Friday, December 15, 2017
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
Straz Center reviewing Tavis Smiley theatrical tour in wake of sexual misconduct allegations

Straz Center reviewing Tavis Smiley theatrical tour in wake of sexual misconduct allegations

The theatrical tour about the death of Martin Luther King Jr. that broadcaster Tavis Smiley is slated to bring to Tampa in March is still on schedule, according to the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, though it is under review.PBS s...
Updated: 11 hours ago
This week's top holiday events: Parades, Christmas lights, theme parks and more

This week's top holiday events: Parades, Christmas lights, theme parks and more

PARADES Homosassa Christmas Boat Parade Parade begins at Marker 75 by Bird Island. Free. Homosassa Springs Marina, 10806 W Halls River Road, Homosassa. 6 p.m. Dec. 16.   Indian Rocks Beach Boat Parade It begins at the Holiday Inn Harbourside and...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Bar review: Spanish flair at Bulla Gastrobar in South Tampa

Bar review: Spanish flair at Bulla Gastrobar in South Tampa

Take a second and try to think of a few of the world’s biggest drinking cultures. Ireland is a freebie, but then you’ll probably move onto Germany, Russia and possibly even South Korea (yep, South Korea goes hard).How about Spain? No, I’m not just ta...
Published: 12/14/17
From Crystal River to Brooksville, branch out to shop on these unexpected main streets

From Crystal River to Brooksville, branch out to shop on these unexpected main streets

You don’t have to stare at a greeting card to picture a bustling old main street lined with decorated shops and lampposts. Historic small-town shopping districts are easy to find, and more charming than Walmart. Beyond the downtowns of St. Pet...
Published: 12/14/17
New locations for Tampa’s New Year’s Eve fireworks, plus a Mario Lopez appearance

New locations for Tampa’s New Year’s Eve fireworks, plus a Mario Lopez appearance

New Year’s Eve fireworks in downtown Tampa will be a little different this year, as free, public viewing moves from Channelside Bay Plaza to Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park behind Amalie Arena due to ongoing construction. Meanwhile, the Pied Pipe...
Published: 12/14/17
Poll: Most Americans say 'Merry Christmas' and prefer Rudolph over Charlie Brown

Poll: Most Americans say 'Merry Christmas' and prefer Rudolph over Charlie Brown

The Monmouth University Polling institute released the results of their Christmas poll today.
Published: 12/14/17
‘This has gone too far,’ says defiant Tavis Smiley after PBS suspends his show for ‘misconduct’

‘This has gone too far,’ says defiant Tavis Smiley after PBS suspends his show for ‘misconduct’

PBS is "indefinitely" suspending distribution of the late-night talk show "Tavis Smiley" after multiple misconduct allegations emerged against the show’s 53-year-old host, PBS announced Wednesday.While a statement from a PBS spokeswoman did not say w...
Published: 12/14/17
Exploring the incredible color, cuisine, culture of India

Exploring the incredible color, cuisine, culture of India

DELHIAs I slid my shoes off and handed the man a five-rupee note before entering the Jama Masjid mosque, I could feel the heat from the red stone against my heels. I could also feel the intense stares of the Delhi locals. I don’t know which made me s...
Published: 12/14/17
Local craft beer of the week: Big Storm’s Lightning Twenty Five Craft Lager

Local craft beer of the week: Big Storm’s Lightning Twenty Five Craft Lager

The Tampa Bay Lightning is off to its best start in franchise history, racking up NHL highs in wins and points in their 25th anniversary season.That calls for a toast.And Odessa’s Big Storm Brewing has just the beer. Turns out, the brewery picked a g...
Published: 12/14/17
Why is eggnog a holiday tradition? Exploring fresh renditions of the classic drink

Why is eggnog a holiday tradition? Exploring fresh renditions of the classic drink

Eggnog dates back to medieval times when the British enjoyed a drink called "posset" that was made with hot milk, ale and spices. Later it became a drink for the wealthy who added expensive brandy or sherry. It was the alcohol that kept the milk from...
Published: 12/14/17