How about a springtime potting party?

04/08/2010 12:00 AM |

The thrill of feeling the sun shine on my face with increasing warmth and of seeing green shoots emerge from the soil has me in an especially good humor (even though I know the chilly winds will come again, at least until June, on our ocean-surrounded East End). While working in my garden, I got a little silly, and dreamed up the perfect springtime celebration: a potting party.

At this (imaginary) party, the host provides a broad array of charming annuals, ready to be transplanted, along with potting soil. Guests bring any-size pot they want to fill. Petunias, zinnias, salvia, lantana, lobelia, or anything else you fancy will do. Guests may choose what they like, and take their potted plants home as party favors.

The dinner menu will include potted shrimp, pot au feu and pot stickers, with pots de crîme — or maybe Martha Stewart’s “dirt cake” (ground Oreo cookies, cream cheese, and chocolate pudding in a sterilized pot) — for dessert.

You can see where this is going, and, while I’m not suggesting you serve pot, it’s OK if everyone gets a little potted at the potting party. Don’t overdo it, or there will be too many trips to the potty.

To keep it light, in the spirit of springtime, choose easy drinking wines. Long Island’s vintners make many appropriate choices, ranging from bubblies and blancs to rosà s and young, light reds. Among the many you can find from Long Island, Laurel Lakes Moscato ($22) is a sparkler with intriguing muscat flavors, while Harbes Family Yellow House chardonnay ($14) shines with pure varietal aromas. For a refreshing young white wine, look to Peconic Bay’s new Nautique Esprit de Blanc ($16) wine, a delicious blend of chardonnay, pinot grigio, and riesling. Osprey’s Dominion and Jamesport are showing dynamic sauvignon blancs for $13 and $16, respectively, while Palmer Vineyards has a charming new rosà of merlot for $19. Just released in their tasting room, Raphael has an innovative duo of red ($25) and white ($20) wines called “Naturale,” fermented with indigenous yeast and no winemaking manipulations, a true reflection of North Fork soil and sun.

From France’s Loire Valley, Vignobles Guy Saget winery offers some fresh, aromatically lively wines that would suit the occasion. Tasted recently with the owner’s son, Arnaud Saget, and their winemaker, Philippe Reculet, at Marea Restaurant in Manhattan, the Sagets’ La Petite Perriîre sauvignon blanc (paired with tuna tartare, blue crab and striped bass — none of them potted) showed a gorgeous intensity of exotic fruit aromas, excluding those green bean (pyrazine) aromas that often identify sauvignon blanc wines today. This wine is a real bargain, retailing for around $12. It’s steel fermented (no oak) from fruit purchased from various growers, which explains the reasonable price. As Reculet explained, with purchased fruit there is “no limit to the quantity of this wine.”

That statement alone shows the advantage a large wine region like the Loire Valley has in offering great flexibility to its producers.

At the Marea luncheon, Saget also offered a more complex, seriously racy sauvignon, its Domaine de la Perriîre Sancerre, grown on 40 hectares of family-controlled vineyards in the prestigious Sancerre area, and fairly priced at around $24. Reculet passed around samples of the two main soil types for these distinctive wines, a crumbly chunk of “terre blanche” (white earth) and some shards of flint (which the assembled tasters enjoyed striking together to make sparks).

Vignobles Guy Saget was among the many French producers I wrote about a few weeks ago who were unceremoniously dumped by Diageo, the gargantuan international distributor whose accounting department staged a coup and got rid of any wines that would normally be kept in inventory (including Bordeaux’s grands crus). In the aftermath of this debacle, and clearly happy to have found a new, sympatique American importer (Pasternak), Arnaud Saget told me the poignant story of how he experienced Diageo’s defection personally. It happened at France’s most important wine exposition, Vinexpo, when, for the first time, his father asked him to attend as the Saget family’s representative. When Arnaud saw the Diageo representative approach his tasting booth, he was “shocked by the look on the man’s face” and knew something was terribly wrong. Diageo had represented Saget for 30 years, but now it was over. At least, Saget wasn’t alone. Diageo left all of Sancerre, as they abandoned Bordeaux, with no apology.

I guess that’s the nature of business these days. It’s all about the bottom line, and civilities are not important. Life is full of disillusionment, so we must find our own delights. Happy potting to us all.

Ms. Hargrave was a founder of the Long Island wine industry in 1973. She is currently a freelance writer and consultant.