Chloe is a musician, teacher and writer residing in Northern California. Her website can be found here.
The Natural Red table wine from Frey Vineyards couldn’t be more welcoming. It is an old friend who may not know the finer details of your every-day life, but who never fails to invite you over for a glass when you most need it. Such is this wine. It is not complex, nor is it showy. It is sincere. It is full of warmth and body. It gives a good hug.
From Pour to Finish
Directly after the pour, blackberries filled the glass. They were heavy and excited, the first bloom of summer fruit. After twenty minutes, the blackberries calmed down, and invited blueberries and black currants to their midst. Apples were the wallflower; barely there but keenly observant, promising to deliver a witty remark later. The bold berries were the life of the gathering, yet unpretentious and approachable. Already, the fruits longed to be balanced by the brooding, hopeful tellicherry peppercorn, roasted in olive oil. Already, white fish was on the menu.
The first sip was surprising. There was small acidic bite, and a fresh body reminiscent of the aroma when I first popped the cork. A bottle full of summer blooms. It balanced quickly as the berries took the main stage, smoothing the texture and solidifying the overall fruity character. And then it was over. No sooner had the berries began chatting, than the apple I detected earlier, peaked, delivered a cutting one-liner, and the finish arrived. It was decisive and strong. The berries exited the floor in a melancholy fashion, kicking up dust, leaving the dryness of empty blackberry vines in their wake.
It was as a day in mid-September, when night falls a little sooner than expected, but no one is worse for wear, because the day was so refreshing. No sooner had the dry soil and empty blackberry vines of Northern California been alluded to, than the undertones of sage and marjoram arrived. They were a pleasant addition to the wine’s character, a sudden depth, and would lead to the ultimate choice for the pairing.
From the aroma alone, I would’ve suggested striped bass with a peppercorn, chili, and lime relish, and an avocado garnish. But after the finish dropped off, a Provençal herbal dish seemed more appropriate, to encourage a more gradual finish. With the right pairing, the finish will echo faintly on the palate, rather than skip away before the dishes are cleaned up.
The Frey Natural Red requires a baked white fish, trout or striped bass, a strong salt-of-the-earth flavor to coax the herbal notes from the wine.
Main dish: Marinate the fish fillets in dried herbs, including thyme, marjoram, one dried bay leaf, several whole garlic cloves, fresh parsley, and a diced quarter of a red onion. Sprinkle Himalayan sea salt over. Bake the fillets in foil. Serve with fresh parsley and a wedge of lemon, on a bed of spring greens (including arugula!).
Side dish: roast whole Tellicherry peppercorns in a cast iron pan, add a liberal amount of jalapeño olive oil (if unable to locate, add a pinch of finely diced jalapeño pepper to Extra Virgin olive oil), and let sit for two minutes. Dice a dozen or so cherry tomatoes, and fry until cherry tomatoes are soft. Top with fresh parsley.
Also heat a loaf of rosemary bread in the oven, serve next to the side dish. Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano would go well over either the main dish or the side dish – take your pick.
All in All
If you’re looking to recreate summertime in the late fall, pair this wine with a richly earthy herbal fish dish. For dessert? Try a lemon meringue bar topped with a couple of fresh blackberries. So, pick up a bottle and a couple of old friends, and make a late summer feast with a couple bottles of this Frey Natural Red. Hugs all around.