Tue 8 Jun 2010
“That’s perfect,” said LL, sipping from a glass of Girard Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Napa Valley. She was referring not just to the wine but to its quietly impeccable match with our dinner last night, an improvised dish of Fava Bean Risotto with Mint and Green Peas.
It’s always exciting to see fava beans in the markets in May and June, because I know that LL will buy a pound or so and turn them into risotto, an annual treat made more precious by its rare appearance. The younger and more tender the beans are, the easier they are to work with; they come double-clothed, first in the large pod and then in a tight, inner sheath. What LL made was really a combination of recipes from Alice Waters and Jamie Oliver; the Waters recipe called for asparagus, which we did not have, while Oliver included green peas and mint, which we did. The easiest way to deal with fava beans is to strip off the rather ugly pod, drop the favas in a pot of boiling water, turn down the flame and simmer them for one minute; then run them under cold water and either using your fingers or a small knife strip away the skin. Waters recommends cooking the fava beans for 15 or 20 more minutes, but these were so tender without cooking (except for that one minute) that LL just pureed them as they were, with olive oil and a handful of mint from the Memphis Farmers Market. She wasn’t going to use green peas, but relented at the last moment to give the texture of the risotto “some bumps,” to use her technical culinary term. The peas also came from the Farmers Market.
This made an absolutely wonderful dish, filled with the redolent and flavorful freshness of early summer made sprightly with the hint of mint.
Fresh and sprightly, too, was the Girard Sauvignon Blanc 2009, made all in stainless steel and seeing no malolactic process, so the acidity flashes like a bright, keen blade. The color is pale straw, the next cousin to the color of water, yet conveying its own subtle radiance. An utterly entrancing bouquet of lilac segueing to camellia, of talc and pears, of pine resin and sea-salt and some lemony-herbal tisane draws you in irresistibly; a few minutes in the glass bring in touches of hay, grass and lime peel. The wine is very dry, brisk and lively, deftly balanced between the spare-crisp-chalky median and moderately lush suavity. Flavors of roasted lemon and just a bit of some tropical element — pineapple and mango — are subdued in the finish by a tang of pithy grapefruit bitterness. The alcohol content is 13.9 percent. Winemakers for Girard are Marco DiGiulio and Zach Long. Excellent. About $16, a Raving Bargain.
A sample for review.