From a Chef’s Perspective: Autumn eats & Chardonnay

From a Chef’s Perspective: Autumn Eats & Chardonnay

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It’s not *quite* here yet, officially, but we can all sense it. Autumn on the North Fork is something I get really, really excited about. Tomatoes aside, all of my favorite vegetables start appearing again at farmstands, and comfort foods start popping up on menus. Roasted squash, root veggies, hearty meats and heavily-herbed side dishes – what’s not to love. After months of eating light, summery dishes, I’m ready to start building my winter coat via some liberal use of butter.

 

Speaking of butter, let’s talk about Chardonnay. I’ve been on a decade-long quest to educate people on why Chardonnay is so misunderstood and under-appreciated here in the States. It seems to be the general consensus among amateur wine lovers that hearing the word “Chardonnay” makes us expect very oaky, big, buttery wines. I feel confident in saying we can blame that on the fact that Chardonnay first made it’s (mainstream) debut in the States as a big, buttery, rich, oaky white wine from California. The more subdued, un-oaked Chardonnays from Europe were still very much under our radar because they seldom say “Chardonnay” on the label. So unless you know what to look for, they are easily passed over in a wine shop.  But hear me out –  the word “Chardonnay” actually says nothing about the flavor profile or style of the wine! It is merely the name of the grape, and while there are some fruit notes consistent to the grape variety, everything else is completely up to the winemaker.

 

The beauty of Chardonnay is that it is not an overly aromatic grape variety which means a winemaker can really be creative when it comes to style, and lucky for us it grows resiliently in our region. Some Chardonnays see no oak whatsoever (like our Bridge Lane Chardonnay) and is instead allowed to boast its natural fruit aromas (citrusy, with some stone fruit and green apple). Other Chardonnays see some oak aging ranging from just a few months to a year+, depending on what style the winemaker is seeking. We happen to make a lightly oaked Chardonnay as well (Lieb Reserve Chardonnay) so that we cover both Chardonnay fan bases. With a subdued oak program, you see those fruit notes go from crisp and light, to more bold and “baked”. The vanilla and oak notes just *barely* make an appearance on the finish. We find that this light oaking works best with the way Chardonnay grows and ripens in our cooler maritime climate.

 

So what’s the connection to autumn foods? They pair beautifully. If you aren’t quite ready for red wines, and are looking for something a little bolder than the zippy, uber-bright white wines you’ve been drinking all summer, give Chardonnay a chance. It’s more satiating with food because it doesn’t dry the palate yet offers some depth that is needed to carry the richer foods that we tend to eat in the fall. Buttery roasted squash, herbs like sage and rosemary, browned butter sauces, and oven-roasted poultry all pair so well with a glass of Chardonnay – as oaky or un-oaky as you like. I always advise the Chardonnay naysayers to try them again and again, and to look for different lengths of oaking times and try some from difference regions to experience differences in ripeness levels. Somewhere out there exists a perfect Chardonnay for you.

 

Alicia Ekeler-Valle

Tasting Room Director