Sometimes it’s best not to mess with the classics like white fish and chardonnay.
Strident criticism toward a single grape varietal is stupid. Saying “I don’t like Merlot, etc.” is comparable to stating dislike for all shoes in general just because you think Crocs are ugly (they are).However, the dogmatic are seldom quiet, so unseasoned juice judges such as TODAY Show regulars and schlubby sardonic film characters run their mouth and people listen. (Must get on TV, MUST get on TV…) The point I’m making is in regards to Chardonnay – quite possibly the most regularly loathed grape varietal, all thanks to the styles of a few oak-addicted producers and the mass-production of the wine. British wine writer and TV personality Robert “Oz” Clarke was quoted saying Chardonnay was “the ruthless colonizer and destroyer of the world’s vineyards and the world’s palates.”
Drama queen. Don’t get me wrong – I love me some buttery, unctuous, exorbitant Chardonnay when the time is right. Like the over-used Mac slogan, there is an app(lication) for that. If you’ve been listening to me ramble for the past year+ that I’ve been writing this column, you know my driving point – where there’s food, there’s wine (or beverage) and there is always a food for a wine (or beverage).
Although food has gotten self-indulgently creative and ultra fringe in Seattle over the past decade, sometimes going back to basics is equally appetizing, for both food and wine. At the Edgewater Hotel on Pier 67, they go beyond classic and have achieved legendary status in the past 50 years.
Originally established as housing for workers of the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle (that is being heavily celebrated in a huge hullabaloo if you’ve been walking around deaf and dumb for the past year), the Edgewater Hotel is an institution in this town as the city’s only true waterfront hotel, offering 223 rooms and is acclaimed for its woodsy decor and literal presence perked upon the edge of the Puget Sound.
The Edgewater Hotel is possibly most noted for its ongoing affair with rock ‘n’roll. The hotel famously housed the Beatles in 1964 when no other Seattle hotel would bring them in due to the hysterics brought on by Beatlemania. During their stay, the Fab Four fished out their window and collected their prizes, alive, in their bathtub.
The inn has also hosted Led Zeppelin and Robert Plant solo (on many current occasions), KISS, The Village People, The Rolling Stones, Iggy Pop and more. Live music is a mainstay on weekends in the hotel’s restaurant, Six Seven, with special events broadcasting the tunes of the Creme Tangerine, a well-known Seattle Beatles cover band, past American Idol and The Voice contestants and more.
In respects to the classics of wine, Chardonnay is a vinyl record — it simply needs a proper turntable to play its finest from.
The Dish: Pan-roasted Halibut ($25 for half size, $39 for full) — Part of the new summer menu by Chef John Roberts (who is ironically from Liverpool), the halibut ain’t cheap but going for the half size is a wise choice. In true halibut fashion, this dish is as opulent as fish comes. Joined by chipoline onions, tips of asparagus, bacon lardons (aka the fatty bits), artichokes and cherry heirloom tarragon sauce/salad combo, this dish is glorious in its sumptuous flavors, affluent in flavor.
The Variety: Chardonnay — The crowned prince of Burgundy (aka white Burgundy) is typically very neutral, not overly aromatic or buttery in the least bit. That’s when it comes down to production choice – to oak or not to oak and the terrior of where the grape is grown. For example, Chardonnay from Chablis (which is Chardonnay only) is leaner, more mineral-driven and crisp where as Chardonnay from California or, even times, Burgundy herself, can be more aggressively oaky, playing off the apple tones of the grape. The grape is extremely pliable so there isn’t one “real” or “true” Chardonnay style.
Why It Works: Read above – because Chardonnay is so malleable, it can go with a’many munchies, it all depends on the style. For halibut, due to its inherent richness and buttery tones, the fish needs a wine that can stand up to its abundance but also has beguiling acidity to break up the fatty romance.
The Recommended Match: Lange Winery 2010 “Three Hills Cuvee” Chardonnay, Willamette Valley ($30) — As the second release under the Three Hills Cuvee for Chardonnay, grapes for this wine are sourced from the storied Freedom Hill and Durant vineyards in the northern Willamette, as well as Lange’s own estate vineyard. Ran by mom and dad, son Jesse Lange joined the troops a few years back as winemaker and has titled this Chardonnay “lingerie wine,” due to his partial ferment in stainless steel (naked) and neutral French oak (lightly cloaked), keeping it rich but modest.
Aromas of ripe peach and tropical fruit bust upfront but a backbone of almond and honeysuckle seal up the scents. On the palate, the citrus and acidity match each other in raciness with solid apple tones round out the finish.
Six Seven at the Edgewater Hotel | 2411 Alaskan Way, Seattle | (206) 728-7000