Corks+Forks: Mio Sushi and Chateau L’Afrique 2011 Rosé

Coming in all shapes, sizes and hues of pink.

Open your mind and mouth, drink rosé with salmon and crab-based sushi rolls.

Drastic weather changes in the Northwest should not phase us natives. Just because fall made its very distinctive grand entrance last week does not mean we need to alter our habits. It might be time to pack away the swim suits for the season but this year’s rosé releases are only now moving into their prime. Although some might argue that rosé should go away the same time as summer fashion does (i.e. white pants, shorts, open-toe heels, etc.), the wine is truly coming into its own as it spends time in the bottle and fleshes out its fruitier qualities, tames its alcohol and smooths out the acid.

Producing a rosé wine isn’t as simply as loading up a pipette and plopping a few drops of red into the white wine either. There are three different maceration (fermentation) methods to make the pink drink.

  1. Saignee — Translates roughly as “to bleed,” meaning the harvested red wine grapes are placed in a tank and the red juice is seeped (or bled) off. Like any good tie-die tee, the longer you leave the blank Hanes (juice) in the paint (the grape skins that hold the color), the more bad 70’s fashion you will have on your groovy threads.
  2. Skin-contact — Simply leaving the juice in skin contact of the bruised red grapes until the winemaker achieves the desired color.
  3. Blending — Not so off from the pipette theory, this is where white grapes juice is blended with red grape juice.
Coming in all shapes, sizes and hues of pink.

No technique is necessarily better than the other, although some producers might contend the wine should be one way or the other. Mono-varietal and skin-contact maceration like they do in Provence, saignee like they do in Bordeaux or, as we are seeing now, sometimes the weather doesn’t play so nice and wineries have to use their pre-purchased fruit which might have to result in rosé thanks to fruit not fully ripening during harvest. For example, you’ll see more Pinot Noir rosé than before in the 2010 and 2011 vintages because peak ripening seasons didn’t hang around as long as producers had hoped.

Tradition, ritual and artistic abilities play into both winemaking techniques and the chosen grape varieties in rosé production, complementary to that of the creation of Japanese cuisine.

The Restaurant: Mio Sushi — With two Seattle locations (Westlake and Greenlake), the Northwest-based Japanese sushi house dug its roots first in Portland in 1995, with the husband and wife team of Sonny and Joon Kim. As a tenured sushi chef, Sonny created a full-service restaurant with modern and traditional, fusion-focused cuisine – from the price of the food to the style of roll to the  customarily designed yet locally-built entree items. Fresh, affordable and quality fare is what the Kims strive for with their six locations in Washington and Oregon.

The Dish: The Oregon Roll ($10.25) — Listed as one of Mio’s “premium” roll, the Oregon is an ode to the Kim’s beginnings (much like the Mt. Hood roll and a few other coy names). Stuffed tight with real and rich crab and bright asparagus strips, the roll is wound with mineral lush salmon and fatty avocado slices on the outside.

The Drink: Rosé — Typically lighter in body, crisp in acid yet juicy in fruit and rich in earth tones, rosé is one of the more food-friendly wines available (and yes, there are several that are available year-round in most retailers).

Why It Works: Sushi is often misconstrued as a “difficult” pairing food, when really it should be revered as one of the least complicated. It’s seafood and about as fresh and pure seafood that you can get – raw, untainted by sauces, oils and many seasonings. Especially in the case of salmon, rosé can mimic the mineral and oily tones of the fish and with crab, the wine can complement the richness but uplift it with its acid.

The Recommended Match:  Chateau L’Afrique 2011 Cotes de Provence Rosé — 80% Grenache, 10% Tibouren and 10% Cinsault, this wine is ripe and now ready to go in its most primal form. Based on red fruits (cranberry, raspberry but also watermelon rind and citrus bursts as well), the mineral driven wine shines with salty salmon and clings to creamy crab.

Mio Sushi| 120 Westlake Ave N / 7900 E. Green Lake Drive N | (206) 971-0069 / (206) 526-7900