Four bottles of Cabernet Franc are at my feet, two from the Loire region of France and two from New York State. I bought a bottle a week ago at a small tasting room along RT 28, just south of Cooperstown, NY. The other three are from the wine shop around the corner. Even with bottles lined up on the floor for lack of vacancies in a wine rack and no counter space to speak of , I am fantasizing about more. The only way to do this eating (and drinking) local thing is to get obsessed.
I heard about the cooler climate grape from a friend, who kindly steered me clear of New York Chardonnay. He said if you want local wine, a Cabernet Franc is the best in this region.
At the Bear Pond Winery, I surveyed the tasting card for a handsome stranger. I made my mark beside the dry, full-bodied "father" of Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Franc had the highest price on the list. I sensed the beginning of a passionate, though short-lived, love affair.
For many, the pleasure of wine goes beyond its complexity and tricks of the taste buds. To stumble upon a great local bottle while en route to a campground, to drink it from a stainless steel goblet beside a campfire, to wash down juicy burgers, grilled peaches and s'mores is a bliss beyond the scope of grape juice. No promises I'll feel the same when I open another bottle, or four, at home.
I want to see how the New York version stacks up against the Old World. If sufficiently intrigued, a foray to the Finger Lakes wine trail will commence Planning Stage One. Heck, who am I kidding? That seed has already been planted.
I don't know the rules of the "locavore" game, but I'm all for it as long as it continues to be such fun. The local food movement is the perfect excuse to take a day and weekend trip, buying from local producers along the way. It's also a great opportunity to taste test. Getting to know your local foods and beverages, and seeing how they stand up to their long-distance counterparts, makes a more informed consumer on either end of the spectrum. While the driving and consumption of shipped-in products may make the low-impact extremists out there cringe, at least it's something more people might be willing to try. All of this, of course, only matters to the environment if one decides on the local products in the end. If a lot of people do a little, it might help that guy who abstained from toilet paper and other "luxuries" for a year believe he did, in fact, make an impact. He deserves that, at least.
For the record, and despite warning, I also bought a buttery chardonnay while upstate. One sip and I was mentally dribbling a wine reduction over seared scallops. Always take time to root for the underdog.
First Round Results: August 17. Two bottles took the trek with us to Brooklyn for dinner with some friends. 3 out of the 4 tasters agreed that while both were quite pleasing, we would drink the New York wine over the French. Of course, we proceeded to drink both, yum!
Next Results are In: August 18. Seared Scallops with New York Chardonnay wine reduction were a success, as were the artichokes, which popped up at today's 97th St Greenmarket, stuffed with bread crumbs, lemon zest and fresh parsley, and simmered in a light wine sauce. I have to mention the mouthwatering heirloom tomatoes that stole the show, drizzled with a Meyer lemon olive oil, a touch of sea salt and a twist of freshly ground pepper. (And yes, those are tiny strawberries lingering around well past their prime season!) Sadly, the good news stops there. The Chardonnay as a drinking wine was unpalatable. In an unusual display of resignation, two glasses were dumped and the remainder will be used for cooking only.