Water for Chefs—Renee Erickson, Bateau, SEATTLE
Take it from someone who GETS you.
August 9, 2016 ● 3 min read
Chef Renee Erickson is the brine to Seattle’s oyster. The published cookbook author and James Beard Award winner lays claim to the kind of undeniable culinary heavy the city just wouldn’t be the same without. (If Neptune had a female counterpart, you can bet we’d be making all kinds of aquatic goddess references right now. We'll refrain, but you get it.)
From OG darling The Walrus & The Carpenter to the newest, boeuf-lovin’ Bateau, Erickson heads up the Pacific Northwest’s most fiercely adored joints. Throw in a killer doughnut shop (General Porpoise) and her very own farm (La Ferme des Ânes), and we’re starting to think Neptune might want to step aside.
Would you call yourself a wine drinker?
Totally! I find it very hard to cook and not think about what I want to be drinking with what I’m cooking. For me, wine is the beverage to be drunk with meals. Beer is my go to crabbing, beach or yard-work beverage; cocktails tend to get me a bit too tipsy and aren’t always best for food. I love the tradition that’s formed over many years with regional food and wine.
Paint the whole picture of your bangin'-est wine experience, REAL or IMAGINED.
It’s summer, so I’m thinking a lot about seafood and eating outside. I’d be with my family, and we would be at a table in a vineyard up the hill from the beach. Something like the Mediterranean. We would be cooking over a fire and eating seafood, vegetables and roasted lamb with Ligurian white wines, Provençal rosé and eventually a salty and dense mourvèdre/grenache red.
Bubbles or Burgundy?
Burgundy. Chablis! What more can an oyster lover want? And a Volnay for my perfectly cooked steak.
Have you experienced a wine pairing that you felt truly elevated your food?
One of my most memorable meals was on a trip to France. We were having jambon persillé, cornichons, baguette and butter lettuces for lunch, and we were served Le Clos du Château de Puligny-Montrachet. This wine was a perfect pairing. It made this simple lunch open my eyes to the concept of all the right parts coming together to make something greater than you could imagine. Magic!
What makes you like a wine?
The people and the stories that make the wine come to life! I love to travel with food and wine, and drinking wine in the place where it’s from feels so right. I never get tired of it.
What makes you not like a wine?
Too much nerd wine talk. I just like to drink it. All the chatter takes away from the experience.
If you could drink one wine RIGHT AT THIS VERY MOMENT, what would you want?
I’m drinking coffee… but, if I was on vacation – and about to make some brunch – I would reach for Champagne. One of my favorites – Marie Courtin ‘Eloquence’ Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut.
There are people in this world who think that Champagne is only for celebrating, or toasting, or maybe for sipping with oysters. We feel sorry for these people. We’re with Erickson – we drink Champagne for breakfast.
When starting your day with Champagne, it’s important to drink the good stuff. Luckily, winemaker Dominique Moreau is turning out insane, naturally made bubbles from the Southern hinterlands of the Aube. A former bête noire sub-zone of the bulwark region, the Aube is now home to some of Champagne’s most expressive, exciting wines. Being outside the immediate clutches of the Grandes Marques houses has done a world of good for creativity in the vineyards here (that whole "cat away, mouse at play" vibe applies); single vineyard, single variety, single vintage wines are the norm, not the exception, a general trend toward natural production prevails, and there’s a strong preference for low-to-no dosage practices. You know what that means, right? THE AUBE IS HIP, GUYS.
Moreau is not unlike Erickson – goddess of the vines, deftly pulling terroir and nuance from the Kimmeridgian limestone soils. Her ‘Eloquence’ Blanc de Blancs is ridiculously mineral, luscious and dense all at once. It’s citrus, it’s white spice, it’s licking a rock in the very best way. It’s a glorious reminder that life is beautiful, and while conventional wisdom would suggest a pairing of shellfish or some-such, we’ll be over here having it with poached eggs and pancakes and waffles and bacon. Be one of us.