lives of the 242 sommeliers who responded to our Restaurant Poll (page 58). They’re charged with satisfying our hunger, even if that hunger for some of us keeps shifting, and for others remains curiously constant.

photo by Kelly Puelio

This story appears in the print issue of April 2015.
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