On eastern Long Island, ,where I spend a good deal of time, one of the most anticipated autumn events is the opening of the scallop season, which took place this past week. The area is famous for its Peconic Bay scallops – small, sweet and succulent and among the most delectable foods you will ever eat. Men on small boats are seen slowly plying the waters of the bay at this time of year, happily tolerating the wind and the cold as they comb the bottom with their dredges, hoping for a successful harvest. I have, on occasion, been among them and I can tell you that scalloping, when you are successful at it, is a most satisfying form of hard work.
Alas, we bought a pound of them the other night at our local fish market, and while the price, $17, might seem high, it actually suggests that there are plenty of scallops out there right now. The price will inevitably rise through the season, which lasts through the winter, and in scarce years I have seen them for almost twice as much. Although they lend themselves to all kinds of recipes, they need almost no enhancement, and I like simply rolling them in flour and sautéing them in olive oil and butter until they are lightly golden, which is exactly what I did the other night.
As for the wine (white, of course), this is a case where a little oak will work wonders, complementing the slightly nutty quality of the scallops. After tasting several California chardonnays, the clear standout was Clos du Val’s 2006 Napa Valley Reserve Chardonnay. This is decidedly not one of those buttery California chardonnays that some people like. Rather, it was a model of restrained elegance, as most of Clos du Val’s wines are. With a few years of bottle age, the melding of fruit and oak was seamless. Pear and green apple tastes were joined by subtle notes of vanilla, orange peel and cinnamon. There was also a nice mineral quality that reminded me of Burgundy. Alcohol is listed at a moderate 14.1 percent. With the scallops, I couldn’t have asked for a better match or a more memorable first dinner of the season. The wine, which was released some time ago, is listed in only a couple of stores on wine-searcher.com for about $43-$45. For me, the lesson here is in the value of letting good chardonnays age for a couple of years before drinking them. Received as a press sample.