Sat 4 Sep 2010
We felt ambivalent about the Butter Bean Risotto with Chard and Fried Okra — it’s more complicated than a risotto ought to be and it has, um, okra — but we made it anyway, and after a few bites, LL said, “You know, this is pretty good.” The recipe comes from Cotton Row, a restaurant in Huntsville, Alabama, and was carried in the September issue of Bon Appetit in a story called “Daily Specials.” The recipe calls for a can of butter beans, but I had bought fresh ones at the Memphis Farmers Market, so I cooked those the day before. LL made the risotto part while I fried the okra in a buttermilk-cornmeal crust. As you can see in the image, the fried okra is a garnish, while the beans and chard are in the risotto. It occurred to me later that the dish is an upscale variation of Hoppin’ John, the traditional Carolina preparation of rice and blackeyed peas.
For wine, I opened the fresh and appealing Oberon Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Napa Valley. Made partly in stainless steel (65.7%) and partly in oak barrels (34.3%), the wine entices the nose with scintillating hints of lime and lime leaf, lemongrass and grapefruit, with undertones of dried thyme and tarragon and a powerful current of pungent limestone-like minerality. You may be thinking, “Lime? Grapefruit? Sounds pretty damned New Zealandy to me,” but what the Oberon SB ’09 avoids is the sometimes overbearing Kiwi characteristics of green pea, fennel frond and gooseberry, playing the game much straighter and to better profit. In the mouth, the Oberon SB ’09 retains the grassy lime and grapefruit element but adds roasted lemon, spiced pear and a touch of melon, all swathed and jazzed by crisp, snappy acidity that’s balanced by a tinge of lushness provided by that modicum of oak. Expert winemaking by Tony Coltrin. Alcohol content is 13.5 percent. Drink through 2011. Very Good+. About $15, a Raving Bargain.
The truth, however, is that whatever this wine’s myriad virtues, it wasn’t the perfect wine for the risotto. We really needed an off-dry riesling, a Kabinett level wine, say, from Rheinhessen.
Oberon is a label from Folio Fine Wine Partners, the company started by Michael Mondavi and his family after the Robert Mondavi Winery was sold to Constellation at the end of 2004.
A sample for review.