Somm Kind of Wonderful
Honolulu's top wine pros share their personal picks when it comes to pairings.
Pairings from Honolulu's top wine pros
WE EXPECT SOMMS TO SHOWCASE THEIR WINE PAIRINGS IN THE RESTAURANTS WHERE THEY PLY their trade. Th ey get the chance to taste and try specific dishes with different wines until they get it right. But when they go home, what do they really pair with their food? Do they drink the wines they serve or do they opt for something else? I asked some of Honolulu's top somms exactly what they drink at home and on their days off.
Advanced Sommelier Christopher Ramelb is the wine director at Honolulu's hottest new restaurant, Senia where he loves to pair Patrick Bottex's Bugey-Cerdon with their foie gras and strawberry gel and consommé. Th e Bugey-Cerdon is a slightly sparkling and ever-so-softly sweet rosé made from Poulsard and Gamay in the Savoie region of France. But at home, he is "loving Off Color Brewery Gose Style Beer, Troublesome," he says. "Its wheaty,salty, light, airy fl avors are some of the greatest to pair with dim sum, shrimp dumplings and red sauce. Yeah—that red sauce!" Off Color Brewery is from Chicago so that may be a difficult find, but who says that somms care how hard anything is to find—as long as it tastes great.
Getting back to wine pairings, certifi ed sommelier and general manager at Azure Restaurant at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel Micah Suderman cooks a lot of kalbi at home. “Kalbi Steak with Dr. F Weins Prum Riesling Wehlenner Sohnnener Kabinett 2015 is a winner!” says Suderman. “Th e key to this pairing is that the kalbi has to be tender. Th e sweet fl avors of the sauce with extra fatty nature of the rib makes for a beautiful stage for the Riesling to dance on that will make someone who doesn't like Riesling fall in love with it.” Apparently, oysters are a favorite of somms in Honolulu as both Suderman and Taro Kurobe—who is a certifi ed sommelier and sommelier at Mariposa Restaurant at Neiman Marcus—listed oysters and the same wine to pair with it! Suderman starts, “Oysters with Andre Michele Bregeon Muscadet Sur Lie 2015. I love the complimentary aspects of salinity in both wine and oyster. Th e Muscadet acts as a squeeze of lemon on the oyster and brightens up the nuances of both." Kurobe adds, “if the oysters are from the mainland and outside the ‘ ber'-ending months, they have a more intense brininess, which works especially well with Muscadet with extensive lees ( lees are used in white and sparkling wines to add more textures and fl avors) aging like Michel Brégeon.”
Sean Fonte, who is the assistant manager and certified sommelier at both Fish House and Noe at Four Seasons Oahu at Ko Olina, chimes in: “2012 Pierre Henri Gadais Muscadet Sevre et Maine Saint Fiacre, Sur Lie is my choice. The crisp and bright expression of Muscadet marries playfully with both the oysters and wines salinity. Having a Muscadet ‘Sur Lie' or aged on yeast adds a extra layer of texture to the wine which helps slam dunk the oysters' rich profile.”
Another common food for this group of somms is poke. Who doesn't love poke or have their favorite recipe or store to go to and get some? At Suderman's table, he enjoys Wasabi ‘Ahi Poke, which he pairs Champalou Vouvray Sec 2015. “'Ahi poke with wasabi has a complex array of flavors from sweet to spicy,” he shares. “The Vouvray is crisp with a touch of sweetness that takes the intensity of the wasabi and tames it. On the other hand, the wine's acid electrifies the herbs and spices of the fish that brings the diversity of flavors together.”
In the same vein, Fonte likes the Champalou Vouvray Sec 2015 with beet
salads at home as well. Kurobe notes, “I always enjoy is a crisp Albarino from Rias Baixas with poke and/or grilled tako with some citrus. My Albarino of choice would be Bodegas del Palacio de Fefinanes 2016.” Fonte puts a different spin with salmon poke and 2015 Domaine Fontsainte Gris de Gris Corbieres Rosé. “The floral and exciting finish of the Domaine Fontsainte pushes nicely up against the texture of the salmon ...”
Master sommelier Chuck Furuya from VINO shares this story to me. “Yesterday, at a get-together of our kids and their families, we cooked seared swordfi sh, simply seasoned with salt and freshly cracked black pepper, which we served with a white wine-caper-olive oil and a tiny bit of thyme. In addition, we ser ved some Nalo Greens, salt, pepper, olive oil and some sautéed sugar snap peas with bacon bits. The wine we ser ved was the 2015 Manni Nössing Müller-Thurgau ‘ Sass Rigais' from the Sudtirol of northeastern Italy up in Dolomites country.” The pairing was “mesmeri zing, though delicate, aromatics of this wine helped to heighten the f i sh and foods and how the crisp refreshing acidity help keep the palate fresh and alive between bites.” Furuya continues. “It was also quite amazing how the wine's aromatics wonderfully connected with the thyme to create electricity and incredible dynamics. These kinds are i deal for warm- weather sipping, especially when ser ved well- chilled .
So if you want to ser ve your guests as a professional sommelier does this season, grab some oysters, your favorite poke and some of these fabulous wines as pairings. Interestingly enough, none of these wines will break the bank. They range in price from about $ 18 for a bottle of the Champalou Vouvray to about $ 30 for the Manni Nössing Müller-Thurgau. It just goes to show that a somm really knows great value when they see it and how to make a fall meal even better.
Dim sum and beer go hand in hand according to Senia's sommelier Christopher Ramelb ( photo courtesy Jeff Sanner). OPPOSITE PAGE: A favorite pairing among Hawai‘i sommeliers, oysters with a squeeze of lemon and white wine are a classic duo.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: When Ramelb (Senia's sommelier) isn't sipping on wine, he prefers Troublesome beer by Off Color Brewery ( photo courtesy M. Kiser/Good Beer Hunting); Azure's Micah Suderman pairs poke with Champalou Vouvray Sec 2015 ( photo courtesy Lisa Aurigemma); while Sean Fonte at Four Seasons Oahu pairs the same variety with beet salads.