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Volume 37 Issue Four - May 17-23, 2007 now in our 37th season

A Day without Wine

by Maryjane Mojer

“A day without wine is like a day without sunshine!”  If you are old enough to have gotten married in the 70’s or early 80’s, this is probably a familiar phrase.  It was engraved in a lovely pewter wine coaster with a matching bread tray, both of which were ubiquitous wedding gifts in that era of avocado green and harvest gold.  I still have the one my first husband and I received as a gift.  I don’t think we ever actually used it for wine, as he does not drink, and I had no clue…about marriage at age twenty, or about wine.  We used it as a change holder.

As a newlywed in 1980 and a bride trying to cook for her husband, I failed miserably.  The marriage is a story for another day, (suffice it to say we remain friends and parent well together).  Cooking, however, is a genetic gift and one for which I am greatly and frequently appreciative.

Wine was another mystery.  I had dabbled in wine a bit; drank my fair share of Boons Farm Apple Wine and Cold Duck.  The first time we had guests for dinner, they brought a lovely bottle of Cabernet which I promptly thrust into the freezer for a quick chill.  Asti Spumante was about as adventurous as I had been and, after all, wasn’t wine supposed to be cold? 

I enjoyed the wine that I drank, but I was not at all knowledgeable, and when I asked people who did know, they were not helpful.  This was the age of the true wine snob.  Those who knew about great wines, what to look for, what was good and what was not weren’t talking.  Price meant everything and looking for the two for ten (always a favorite) just wasn’t done.  They would stick their noses up, roll their eyes at my ignorance and pat my hand with a gentle “there, there, dear” as though I just wasn’t worthy of their understanding.  So, I gave up.  I felt that they must be right.  Wine and all that goes with it was obviously well beyond me.  I stopped asking.  I stopped drinking. (Well, drinking wine.)

As I became more and more passionate about food and cooking, wine was always lurking uncomfortably in the background.  I wanted to know more, but still felt unworthy.  As I began the restaurant shuffle, working my way around town in various places, I started to meet and talk with people who loved wine, and who wanted everyone else to love wine as well.  Food and wine magazines were enjoying a new popularity and consumers were becoming more educated about both food and wine.  Food was becoming less fussy, more energetic and fun, and chefs all over were enjoying a new found freedom and an ability to create and use their own skills and sense of taste.  It was a great time to learn to cook and a great time to learn to eat and drink.

I lost my fear, and I started asking again.

More importantly, I started to enjoy wine again.  I tasted and asked.  I attended wine tastings and had a few of my own at home.  The greatest part of all, after all of my fears and embarrassment, was that with wine, ignorance was truly bliss.  What I had feared most, which was the “shoulds” fell to the wayside and was replaced with the “why nots.”  I bought cheap wine and expensive wine and thoroughly enjoyed them both.  There are certainly a few outstanding bottles, but I have yet to have a truly horrid glass of wine.

Naturally, a good glass of wine calls for a plate of something delicious.  Talk about your match made in heaven.  Recommendations are simply that; recommendations.  Explore and try.  Taste.  Because Nantucket is a destination for people who love good food, we are also a great place to drink good wine.  Any of the wine stores and restaurants on island have staff in place who know their stuff.  Don’t hesitate to ask.

Just as important, don’t be afraid to try.  Educate yourself by reading and taking notes.  I keep a notebook with suggestions from magazines, including Wine Spectator and any of the trade magazines.  I am not a collector, though that is my next goal.  I love the thought of buying certain wines now, and enjoying them down the road.  Nantucket is a wonderful spot to expand your horizons and add to your education in so many ways.

We are truly fortunate to have the annual Nantucket Wine Festival.  What a tremendous opportunity for folks who know wine to share their knowledge with those of us who want to learn.  So many great vineyards are represented. It’s an amazing event with so very much to offer.   For your own wine tasting, start with something simple.  Pastas, vegetables and cheeses are foods that can bring out the best in a wine, and vice versa.

 

Pasta Primavera

1 pound of whole wheat pasta

(I like whole wheat penne for a vegetable dish. It’s a little thicker, a

bit heartier. I tend to prefer red wine over white, and with the big,

bold flavors of some reds, I like something that can hold it’s own like

wheat pasta can.  If you don’t like it, don’t use it!)

1 medium Vidalia onion, diced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

1 red pepper, diced

1 head of broccoli, broken into florets

3 plum tomatoes, diced

6 ounces of brie or goat cheese or gruyere or

whatever cheese makes you happy.

Start the water for the pasta. I always salt my water.  As the water is heating, in a large sauté pan or saucier, sauté the onion in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil till wilted and soft.  Add the carrots, sauté five minutes.  Add the tomatoes, sauté five minutes.  Add the red pepper and broccoli, and cook for three or four minutes until the broccoli is bright green.

Cook your pasta till it’s done.  I usually go a minute or two under the cooking time, as residual heat will finish it, and tossing it in with the hot vegetables will continue the cooking a bit.

When the pasta is done you have a couple of choices.  You can drain it in a colander, plate the pasta and top it with the vegetables and cheese.  Or, you can use a slotted spoon or strainer, lift the pasta from the water and drop it into the vegetables, tossing in the cheese and stirring it until the cheese is all melty and delicious.

A plate of this, a glass of red and good company…doesn’t get much better than that!

My children are now all grown and have started to explore wine as well.  My oldest son and his friends have passed me in nuances.  They keep notes, are becoming familiar with vintages and vineyards and have spent time pairing wines with various foods.  It’s a blast to watch.  None of them have had that fear…that hesitation to ask and to try.  Wine is accessible now.  Times have changed and for wine lovers, it’s a great thing.
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