Pairing Luxury RosÉs at Blue Duck Tavern
In tasting the luxury rosé Champagnes and sparkling wines for this report, the International Wine Review invited Executive Chef Sebastien Archambaut and his team at Blue Duck Tavern in Washington, DC, to prepare a series of dishes to pair with these incomparable wines. As anticipated, the kitchen was more than up to the challenge.
At a magnificent luncheon hosted by the restaurant in early December and organized with the assistance of restaurant General Manager Joseph Cerione and Sommelier Gene Alexeyev, we tasted the following nine rosés: Billecart-Salmon NV Brut Rosé, Dom Perignon 2003 Rosé, Dom Ruinart 2008 Rosé, NV Krug Rosé Brut, Louis Roederer 2008 Rosé, Roederer Estate 2004 L’Ermitage Rosé, Schramsberg 2005 J. Schram Rosé, Domaine Carneros 2008 Le Rêve, and the Moët Chandon Nectar Imperial Rosé NV, which we added for the dessert course. Rolland Herman of Maison Marques & Domaines joined us for the luncheon. Pictured here is Adam Sheff, Culinary Operations Manager.
For pairing these wines, the Blue Duck Tavern team created a menu in three courses, each with several dishes. Below we provide a listing of the dishes and commentaries on our pairing experiences. We conclude with some general lessons learned on pairing luxury rosés with food. Our tasting notes on each wine are provided at the end. These notes are excerpted from our new Report #40: Consumer’s Guide to Rosé Champagne and Sparkling Wine.
ROASTED BEET SALAD
Local Goat Cheese, Peanuts, Cherry Vinaigrette
This is a complex dish full of flavor, and we searched for a rosé sufficiently bold to match the earthy beets, goat cheese, and peanuts and the cherry vinaigrette. The bold flavors of the NV Krug Rosé showed very well with this dish. However, the La Rêve and Billecart-Salmon picked up on the cherry vinaigrette and also paired well.
JUMBO LUMO CRAB CAKES
Frisee, Lemon-Caper Vinaigrette
The delicate sweet flavors of the crab cakes were complimented nicely by the refined red berry flavors of the Billecart-Salmon. However, we also liked the pairing with the rich L’Ermitage, which has toned-down fruitiness.
WOOD OVEN ROASTED BONE MARROW
Spiced Pumpkin Butter, Granola
In this classic Blue Duck Tavern dish, Roasted Bone Marrow is filled with spiced pumpkin. We found the rich, flavorful and oxidative qualities of the J. Schram a perfect match for the pumpkin. The Krug with its bold and toasty flavors also worked well.
ROASTED BLACK BASS
Crawfish Emulsion, Charred Fennel
The J. Shram with its complex oxidative flavors and the Dom Ruinart, which is blended with a good deal of Chardonnay, paired beautifully with the sweet meat of the Roasted Black Bass and the charred fennel.
SEARED RAINBOW TROUT
Sauce Gribiche, Crispy Potato, Pecan
The bold red fruit of the 2003 Dom Perignon paired beautifully with this fish and its sauce Gribiche made of capers, cornichons, aioli and shad roe. The seared skin of trout was also complimented by the Dom Ruinart and even the rich tasting 2008 Roederer, which is also red fruited in character.
MUSCOVY DUCK BREAST
Duck is a dish that pairs perfectly with a wide variety of rosés. In our tasting virtually all of the wines, and especially those that are red-fruited, brought out the flavors of the duck. The Dom Perignon paired beautifully with the duck as did the Louis Roederer 2008 Rosé. The smoky character of the duck was also enhanced by the NV Krug Rosé.
ROASTED WILD MUSHROOMS
Olive Oil Crutons
The NV Krug with its savory and oak notes seemed to go best with this dish. However, the autolytic flavors of the Roederer Estate L’Ermitage also paired nicely with the mushrooms.
This dish with its assertive orange flavors was a challenge for pairing with rosé and only the wines with bold flavors were able to stand up to it. The J Shram with its bold flavors paired best with the braised endive.
Cheddar Fondue, Marcona Almonds
The big flavored wines like the J. Shram, Dom Perignon and Krug all paired quite well with the roasted vegetables. They brought out the richness of the dish and complimented the roasted cauliflower.
MILK CHOCOLATE S’MORES
ASSORTED HOUSE-MADE ICE CREAMS AND SORBETS
Billecart-Salmon with its clean flavors went best with apple pie, although none of the wines we tasted paired all that well. The Moet Chandon Nectar Imperial Rosé NV, which we reserved for dessert, and La Rêve paired best with milk chocolate s’mores and the ice creams, but wines other than rosés would do even better.
This tasting confirmed some of our prior thoughts about pairing rosé with food, but we also learned some new lessons. First, we find that rosé Champagnes and sparkling wines taste best when accompanied by food. In some cases (e.g., the Krug and the J. Schram) the wines taste significantly better. Second, pairing rosé with food is challenging. While most rosés are quite versatile, the best combination of wine and food depends on the flavor accents in the dishes from vinaigrettes, roasted and lightly charred preparations, and spice. Third, rosés have their limits when pairing with food. Regular Champagnes and sparkling wines pair better with dishes like oysters and other shellfish that have clean, simple flavors. Pairing rosé with apple pie was hard work, but someone had to do it and we did our best to enjoy the final stages of this magnificent wine and food pairing event.
Tasting Notes and Ratings
Billecart-Salmon NV Brut Rosé Champagne ($74) 93
Onion skin in color, this is a pale, delicate rosé exhibiting great finesse and refinement. It offers light raspberry and red berry fruit aromas with just a hint of orange skin and light oxidative notes. It reveals a rich mousse and a luxurious, rich, lush palate in perfect balance. Includes about 40-45% Chardonnay. It is among the finest non-vintage rosés in Champagne today.
Importer: T. Edward Wines, New York NY
Dom Ruinart 1998 Brut Rosé ($300) 96
Copper flecked salmon. Given its age, this is a surprisingly fresh wine revealing notes of red fruit and dried stone fruit complemented by nuts and spice. It’s rich, broad and complex and refined in character. Made of 84% Chardonnay and 16% Pinot Noir. It’s the single best rosé we tasted for this report.
Importer: Moët Hennessy, New York NY
Domaine Carneros 2008 Le Rêve Rosé Carneros ($110) 93
This is Domaine Carneros’ tête de cuvée sparkler. Offering fresh red raspberry and a note of cointreau, it’s light and creamy in the mouth, while also showing freshness and superb balance. A blend of 61% Pinot Noir and 39% Chardonnay. 9 g/L RS The color comes from 2-3 days contact with the skins.
Krug NV Brut Rosé ($275) 94
Copper tinged salmon. The Krug presents light toasted oak and strawberry compote aromas that carry over to a boldly flavored palate with lingering notes of vanilla and ripe strawberry on the finish. It’s very long and precise, while also showing richness. We found this wine paired beautifully with diverse dishes. It is perhaps the most versatile rosé of all.
Importer: Moët Hennessy, New York NY
Louis Roederer 2008 Brut Rosé Champagne ($75) 94
Oeil de perdrix. A very appealing vintage rosé showing lees notes along with light dried cherry and nuts. Fresh, creamy, and refined on a complex palate, finishing very long. Made of old vine Pinot Noir from Cumières and Grand Cru Chardonnay. It is made following the saignee method and 20% of the wine is aged in oak for four years with weekly battonnage.
Importer: Maisons Marques & Domaines, Oakland CA
Moët & Chandon 2003 Dom Perignon Rosé ($300) 94
Orange bronze. Quite extroverted in nature, this rosé is bright and crisp, showing red raspberries and orange zest. It’s creamy and soft on the palate but doesn’t have the delicacy we expected. It’s a superb food wine.
Importer: Moët Hennessy, New York NY
Roederer Estate 2004 L’Ermitage Rosé Anderson Valley ($70) 94
The L’Ermitage Rosé is a delightful wine, light salmon pink in color, aromatically complex and showing dried red cherry and fresh baguette with autolytic notes. Texturally, it is refined with striking purity and a long, chalky finish. One of the few California rosés to be made the Champagne way, with the addition of red Pinot Noir wine to give color and red fruit flavor. The wine sees extended aging on the lees, and the dosage spends 6 years in French oak. It’s a blend of 51% Chardonnay and 49% Pinot Noir, of which a small amount is reserve wine from 1999. A great food wine.
Schramsberg 2005 J. Schram Rosé North Coast ($140) 92
Light amber orange. The J. Schram Rosé is age-driven in nature, richly oxidative, revealing nuts and brioche. Big and complex, it doesn’t exhibit a lot of rosé character, displaying baked apple and pear flavors. A blend of 79% Chardonnay and 21% Pinot Noir sourced from the best lots of several cool-climate vineyard sites. The grapes are fermented in a combination of 60% stainless steel and 40% neutral oak with secondary fermentation in bottle and about 7 years on the lees. 11 g/l RS. The winemakers are Keith Hock and Hugh Davies.
Mike Potashnik and Don Winkler