Sarah Leah Chase
Days of Wine and Daffodils
The eighteenth-century French lawyer and writer Anthelme Brillat-Savarin is frequently bandied about in culinary circles for having said: “The discovery of a new dish does more for human happiness than the discovery of a star.” While it would be treason for me as a cookbook author not to agree, I must confess that I become equally euphoric, if not more so, whenever I discover a new and affordable wine to adore. Were I rich enough not to fret or else poor enough to qualify for a post-April 15th tax refund, I would have no qualms about easing Uncle Sam woes by popping open a bottle or two of Burgundy’s Le Montrachet or even its slightly less pedigreed Puligny and Chassagne cousins. However, I have qualms – compounded by tuition bills – making the very notion of slipping down to my fine wine cellar a mere figment of my imagination for the time being.
Fortunately, there’s a surrogate cellar in my life conveniently located on Nantucket – i.e. Leslie-Ann Sheppard’s Windy Way wine shop, The Cellar, where I have been nurturing a newly discovered passion for Austria’s Gruner Veltliner – a crisp and deliciously refreshing white wine whose food-friendly reputation is fortuitously complimented and I daresay enhanced by pocketbook friendliness. The bottles of Gruner Veltliner at The Cellar hail from the 10th generation winemaking family of Huber, while the pretty aqua and lime striped pastel labels exude spring and cry out for inclusion in every Daffodil weekend picnic basket and ad hoc party. Wine snobs may even be consoled by the fact that Huber’s grapes are grown in Austria’s Traisental Valley in small vineyards that lie along the same latitude as Beaune and share Burgundy’s climate of cool nights and warm days. At $12 per bottle, it is ever so easy to favor latitude over pricey terroir and quaff Huber’s Gruner Veltliner by the case.
At the risk of embarrassing myself, I will admit that I only discovered the charms of Gruner Veltliner last fall while shopping at The Cellar for some new every-night wines. Subsequently, I have read about a certain group of connoisseurs and sommeliers who feel that Gruner Veltliner became so trendy on restaurant wine lists in New York City in the late 1990’s that they had no choice but to stop drinking it altogether. I guess island living coupled with parenthood makes me provincial, but I nonetheless continue to thank my lucky Maria Mitchell stars for missing out on this particular oenological cycle of fame and fall from grace. Naiveté can be a blessing and one I invite you to join me in celebrating by raising a picnic glass of Gruner Veltliner to any daffodil found still blooming this weekend. It is a sip that will make you smile.
Serendipity was conceived by Sarah Leah Chase as an occasional blog-like addition to Mahon About Town to shed positive and enthusiastic light on culinary pleasures and surprises encountered during day-to-day, off-season island living. Sarah is a cookbook writer, culinary consultant, and longtime columnist for the Inquirer & Mirror.