Mon 29 Jun 2009
Let’s pull the cheese toast thing back a notch. We’ve seen cheese toast with tasso, with sun-dried tomatoes, with roasted peppers, with black bean and corn salsa, with leafy greens, with olive tapenade. I mean, what’s next? Hungarian goulash cheese toast?
Let’s go classic, elegant. The cheese toast pictured here has nothing on it except for mustard and cheese and a dusting of dried basil and black pepper. The cheese, let it be said, is a combination of five cheeses: strips of Emmanthaler in one direction, strips of aged Gruyère in the other direction (making a pretty little lattice), shreds of Manchego, shreds of a Pecorino Stagionata con Vinaccia (soaked in the must of sangiovese and montepulciano grapes) and of course grated Parmesan. All of these melded (and melted) into a welter of great-tasting and piquant cheesy earthiness.
What wine did I choose to accompany this wonder of simple deliciousity? Why what else but a Blaufränkisch from the Finger Lakes!
This is the Heron Hill Reserve Blaufränkisch 2007. The winery, which specializes in riesling, the great grape of the somewhat neglected region in central New York state, also makes wines from chardonnay and other vinifera grapes. Heron Hill sits on the southwest shore of Keuka Lake, about three miles north of Hammondsport. Quick, what are the other Finger Lakes? Once, many years ago, when I was a lad in Rochester, I could have told you instantly, well, Seneca and Canandaigua, of course, but I’m leaving out a couple others, which are … Cayuga and then Owasco and Skaneateles and Hemlock, and more to make 11 together, all carved by glaciers eons ago. Only Keuka, Canadaigua, Seneca and Cayuga are part of the official wine-producing appellation.
Blaufränkisch — “blue grapes of the Franks” — has a long history in Central Europe. Grown primarily in Austria, it is also cultivated in Germany, where it’s called Lemberger. The grape takes various names in the eastern European countries (all local variations of Blaufränkisch) and can even be found in Italy’s northeastern Friuli region as Franconia. As Lemberger, it’s made into a typically robust wine in Washington state.
The Heron Hill Reserve Blaufränkisch 2007 is a first release, not only for the winery but for the Finger Lakes region. The color is deep black-ruby; aromas of red and black currants are permeated by dried baking spices and a slightly leafy, black olive aspect, as if the wine were a combination of pinot noir and cabernet franc. At first, the wine seems light and approachable, but give it a few minutes to marshal its forces, and it gains depth and dimension, adding earthiness and minerality, flavors of ripe and briery black currants, mulberries and plums, loading on the spice and burgeoning floral qualities. The structure is full-bodied and robust, and tannins are dense, grainy and chewy, yet the wine is not rustic or heavy-handed; its character is essentially balanced and integrated. An intriguing, contemplative wine for drinking with cheese toast or strong, aged cheeses or hearty grilled meats or autumnal fare through 2013 to ’15. Production was 250 cases. Very Good+. About $35.
Available beginning July 1 at heronhill.com.
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