Summer in the Country

It’s a beautiful thing when a plan works out. Last year’s rosé derby did not supply a clear winner, but this year’s produced two gems, Mas de Gourgonnier and Domaine Houchart. Along with our all-purpose white, Cler’ Blanc, our wine rack was full. Time for Margaret and I to head up to Old Chatham for ten days of country living.

As delightful as it is to sample new wines, find the perfect food accompaniment, and trade taste sensations with friends, let us not forget the equally delightful moments of uncorking an old favorite for a simple meal of pasta with herbs, hamburgers from the grill, a salami sandwich, cold minestrone, fresh picked corn and sliced tomatoes with basil and sea salt. On a hot day, with beads of condensation dripping down the bottle, with no tuxedoed sommelier looking over my shoulder, I plop a few ice cubes into my glass, and have even been known to spritz things up with seltzer.

For ten days, we barely roamed off the range. To be sure, there was gourmet pizza at Baba Louie’s in Hudson with Bastianich rosato made with refosco. And dinner at the Old Chatham Country Store, where we took our chardonnay and tempranillo by the glass. Nor were the three house wines the only wine we drank at home. One day I brought up a 2010 Domaine Tempier rosé from the cellar, just for the hell of it; another day, we opened a Jalliance Crémant de Bourgogne. This was a new one for us. Bone dry, large yet sufficient bubbles, a little toast, a little apple, a little price tag ($15.99); what we didn’t drink on the first day was still lively enough for the next.

From some previous exploration at Chatham Liquors, I had come home with a 2008 Elysis Vouvray. As with all Vouvray, you never quite know what you have in your glass until you taste it. In this case, the wine had sweetness that fell short of dessert wine levels, but was clearly inappropriate for the flank steak I was grilling. I wanted to put it aside – call it an aperitif and move on — but Margaret would not hear of it. As I said, no snooty sommelier, including me, could tell her what she could and could not drink. I picked up another bottle before we returned to New York, to open again under different circumstances.

Most days we dined al fresco, often sitting at the patio table until the birds stopped tweeting and settled in for the night. In that twilight, the bats ruled the air, and the landscape turned black, the woods behind our house no more than a silhouette against a Magritte sky. A few minutes later the cicada song filled the night, followed by the lightening bugs, and, in darkness now, the Milky Way smeared across the heavens.

When a plan works out, it’s a beautiful thing.

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