Three Perfect Food and Wine Pairings for This Summer

Try these three simple pairings that help bring home the joy of the perfect wine tasting experience.
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by Nishant Ceyyur

As the tasting room manager at Once Finger Lakes, I have the chance to interact with numerous guests and field a diverse array of questions. One that is frequently asked concerns how we pair our bites with wines in our Flights and Bites tasting. I know that the topic of food pairing can seem monolithic and subsequently daunting.

We have all had experiences where we are assured that wine X will partner perfectly with food Y and when we try the partnership, we often find the pairing to be, well, unremarkable. Many guests have indicated that even when dining at reputed establishments with wine stewards guiding their food choices, there seems to be something missing. This often dissuades guests from trying to experiment with pairings at home. I will admit, the topic of food and wine pairings has had literal volumes written exploring the whats and the whys. Without getting too technical, let’s crystallize the logic behind pairings into a simple tenet: what grows together, goes together.

There! That wasn’t so hard was it? I know folks at home must have read that with some measure of doubt, but the tenet holds true. Consider some of the classic wine pairings of the world, such as steak and Malbec or oysters and Muscadet. The common theme, of course, is that these wines are paired with the local foods that are grown in abundance and in quality. So let us extend this analogy, then, to the wines of the Finger Lakes AVA. Before we talk about wine, let us consider the foods that we can find locally in abundance and spectacular quality. Besides being a bucolic wine region, the Finger Lakes are home to a broad expanse of produce and dairy farms. We truly experience the marvels of the seasons here, and nothing brings greater joy than to consume seasonally, sustainably and locally. 

As the deep freeze has finally thawed out, the days are getting longer and the winds are growing warmer. Sleepy produce stands have unshuttered and are putting up for sale the first bounties of the season. Asparagus has sprouted and is fast on its way to forming impermeable bamboo like thickets. Rhubarb stalks are vivid, with crisp foliage that makes one dream of salads and pies. Fromagers are trundling out ripe wheels of brie that simply ooze when sliced. Take stock of your local produce stands and farmers markets, and lead with the seasonal produce that you most prefer. 

One of the things I love the most about the Finger Lakes AVA is the breadth and depth of the vinous offerings one can find. From classic vinifera such as Chardonnay and Riesling, to the more obscure and esoteric Rkatsiteli and Saperavi we truly have an abundance of choice.

The warmer months evoke sensations of growth and renewal, and palates trend towards drinking whites, sparklers and roses. Here are some suggestions for foods and wines that will pair beautifully and are grown together.

Brie and Dr. Konstantin Frank Blanc de Blanc 2016  

At this time of year, cheesemakers like Lively Run release beautiful, ripe and oozy roundels of Brie. The richness of the cheese and the unctuousness of the mouthfeel are contrasted beautifully by this Blanc de Blancs. A Methode Champenoise 100% Chardonnay sparkler that was degorged in January of 2021, this wine has spent 4 years on the lees which imparts a complex and notable autolytic character. Notes of brioche, fresh yogurt and toast abound making this wine a lovely contrast and pairing for Brie. 

Rhubarb and Hosmer Winery Sauvignon Blanc

Nothing screams summer more than a crisp white wine, and one of the quintessential libations of the season is Sauvignon Blanc. At Hosmer Winery, winemaker Julia Hoyle produces a spectacular rendition in the 2020 Sauvignon Blanc. Fruit forward, with a crisp note of citrus and tart apple, this wine is the perfect foil for braised rhubarb 

Smoked Salmon and Hermann J Weimer Pinot Noir Rosé

Taking in those summer sunsets with a glass of rosé in hand is what life is all about. Hermann J Weimer is well-recognized for their influence on Finger Lakes wines’ popularity, and they offer a lot to love, but the hint of strawberry and citrus finish from this selection is a refreshing delight and favorite. Combine it with the smokiness of this light bite and it becomes absolute perfection. This varietal is grown on a small plot on the Western slopes of Seneca Lake and hand-harvested. The wine’s bright color is the result of an eighteen-hour cold soak.

These are just some of the seasonal pairings I recommend and among what we serve at Once Finger Lakes, but what is most important to note is that it is fun and encouraged to experiment with flavors and variations. There is no wrong pairing, only tastings made better with each new and different taste discovery. Cheers, and enjoy!

Nishant Ceyyur is the tasting manager at Once Finger Lakes, 655 NY-14, Penn Yan, NY 14527, (315) 901-2029

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