Shared Experiences. Shared Beverages. Shared Cuisine
For all of our differences, and this being an election year there are folks at the ready to point out multiple points of differentiation, those of us living along the Gulf Coast actually have quite a few important similarities in our lifestyles, our loves, our diets, and our willingness to enjoy life to its very fullest.
We do, of course, share the proximity to a very large body of water that affects our diets, our climate, our recreational possibilities and our weather. The Gulf of Mexico can also affect our livelihood if we work in those industries dependent on what the Gulf provides on the water’s surface, like support jobs in our many ports, or what is beneath the surface in the quest for energy and the pursuit of the freshest, most delicious seafood to be found anywhere.
This similarity of lifestyle causes us to reach for many of the same products also enjoyed by our neighbors when deciding what to drink on a warm, humid afternoon or as an accompaniment to that great seafood, served in endless preparation styles.
Very few wines in the world go as well with seafood as Sauvignon Blanc. This world-traveling grape exhibits many styles but around here we tend to look to the New World sites in America and New Zealand.
Honig Cellars – Napa Valley, California
Cakebread Cellars – Napa Valley, California
Cloudy Bay – Marlborough, New Zealand
Kim Crawford – Marlborough, New Zealand
Craggy Range – Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio
Pinot Grigio burst upon the scene several years ago. Not that it was not always around, but it took advantage of a flaw in the making and marketing of Chardonnay and then used that foothold to grow the category. These wines are relatively uncomplicated; at the time of their rebirth, inexpensive; and match well with so many fish dishes, as well as being a fine selection just to enjoy on its own.
Santa Margherita – Alto Adige, Italy
King Estate – Eugene, Oregon
Ecco Domani – Trento, Italy
Willamette Valley Vineyards – Turner, Oregon
The most popular wine grape varietal in the world, almost one in every three bottles of wine sold in the US is chardonnay. And we Gulf Coasters overwhelmingly enjoy Chardonnay from the West Coast of the U.S., almost to the exclusion of everything else.
Sonoma-Cutrer – Windsor, Sonoma County, California
Rombauer Cellars – Rutherford, Napa Valley, California
La Crema – Windsor, Sonoma County, California
Cakebread Cellars – Rutherford, Napa Valley, California
Jordan Vineyards – Healdsburg, Sonoma County, California
It was only a few years ago that Pinot Noir burst on the scene to the general wine drinking public, and it was thanks to Hollywood for this grape’s starring role in the movie, Sideways. This well-told tale, filmed almost completely in Wine Country, Santa Barbara, California, introduced a whole generation of Americans to this formerly exclusive grape, native to Burgundy, France. Within just a few years, California winemakers could not produce enough Pinot Noir to satisfy demand and only now, since the movie’s release in 2004, are we seeing shelves full, not empty, of the grape’s wines and restaurant wine lists with multiple styles readily available.
La Crema – Windsor, Sonoma County, California
Belle Glos – Rutherford, Napa Valley, California
Argyle – Dundee, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Merry Edwards – Windsor, Sonoma County, California
Elk Cove – Gaston, Willamette Valley, Oregon
The Hollywood effect that boosted Pinot Noir had a somewhat different impact on Merlot, which was slammed in the same motion picture, Sideways, for its lack of character and style. Merlot producers responded to this somewhat justified slap in the face and today’s Merlot is a better wine than it was back then. Here again, we like the American style of a classic European grape and find the wine’s velvet finesse coupled with strong structure to pair well with a lot of our cuisine.
All from Napa Valley
Duckhorn Vineyards – Rutherford
Franciscan Oakville Estate – Rutherford
Shaffer Vineyards – Napa
Frog’s Leap – Rutherford
What was true of Pinot Noir and Merlot is even more so of Cabernet Sauvignon. We like a bold, strong, high in alcohol and tannins, born in the USA, Cabernet. This King of Grapes has found a home on America’s West Coast and there will be no looking back. The results of long ripening seasons in California and Washington State appeals to wine drinkers in this country, particularly those of us who enjoy huge, fresh flavors in our steaks.
Jordan Vineyards and Winery – Healdsburg, Sonoma County
Silver Oak Wine Cellars – Alexander Valley, Sonoma County and Oakville, Napa Valley
Alexander Valley Vineyards – Alexander Valley, Sonoma County
Cakebread Cellars – Rutherford, Napa Valley
Simi – Healdsburg, Sonoma County
It appears most of us along the Gulf Coast still approach sparkling wine and Champagne as a special-events beverage. We don’t tend to break out the bubbles as often as our friends in other parts of the country, maybe due to price resistance on our part. Yet no wine goes with so many styles of foods or diverse occasions as sparkling wine and Champagne. Whenever we are stumped as to what wine goes with what food, sparkling wine is never a wrong answer. It also appears we really have not yet discovered Italian bubbles, like Prosecco, which offer many of the same qualities as a domestic sparkling wine or imported Champagne but with much lower cost.
Veuve Clicquot Champagne – Reims, France
Moët et Chandon Champagne – Epernay, France
Roederer Estate Sparkling Wine – Philo, Anderson Valley, California
There we are, sharing the same history, same part of America, same appreciation for great seafood caught in our neighborhood, and same likes when it comes to wine.
It’s almost like we are part of the same family, and so we are.