Thursday, September 20, 2018
Features and More

Wine expert and critic Michael Green offers insider secrets in Tampa talk

Michael Green makes people suck lemons. ¶ The wine and spirits consultant for Gourmet magazine for nearly two decades, Green spent a morning recently in Tampa talking about food and wine pairing in a private dining room at Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar. With him was Judi Gallagher, a Sarasota food writer and culinary director of ABC 7 News at Noon. The two met 10 years ago at a food and wine event and were immediately simpatico. ¶ "She and I share similar philosophies about what food and wine are about," said Green, as he nursed a Starbucks venti. "They are about comfort, and community, and love." ¶ Reconnecting several months ago, Gallagher suggested Green come to the Tampa/Sarasota area from his home in New York, because, as she says, "the food scene in this part of Florida is changing dramatically."

After a whirlwind tour of local restaurants, the pair sat down to discuss new thoughts on how best to pair wines with foods, especially Florida's indigenous foods.

This is where the lemon-sucking came in. When considering how best to pair the state's citrus with wine, he chose a white from La Mancha, Spain's largest wine region, but one that is not well known outside of that country. Home of Manchego cheese, saffron and Don Quixote, it also is home to a white grape called airen, a wine made from which he poured alongside a plate of lemon wedges.

"Suck a lemon, then taste the wine. The lemon lends the wine a little more fruit and a little more weight, softening the wine's acidity. What would you pair this wine with? I'd say local fish, like a pan-seared snapper with a Meyer lemon vinaigrette."

Gallagher interjects that Florida is one of the largest producers of red potatoes, so she might suggest roasting some as an accompaniment, but adding in a little citrus to heighten the spud's flavor.

After this, that same white was paired with a frito misto of fried Florida shrimp and delicately battered wheels of lemon, then a fruity young red was sampled alongside Fleming's housemade burrata (like a soft mozzarella) with charred grape tomatoes and peppery arugula, a contrast of spicy and fruity and rich.

"My food and wine pairing philosophy was not always in synch with the magazine's," Green admits. "They believed in very traditional pairings, light foods with white wines, full with reds. My philosophy is very different. When you bring a wine and food together, they change. And hopefully a balance will be achieved."

Precocious palate

As he recounts it, Green has been in the wine industry illegally since he was 6 years old.

"When my dad was a student at Columbia, he made his money working at the country's oldest wine shop, Acker Merrall and Condit in New York City. He worked there for 40 years. And I helped."

Eventually going away to school in Virginia and at Cambridge, he returned to New York and, as he remembers, "felt lost." He wanted to go back to Europe.

"My dad said, 'Michael, it's your life journey, but let me make one recommendation. You've never visited a winery.' So I went to Alsace and spent time at Hugel et Fils. There I learned that a glass of wine is not only about its taste. It's a lesson in history, politics and art. A glass of wine is a connection to other people."

Re-energized, Green returned to New York and the wine shop as a wine buyer and educator, until, at age 26, Gourmet came calling. He worked with the magazine until it ceased publication in 2009, upon which he reinvented himself as a playwright (two wine-themed plays under his belt) and lecturer.

"I've always been resilient. I think of myself as a serial entrepreneur."

These days, Green spends his time leading corporate wine-and-food-pairing events, as well as appearing on the Today Show, the Food Network and elsewhere as an expert on the subject.

He concedes that, although every state in the country has at least one licensed winery, Florida is a hard state in which to drink "local."

"The idea of terroir is so misunderstood. At the end of the day, there are other issues. You want to drink a wine that tastes true to its place."

Knowledge is power

According to Green, the most important tool in selecting wines is figuring out styles you like and then educating yourself about the world of possibilities.

"When I teach, I often do, 'If you like that, then try this.' "

Right now, Green is bullish about the wines from La Mancha, the airen grapes especially, which he thinks suits summer in the Tampa Bay area.

"It's a varietal that mostly goes into Spanish brandy. A little like vinho verde without the spritz, it's clean, light, dry and 11 percent alcohol. Most airen are available for under $8.99, a number of them available in the Tampa area.

He's also excited about a style of wines made of tempranillo, the noble grape of Spain.

"There is a category called 'joven,' which means young. It's like a young Beaujolais, with bright, gripping tannins."

Green has a number of other suggestions from newish and emerging wine-growing regions.

"The trick is about finding undiscovered grapes or undiscovered real estate in the world. For people who like fruit-forward wines, try those from Mendoza, Argentina. And Chile has come around to having real differentiated character with the carmenere grape."

But, he says, it's not about buying "cheap" wines from these regions. Here's a great example: "If you like cabernet sauvignon, buy a Chilean $20 cab, not a $10 cab, and it will compete elegantly against pricey ones from California."

Laura Reiley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293.

Comments
Reality bites: SeaWorld abandons virtual reality headsets on Kraken coaster

Reality bites: SeaWorld abandons virtual reality headsets on Kraken coaster

SeaWorld has ditched the experiment that made it the first major ride in Florida to incorporate virtual reality..Last June, the theme park announced with much fanfare a new feature that would project an undersea showdown on Kraken, incorporating VR h...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Bar review: Punk meets Pilsner at Antibrewery in Dunedin

Bar review: Punk meets Pilsner at Antibrewery in Dunedin

I’ve had readers jokingly complain that I’ve exposed their off-the-radar watering holes that already are a carful away from becoming overcrowded. It’s like watching your favorite indie band achieve mainstream success: It’s good for them, but now you’...
Published: 09/20/18
The making of a nightmare: Behind the scenes at Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream

The making of a nightmare: Behind the scenes at Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream

TAMPA — Once the scare actors were made up, they headed toward the haunted house to rehearse.But it wasn’t quite time for them to be scary yet. Busch Gardens, which opens its Howl-O-Scream Halloween scarefest on Friday, was still open for regular bus...
Published: 09/20/18
Mark your calendar for these Halloween events

Mark your calendar for these Halloween events

13 Ugly Men Halloween PartyThese "ugly" men sure know how to party with three floors offering new tricks and treats, DJ dancing and a light show making the 10th annual Halloween party a "Party with a Purpose." Benefits Beat NB. 8 p.m. Oct. 26. Ybor’s...
Published: 09/19/18
Despite the razzle-dazzle, ‘Chicago’ is starting to feel dated

Despite the razzle-dazzle, ‘Chicago’ is starting to feel dated

TAMPA — There’s a reason Chicago has been delighting audiences since 1975, and is one of the longest-running musicals in Broadway history. Jaded and funny, fast-paced and flamboyant, this sentimental journey to the tabloid culture still seems ahead o...
Published: 09/19/18

He behaved badly, big time. How to come clean?Q: When I was about 20, I got my girlfriend pregnant. She was 23 and wanted the baby, whereas I was not ready to be a father, so she broke up with me and had the baby pretty much on her own. Her family he...
Published: 09/19/18
Find A Friend: Brooklyn the Terrier Mix

Find A Friend: Brooklyn the Terrier Mix

She’s going to make it by any means — got a pocket full of dreams — let’s hear it for Brooklyn. This 36-pound, soulful snuggler is a well-mannered maiden, past the puppy stage at age 5, and happily housebroken. She enjoys ...
Published: 09/19/18
Disney will close Epcot’s popular fireworks show IllumiNations after nearly 20 years

Disney will close Epcot’s popular fireworks show IllumiNations after nearly 20 years

After nearly 20 years, the popular Epcot fireworks show, IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth, will go dark next summer. The Disney Parks Blog announced this week that the award-winning complex show that incorporates fire, water and video effects will...
Published: 09/19/18
What’s in theaters this week: ‘The House With a Clock in Its Walls,’ ‘Life Itself,’ locally filmed ‘The Favorite’

What’s in theaters this week: ‘The House With a Clock in Its Walls,’ ‘Life Itself,’ locally filmed ‘The Favorite’

NOW PLAYING: THE FAVORITEFilmed in Pinellas County, the faith-based movie The Favorite continues its run in local theaters this week. It follows two brothers (Matthew Fahey and Luke Bernard, who also co-wrote the screenplay based on his own life) rec...
Published: 09/19/18
New restaurants: Olivia from Chris Ponte, Crabby Bill’s Off the Hook

New restaurants: Olivia from Chris Ponte, Crabby Bill’s Off the Hook

COMING SOON: OLIVIAChris Ponte, right, has been a steady and notable culinary leader in our area for more than a decade with his flagship restaurant Cafe Ponte in Clearwater. A couple of years ago he mixed things up a bit by debuting On Swann in Hyde...
Published: 09/19/18