I had fully intended to participate in Open that Bottle Day by opening a 2003 Cremant d’Alsace that, as I recall, tastes like distilled honey and cost more than $25. That’s about as decadent in both taste and price as I can go these days. But having forgotten to chill it, I ended up bartering with some in-town guests to open a 2007 bottle of Riesling that they’d just purchased on our trip to Cathedral Ridge Winery in the Columbia River Gorge area.
It was underwhelming. My guests, both European history PhD students, used words like “ephemeral” and “fleeting” to describe the wine’s finish, which is too kind. “Cotton candy-esque” would be more like it: you taste it, and then it’s gone. Apple, pear, and cider-inflected tones are all well and good, but why pay $17 for a wine that tastes like a bottom-shelf pinot grigio? It had none of the pizazz of a good Riesling, and yes, I am aware that I just used the word “pizazz” to describe wine, and I’m sorry.
So, what to do when your impromptu bottle fails you? Go out and find another, naturally. I know this is a D.C.-centric blog, so I’ll refrain from waxing rhapsodic about Portland’s (amazing, fantastic, creative, inexpensive, exciting) food scene too much. But Navarre, where we went, has a pretty solid District connection: its owner and head chef, John, moved to Portland from the D.C./Maryland area, so now Portland is home to his cozy bistro serving French-inspired small plates. We chose an array of dishes that ranged from foie gras on cumin toasts to rabbit and pork belly stew to meaty lentils to braised greens (not to mention the French cheese plate and red velvet cake that we finished with.) It’s hard to find a bottle of inexpensive wine to work with all of those, but John recommended (and we enjoyed) a 2007 bottle of Clos De La Briderie Touraine that was fruit-forward and light enough to balance out all the food on our tiny table.
Since we’d volunteered to sit at a tiny two-top table to save space, John came over to “reward us for good behavior” with a free round of Prosecco. D.C./Maryland foodies, this guy is the one who got away, and we thank you for letting us have him.