Guests are asking that a lot lately, often while nibbling on Thai morsels like:
* Sliced cucumber graced with a mélange of lemon grass, coriander leaf, sweet chili and minced kaffir lime leaf;
* Pork sausage, freshly made with Thai seasonings and grilled on our crush pad, sliced and served with nam pla (Thai fish sauce) and sweet chili; or
* Chicken noisettes braised in red curry, served on a pillow of jasmine rice.
Aren’t these tasty bits a departure from the Austrian/Italian/French thing we typically have going on here? Why Thai in a Hunterdon County winery?
The quick answer is that Thai pairs wonderfully with three of our early summer wines, namely Riesling, Traminette and Cabernet Franc Rosé: all stainless steel fermented and – except for the rosé – eschewing malo and neutral oak. This creates bright and brisk wines with a hint of fruit, and in some cases more residual sugar than our other wines. Thai food, with its spicy/sweet/sour and occasionally lush DNA, pairs beautifully with them.
Another factor is our Riesling, Traminette and Rosé typically debut in June, when the weather in New Jersey begins to feel like Thailand: hot and humid, punctuated by pop-up showers and occasionally monsoon-like rains, making it the perfect seasonal pairing.
The longer answer to “Why Thai?” is that good winemakers imbue their wines with the culmination of their life experiences: what they’ve drunk, eaten, seen and otherwise done. This is particularly true with artisans who make relatively small amounts and whose imprint is all over their wines. There is no doubt my travels in Asia and Europe influence my wines, especially because I make them to be food wines, i.e., wines that taste best with food and that make food taste best.
And thus in the case of Riesling, Traminette and Rosé, Thai cuisine is among the best pairings one can make.
While on my culinary pilgrimage to Thailand, I developed such a deep appreciation for the people and their culture that I’ve not only tried to master their cuisine but to make wine that complements it perfectly. I consider this a divine challenge. Ditto for the cuisines of Austria, Italy, France and a few other places, but those stories are for another day.
If you’ve never paired Thai with a crisp Riesling, I invite you to try it here or elsewhere. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. And if you’re really ambitious, we have two more Thai master classes that you can take here this month:
• Sunday, June 12, mussels steamed in Thai seasonings followed by salmon filet roasted with a Chinese-influenced “black lacquer” coating of hoisin, soy and vinegar crust; and
• Sunday, June 19, rack of lamb in a stunningly awesome Thai marinade.
Join us for either or both, or simply visit the loft in the Wine Barn to see what the fuss is all about.