It was the start of the Memorial Day weekend and it finally felt like summer was in the air. Some close friends who share my love of good food and good wine extended an invitation to dinner on their patio. They had just come back from the market with locally caught blackfish, they announced, and the evening would also offer the chance to taste a sampling of new white wines.
Being a fisherman, I am naturally fussy about my fish and get annoyed, say, when flounder fillets feel like limp dishrags, as they did when we got them home from a fish markets the other day. This was not the case with the blackfish, a still relatively obscure Atlantic species, also known as tautog, that yields firm, fleshy fillets that lend themselves to all kinds of recipes. The friends reported that the fish, from another market, had come in just hours earlier, and when I saw the firm, pink fillets I believed it.
The first wine, which we sipped as an aperitif, was a Portuguese white – the 2006 Auratus Alvarinho-Trajadura from Quinta Do Feital, a crisp, 50-50 blend of the familiar alvarinho (albarino in neighboring Spain) and the lesser-known trajadura grapes. This $15 wine, imported by Polaner Selections of Mt. Kisco, N.Y., is golden in color – the name Auratus refers to gold – and was notable for its bright citrus and interesting mineral notes. It’s made without oak and was a refreshing way to start off the evening.
By now, the grill was ready and so was the fish, which was seasoned with shallots, olive oil, lemon zest, a little tomato, parsley and white wine, then wrapped in foil. The foil method is a great way to cook fish fillets outdoors. It eliminates sticking and breakup on the grill and helps to prevent overcooking. It’s actually a form of poaching, as the fish cooks in the wine and its juices while taking on a subtle smoky flavor from the grill.
In less than 10 minutes the blackfish was done and our hosts served it with rice and asparagus from the farm down the road. It was simply delicious. I had a hunch that the wine I brought would be a good match and, on this warm, moon-filled night, no one was disappointed.
In retrospect, it would be hard to think of a better pairing for the range of tastes on our plates than Ferrari-Carano’s 2005 Chardonnay “Dominique” from the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County. It was a hit. This limited-production wine from a single vineyard is rich yet uplifting, showing superb fruit, including notes of apple and peach, citrus and spice, as well as refreshing acidity and minerals, all of it continuing on a lasting finish. Oak is nicely integrated and the overall feeling is on the light side, with alcohol at around 14 percent.
Only about 400 cases of this $38 wine were made and it is available only through the winery’s
Web site, . On the basis of this one I wouldn’t hesitate to try several other Ferrari-Carano single vineyard chardonnays, including Emilia’s Cuvee, Tre Terre and Fiorella.
The Dominique and the wonderful fish provided a classic case of a wine enhancing food and the food bringing out the full potential of the wine. There was just one disappointment on this memorable evening – the fact that I brought only one bottle to dinner.