To highlight the arrival of five new European wines in the Cayman Islands, Jacques Scott wine professionals Lee Royle, Sarah Howard and Sergio Serrano joined sommelier Harietta Stegbuchner at the recently reopened and remodeled Lobster Pot Restaurant for lunch and a wine tasting.
When people in the Americas think of Old World wines, they generally think of the likes of Burgundy, Bordeaux, Chianti, Riesling and other famous varietals that have been heavily exported for more than a century. With the explosion of New World wineries and an ever-expanding global market of wine drinkers looking for good, affordable wines that can be consumed when they are young, some European winemakers are now producing wines that agree with the palates – and the wallets – of New World wine drinkers.
In September, Jacques Scott Wines and Spirits added five affordable European wines to its extensive portfolio, including three from France and two from Spain. Just days after the wines arrived, Jacques Scott sent three of its wine professionals – Lee Royle, Sarah Howard and Sergio Serrano – to the Lobster Pot to sample them with the cuisine of the recently reopened restaurant. They were joined by the Lobster Pot’s sommelier, Harietta Stegbuchner.
The Lobster Pot
Established in 1965, the Lobster Pot is one of the oldest restaurants in the Cayman Islands. Situated on the waterfront on North Church Street with a spectacular view of George Town harbor, the restaurant has long been a favorite of locals and visitors alike.
A fire in November 2011 caused severe damage to the restaurant and various challenges in the rebuilding process – extensive renovations, including the addition of an open-air, oceanfront deck – delayed the reopening for more than a year. But thankfully for its many fans, the Lobster Pot finally reopened in mid-June and it has since been as popular as ever, if not more so.
For the wine sampling, the Lobster Pot served an array of share plates of its popular entrees. For the white wines and Rose, it served sriracha salmon with warmed avocado and sun-blushed tomato salsa; lobster and seafood cioppino; seafood risotto with lobster, scallops and shrimp; and the grilled catch of the day, which was wahoo. With the red wines that came later, the dishes included maple roasted chicken and artichoke with garlic, and filet mignon with boursin cheese and lobster mashed potatoes.
It’s a little known fact that Spain has the most acreage of wine-producing vineyards of all the countries in the world. However, because those vineyards have lower yields than those of France and Italy, Spain produces only the third most wine of any country – still an impressive statistic considering most people couldn’t name more than one of Spain’s dominant wine grape varieties. Although Tempranillo has earned a worldwide name for itself, other prominent Spanish wine grape varietals like Albarino, Carinena (Carignan) and Palomino remain relatively unknown in the Americas. Another under-the-radar white-wine grape from Spain called Verdejo is the basis for one of Jacques Scott’s new wines called Arindo [Retail price: $14.99].
“People call [Verdejo] the Sauvignon Blanc from Spain,” says Serrano.
Howard said she could see why.
“It’s like a tropical Sauvignon Blanc,” she says. “You don’t get the grassiness of some Sauvignon Blancs; you get more tropical fruit flavors like pineapple and mango. People who like Sauvignon Blanc will like this.”
The Arindo paired well with all of the seafood dishes sampled during the lunch. Stegbuchner really liked the pairing with the red snapper ceviche with mango and pickled red onion over a crostini appetizer.
“The sweetness of the mango balances the acidity in the wine,” she said. “It’s a very nice, uncomplicated, medium-bodied wine that would be especially good with fresh fish.”
Lobster Pot manager Gunter Gosch also was impressed with Arindo.
“I think it would be perfect with our lobster mango salad,” he said. “It has enough acidity to cut through the mayonnaise. It’s a perfect wine for the tropics. A glass of this takes away about 5 percent of the humidity outside.”
Howard predicted that Arindo would be a big seller in Cayman.
“It’s such a friendly little wine,” she said.
“And a nice price point, too,” added Serrano.
The other Spanish wine tasted was red, so it came later in the meal with the land-based proteins. The Blau 2011 [Retail: $16.99] produced by Cellers Can Blau is a big, hearty red wine made from a blend of Syrah, Granacha – also known as Grenache – and Carinena.
“If you like big, jammy American wines like Apothic Red, you’ll love this wine,” says Howard, adding that although Blau is lush and fruity like a big New World red, it has minerality and other characteristics that point to it being an Old World wine.
“For those who typically only drink American red wines, this is a great gateway into the Old World,” she said, adding that Blau also has an attractive price point. “If you’re willing to try something new, you don’t have to worry that you’ve spent too much and you won’t like it. But you’re going to like it!”
Deep purple in color, Blau has flavors of dark fruits like blueberries and plums. The Syrah in the blend gave it lingering black pepper notes.
“I think this would pair very well with our turtle steak,” said Stegbuchner.
Provence is probably most known for producing some of the best Rose wines in the world. However, it produces good quality reds and whites as well. Sacha Lichine Blend No. 5 [Retail: $16.99] is a well-made affordable blend of Vermentino, Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Semillon. Winemaker Sacha Lichine uses a traditional French wine-making approach to produce a lush and bold white wine that is more New World in style. Blend No. 5 is a fresh, full-flavored wine that finishes with a waxy lemon taste and just a hint of pepper.
“I like the chubbiness of this wine,” said Howard. “The fatty meatiness of the [wahoo] with the unctuousness of the wine is perfect.”
Stegbuchner predicted the wine would go well with the Lobster Pot’s seafood risotto, and she was right.
“The creaminess of the wine goes with creamy foods.”
Howard suggested the Blend No. 5 would also go well with an American Thanksgiving dinner.
“It’s versatile enough to go with a big table of food, but particularly with turkey and creamy mashed potatoes.”
Staying in Provence, the next wine sampled was Chateau Minuty Rose d’Or [$28.99], a blend of 95 percent Grenache grapes and 5 percent Syrah.
When very cold, the Minuty showed aromas of peaches and red fruits like currants. However, as it warmed up, it evolved.
“It’s one of those wines that you keep coming back to because it keeps revealing itself,” said Howard.
“It’s like a woman,” said Stegbuchner. “It’s simple. It’s soft. And when you have a taste, you want to find out more.”
Howard said that one good thing about Rose is that it pairs well with most foods.
“It works with steak. It works with chicken. It works with everything,” she said.
Everyone loved the Minuty with the seafood risotto.
“Fantastico,” said Serrano.
The final wine of the afternoon moved to a more traditional wine, a Right Bank Bordeaux blend made from Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Since the wine is produced in Fronsac – one of the lesser known Bordeaux regions – the price point of 2009 Les Trois Croix [Retail: $38.99] is not in the same strata as wines from Bordeaux areas such as Medoc, Graves, Pomerol and Saint-Emilion.
The winemaker of Les Trois Croix, Patrick Leon, was the former winemaker at the famed Mouton-Rothschild winery. The velvety textured wine has flavors of dark fruits like blueberries and black raspberries and an elegant finish.
“If you can’t afford Mouton – and who can? – this is the route to go,” said Howard.
The young Les Trois Croix, with its firm tannins, really requires a pairing with hearty food at is current age.
“Unless you have a dish with meat or something else that can handle it, you’ve got to have patience with this wine,” said Howard. “Open it when you get home and decant it and by the time you cook dinner, it will be perfect. It’s also a good wine to buy a case of and keep for a few years.”