Taste Lodi: Woodbridge Moscato
The goods: A compelling array of orange blossom, rose petal, tropical flowers (jasmine and frangipani) and honeysuckle perfumes tease the nose; and then totally deliver on the palate: feathery light(10.3% alcohol) and modestly sweet (4.8% residual sugar) sensations, with the airy crispness of lemon cookies and a tingly touch of effervescence (what the Italians would call frizzante).
Price & provenance: $12; grown primarily in Lodi from grapes of Muscat Canelli (46%), Muscat Orange (46%) and Gewürztraminer (8%)
Tradizione: The tradition of producing light (usually less than 8% alcohol), sweet, lightly sparkly Moscato style white wines goes back centuries in Italy (especially in Piedmont). In the U.S., wineries like Louis Martini, Robert Mondavi and Eberle began to carve out their own specialty niche of similar style whites in the sixties and seventies; albeit in slightly fuller (10%-11% alcohol), sun ripened fashions. Woodbridge’s, of course, is inspired by Mondavi’s famed Moscato d’Oro; although in several ways, the Woodbridge’s Moscato is even more delicate and complex than its illustrious forebear’s.
Outrageously good food match: Chef Didier Gerbi of Lodi’s Wine & Roses Hotel harbors his own private passion for Moscato style wines. Typical of a professional, his recipe for the ideal match (poached pears and all the fixin’s) is somewhat intricate; but have no fear: if you are not in the mood to roll out your own tuiles crisps, no one’s going to arrest you if you substitute store bought lace cookies or pirouettes. Chef Didier’s recipe:
POACHED PEARS WITH CRISPY TUILES
4 pears (Chef’s recommendation: firm variety like Alexandrine, Bosc or Anjou)
2 cups Moscato
1 oz. cardamom
1 oz. star anise
1/2 cinnamon stick
1/2 lb. sugar
Orange and lemon zests (two or three 2″-3″ strips each)
Peel the pears, removing cores from bottom and leaving on stems. Marinate in Moscato with the spices, sugar and citrus zests for 12 hours. Then in medium sized saucepan, bring poaching liquid to simmer, lower heat, add pears, cover with aluminum foil and cook slowly. After 10-15 minutes, test by poking knife into bottom of a pear (should be tender, not mushy). Remove pears and reduce the liquid by about half, then let it cool down.
1/4 lb. melted butter
1/2 lb. powdered sugar
1/4 lb. lemon juice
1/8 lb. flour
Combine butter and sugar in mixing bowl, and then add lemon juice and flour. With small spoon or spatula, spread batter thinly in 2-3 inch diameters on nonstick cookie sheet (or sheet lined with parchment paper) and bake in an oven at 325 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until lightly brown. Gently lift and cool on wire rack; or drape over rolling pin before cooling to achieve curled shapes.
1/2 cup chocolate (recommended: 70% Valrhona dark chocolate)
1 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean
Heat the cream to boiling with vanilla bean. Cut the chocolate into pieces and place in a bowl. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Whisk gently.
Place a poached pear in the center of a bowl (slice bottom to stand up). Add the reduced juice and a chocolate coulis on half of the pear. Garnish with a tuiles cookie along with a scoop of ice cream (Chef’s recommendations: if not homemade Earl Grey Tea ice cream, butter pecan vanilla by Häagan-Dazs® or Ben & Jerry’s will do fine).