By FELICIA COMPIAN
This may be "the most chaotic" time of year for Renault Winery Resort and Golf in Egg Harbor City, but you won't hear any complaints from winemaker Marco Bucchi. That's because harvest season is something to celebrate, preferably with a nice bottle of wine and "traditional cooking of the goose," or at least a nice, fat duck.
Renault will host its Great Grape Harvest Celebration on Friday, a multi-course tasting dinner that also includes hot and cold hors d'oeuvres, lobster strudel, beef short ribs and lamb lollipops. Bucchi says he wants to educate wine lovers on the tastes, smells and process of making wine. So he doesn't just choose the best Renault wines to pair with the scrumptious fare prepared by Chef Joe Degennaro. He chooses the best wines to bring out the flavors of the food, even if it's not his vintage.
"I'm interviewing (the chef) to not just know the entrees, I need to know what spices he's using, what's in the reduction sauce, how he's preparing it; is it steamed, broiled, baked, fried," says Bucchi, who this week also is celebrating seven years at the winery founded by Master Vintner Louis Nicholas Renault in 1864. "It all enters into the equation when choosing the right wine."
The tasting tour begins about 6:30 p.m. in the pressroom, where guests can sample grapes, grape juice and a finished wine paired with the aforementioned duck. Spokesperson Kevin McCarty says it's unusual to sample products in all three stages of the winemaking process, but Renault does it because it has that educational concern. Bucchi also hosts wine workshops with Rutgers professor Gary Pavlis in January and February, and wine tasting tours are available all year.
"Our winemaker explains in detail not only how the wine pairs with the food, but why he chose it and why it goes well with the course," McCarty says.
Bucchi likes to start with an "exchange of information" with the audience, asking questions to gauge a general level of knowledge so he can tailor his remarks to the group.
"It's primarily to try and get people to be more knowledgeable in the basics. Nobody's sitting down taking notes, it's more relative to the theme," he says, adding there are some people who can sniff a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and tell you where it is from, but he's not one of them.
At least one of the "right" wines may be Bucchi's Cynthiana Estate Reserve, which he lets sit for a minimum of two years before pulling a cork to check if it's ready. He also is very proud of his burgundy and Garden State Red, but that's not to say all the wines sampled Friday will be reds. Renault winery is one of very few vineyards outside France that's allowed to call its sparkling wines "Champagne" because Renault was a representative of the Duke of Montebello house in Rheims, France, before he established the vineyard in New Jersey. So Renault's regular and blueberry champagne were grandfathered in, but a new vintage would just be sparkling wine.
Contact Felicia Compian:
Great Grape Harvest
Held 6:30 p.m. Friday at Renault Winery Resort & Golf, 72 N. Bremen Ave,
Egg Harbor City. Cost is $69. Call 609-965-2111, ext. 403. For more information, visit renaultwinery.