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Wines by the Perrin family, food by Simon Pearce

by Thor Iverson

[vines]Notes from a Perrin & Fils/Beaucastel wine dinner at Simon Pearce in Quechee, Vermont. Food pairings, and their appropriateness with the wines, are described below each note.

Perrin & Fils 2006 Côtes-du-Rhône Rosé “Réserve” (Rhône) – Solid salted berry flavors, red and glowing with energy. It’s strong for a rosé, but not imbalanced (as so many southern French rosés are, in favor of their alcohol). But it lacks much bite, verve, or really much of anything on the finish. Short finishes aren’t exactly unusual with pink wines, of course. Overall, it’s tasty but simple. (2/08)

Served with: Steamed Blue Hill Bay mussels in a broth, with crisped potatoes (essentially, fries) on top, and a drizzled aioli. Both the mussels and the “fries” are excellent, and the single-dish take on moules frites is visually clever. However, there’s a problem with the dish: if you want the fries to remain crispy, you have to eat them first, by which time the mussels are cooling and slightly overcooked. If, however, you dig out the mussels to eat them at their optimum doneness and temperature, the fries fall into the broth and get soggy. Despite the clever presentation, the two-vessel service really would be preferable here. Oh, and the aioli is a little sweet, which suggests that it might not be an actual aioli, but a sauce based on a prepared mayonnaise. It’s not bad, it would just be better were it more authentic. The match with the wine is inoffensive, with each element sort of standing apart but not conflicting.

Perrin & Fils 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc “Les Sinards” (Rhône) – Young Rhône whites are such difficult animals. I really think that whether or not one likes them is as much due to the whim of the moment as it is to their inherent qualities. Tonight, this wine tastes slightly baked with a drizzle of burnt butter. Oak? I don’t know, and the web is unhelpful; perhaps a bit. Tomorrow, the fat but hard-to-identify stone fruit and desolate brown desert landscape could be compelling. It becomes a little less awkward with food. But in general, I’m disinclined to be positive. (2/08)

Served with: Misty Knoll chicken, in a sort of roulade form around foie gras, with a celeriac pear purée and what the restaurant calls a “natural jus,” but which is actually dosed with the poaching liquid from the pear. I love Misty Knoll chicken, but here it’s grossly overcooked, the foie gras is visible but impossible to taste (similar overcooking, perhaps), and the sauce is…yes, too sweet. Thankfully, this is the only failure, and everything from here is an improvement. As for the wine match, it’s hard to say as the dish is distractingly mis-executed, but it appears to work OK, though the sweetness in the sauce and the purée doesn’t help.

Perrin “Coudoulet de Beaucastel” 2005 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Bursting with ripe fruit, all fresh and upfront but with a solid pulse underneath. There are hints and shades of the earthier/meatier aspects, but they’re pretty much buried under the berried fruit right now. A lot of fun, nicely balanced, and surpassingly drinkable. (2/08)

Served with: A cassoulet with confit of free range duck, saucisson, and Niman Ranch pork. This, like a cassoulet I made recently, is dominated by the meat elements far too much to be authentic. But note, I’m not saying it’s bad. Hey, I like meat. Doesn’t everybody? (Well, no, but….) It’s about as good as non-authentic cassoulet (meaning one that takes many days to make, which isn’t really possible in a restaurant setting unless the restaurant specializes in cassoulet) can be, with good flavor throughout. And it’s a terrific counterpoint to the wine, with each enhancing the other.

Perrin “Château de Beaucastel” 1996 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – Coming out of its difficult phase, but only just, and as such it’s somewhat evasive. The meat-smoke, bacon liqueur elements are only teasingly in place, there’s a strong but backgrounded residue of dried plum, and the minerality at the core is left rather bare and exposed by the wine’s reluctance to rise from its sleep. As such, the structure dominates. This needs some more waiting. (2/08)

Served with: Veal scallop and sweetbreads with (very) smoky bacon, over-softened pear onions, and chanterelles. The veal is good, and I love sweetbreads, but the smoky dominance and rich meatiness is pretty much a duplication of the previous dish, which would be more dismaying were I not a sucker for both of those characteristics. It’s true: bacon makes everything better. More properly, there should be some separation between these courses. Also, the chanterelles are completely obliterated; this is not a mushroom for such aggressively-flavored food. I do like the dish, but a better attention to sequence would be welcome here. The food somewhat roughs up the wine (not easy to do to a CdP), but they eventually come to a sort of nervous peace.

Perrin & Fils 2005 Muscat Beaumes de Venise (Rhône) – Very fruity, fresh, and fun, tending more towards the concentrated, bright, spring-like fruit elements than the more exotic flowers or perfumes. The best BdVs have a core of crystalline minerality which this lacks, but it’s hard to criticize this wine much. Even average muscat is still pretty good. (2/08)

Served with: Apricot “gratin” (in this case, perhaps even somewhat applicable to the way the fruit appears to be cooked; in the States, the word is usually completely misused to mean soft things in cheese/cream sauces) with honey, almonds, and Westfield Farms blue goat cheese. This is a brilliant dessert, and makes use of counterpoints between the savory/salty cheese and the sweet elements very well. It’s a little deep and complex for the muscat, but then almost any non-fruit dessert will be.


Copyright © Thor Iverson.