Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of “Meet the Chef” by Democrat food writer Faith Bemiss that profiles local chefs, cooks, bakers and others versed in food and drink. This week features Turf Martin, of Sedalia.
Wine and More, LLC Owner Turf Martin began developing his wine palate in college with his wife JoAnn, and found that wine is much more than an alcoholic drink.
“I find that wine is a very intricate beverage,” he said. “Wine is far more than alcohol. It can greatly enhance the savoriness and taste of foods, it can help the taste buds come alive. Wine is over 3,000 years old and has been made and consumed by every civilization in the world.
“Wine is an integral part of mankind, of our civilization,” he added. “It is discussed throughout the Bible, it’s present in all great works of literature. It is something to be enjoyed and respected. Wine is not something you go get drunk on. Wine is not to create an ethereal spirit about you and take away all your troubles because you’re numb. It’s not an alcoholic’s drink — it’s an integral part of cuisine.”
One of the aspects Martin likes to teach about wine is that at American parties wine is served without food, but in Europe wine and food always go together at events. He likes to bring these two aspects together.
“If you look at European (parties) there’s always food present, and over a very heavy hors d’oeuvre situation,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons Americans start out drinking sweet wines and gradually move toward the dry wines. Whereas Europeans start with dry and have to learn to drink sweet wine. Because it is a food beverage. I really look at it as a food beverage. When people come into the store and I’m describing wine, I ask them 20 questions about what they like, and the frequent comment is that I always make them hungry. Because I talk about about what foods it will pair with.
“When I use the word pairing, it is a synergism that takes place in the food, that brings the best of the food and the best of the wine to great flavors that you would never have experienced otherwise.”
Martin said that he seldom drinks wine without a meal.
His interest in wine began right after graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia when he and his wife were wondering if there existed a better wine than cheaply made versions. Mike Berbiglia, of Kansas City, introduced them to Black Tower wine made in Germany.
“It is still available, I have it here,” Martin said. “He said ‘I can get you a much better wine at the same price, this is a real wine for just a couple pennies more.’”
Martin said they started drinking Black Tower and enjoyed it. Then they began experimenting with their taste buds by adding other wines.
“We really didn’t know wines that well and didn’t have the knowledge until we moved to Europe,” he said. “When we moved we became friends so many of the vintners, especially in Austria. They taught me wine making from the inside out — from the vineyard itself to the table. And understanding the intricacies and the pairings.
“Different people have different gifts when it comes to wine per se,” Martin added. “Some with a master of wine have the ability just by the nose of the wine, and a small taste, to tell you exactly where in the world it comes from, what grape it is, and what the altitude was. They have that perception, that’s why there is only six or seven of them in the world. Then there’s others that understand wine with more of a technical aspect. My forte is the ability to pair wine with food. To create that special sensation.”
Martin also has the ability to ask questions of customers and find the right wine they might like.
“Because good wine is what you like, not what I like,” he added.
He said that being knowledgeable about wine is a “never-ending process” of growing and learning. In his travels around the world to such places as Bekaa Valley Lebanon, where the vineyards are grown in pits due to the sand, to Bordeaux France, to South America and to Asia, he has added to his knowledge base about wine.
“So I have an understanding about the various processes, they are all different from each other,” he said. “There’s so much to learn, there are 4,400 different types of grapes that we make wine from.
“It is something that is culturally aesthetic, I almost think of it as spices. To make a dish and not use any spice whatsoever, is very bland. And to me, to drink wine with no food is a bit bland or to have the food without any wine is also bland.”
Martin said it’s difficult for him to have a favorite wine “because every wine has its place,” and it also depends on what food, circumstance or environment it is served.
“You have a different wine for savory foods than you have for a steak,” he said. ” You have different wines for summer on the deck, than you have for winter before a roaring fire.”
For spring, Martin suggested a Rose from the south of France as a sipping wine to have with friends on the deck.
“I love Rose’s, a true Rose,” he said. “Rose’s are red grapes that we take away the skins the first 24 to 48 hours. So you don’t have as high of tannin level — which is the dryness in the mouth. And you don’t get the higher alcohol content, and you don’t get the acidity. The color will vary from a light red to a deep red.”
Rose’s are dry, but can seem to finish sweet if they are fruit forward.
“You can have (a wine) without sugar in it, and still have that sense of sweetness,” Martin said.
For the correct temperature in serving wine, Martin’s rule of thumb is to remove white wines from the refrigerator for 20 minutes and to place red wines in the refrigerator for 20 minutes before serving either. And to remember the term “served at room temperature” usually means at a European room temperature of 65 degrees.
Besides helping customers in the store, Martin has monthly international dinners, catered by DK Catering, for those interested in wine and food pairing. The dinners are hosted at 7 p.m. the last Saturday of the month at Wildlife Ridge Winery. April’s dinner is full but Martin has openings for May through November. To sign up for a dinner or for store hours, call Martin at Wine and More at 826-9463.