Wine Happenings. Happening Wines. Only in New York.

Vendy & Vine

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A friend of mine insists that ceiling height can impact our enjoyment of wine. As I ferried out to Governor’s Island on a recent Saturday for the finals of the seventh annual Vendy Awards truck and street-cart food competition, I wondered how wine would taste under the tallest ceiling of all available to urban me—open sky over New York Harbor.

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Along with a sea of beer (Brooklyn Brewery) and soft drinks to lubricate the vying offerings of the 20 finalists, there was also wine: Lapostolle’s entry level Casa Sauvignon Blanc 2010 and Casa Carmenère 2010, generously poured into plastic cups. Lapostolle wines, right up to portfolio leader Clos Apalta, always seem to carry the energy and self-assurance of the winery’s proprietor, Alexandra Marnier Lapostolle. For sure, these entry level “Casa” wines (widely available at about $10) had it. And they needed it, given the full-on flavors delivered by chefs who normally work the curb.

While long lines stretched in front of several trucks, inexplicably there was no wait at The Cinnamon Snail, a New Jersey intruder on the city-centric Vendys. Maybe the crowds preferred meat to a virtuoso vegan masterpiece described as “Lemongrass and Spice Seitan with pickled radish, marinated greens, curried cashews, wasabi mayonnaise, and Szechuan chili sauce on a chili butter grilled tortilla.” This was a symphony of flavors and textures that harmonized, yet turned discordant with both wines. Szechuan and wasabi were the spoilers, canceling the freshness of the white and provoking snarly tannins hidden in the red. Ouch!

But there was serenity at Eddie’s Pizza truck, where the Casa Sauvignon Blanc sang out its herbal notes with pesto-sauced fusilli laced with bits of cherry tomato. The song was still sweet when I sipped the same wine with a steamed pork tamale from Tamales Guadalupe. I was hoping to try the Casa Carmenère with Korilla Korean BBQ, specializing in black angus ribeye steak. But I hadn’t schlepped out to Governors Island in order to bide my time in a long line (Korilla was voted Rookie of the Year). Luckily, there was no wait at Paty’s Tacos, where the Casa Carmenère flaunted its spicy fruit in consort with a minimalist taco enfolding silkily tender beef tongue chunks and cilantro sprigs with a kick of lime.

Before heading back to the mainland, I wangled another pour of Casa Caremenère and wandered down to an unpeopled corner of the broad lawn where the vendors were lined up. Lazing against the trunk of an oak tree, I had a view of the harbor framed by red brick barracks from the era when the Coast Guard ruled Governors Island. A small white sailboat floated along in the calm waters. Under nature’s high ceiling, the wine fleshed out, yet stayed simple. I was content.

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