Ramps, or Rapunzel's beloved rampion, are truffley and musky and at the very right time in spring crawling over the muddy, earth worm-rich forest floor.
Foraging for ramps is a spring rite (three hours north west of NYC and no, I will not tell you where my stash is.) I've been foraging for several years now, but last year, due to circumstances out of my control, I changed foraging partners and now, two dear friends have hopped aboard this ritual of mine with adequate enthusiasm.
I like my ramps straight and simple: sauted (or seetawed, as Linda would say) in EVO, a sprinkle of good salt on top of a firm puddle of mashed potatoes. I usually swear by a northern Rhone syrah but I had another option up my sleeve--one that would shock and terrify most sommeliers. The wine, I might add, was a BRILLIANT match.
Here's what happened. On the way up I stopped in a beastly overpriced Woodstock wine store with practically nothing I would stoop to buy. On the shelves was a wine wallflower, at least in this part of the world. It was a Chassagne Montrachet Rouge from the Morgeot 1er Cru vineyard (from the brilliant 2002 vintage). A bargain--even here--- at $21.
The Morgeot vineyard often offers up plenty of red bargains, as it's a Cote de Beaune vineyard known for chardonnay. This one, imported by Monsieur Touton --a little funky at first. I was confused; was it plunked in oak that was too toasty or did it just need some air? The answer was air. It needed lots. After some oxygen the wine became a mid-weight love fest full of earthy flavor-- like the crushed leaves of the forest floor--and a healthy dose of raspberry. It was really good. The wine had enough acidity to cut through the wildness of the ramps, its earthiness matched the truffle/garlic earth of the greens echoed the truffle element.
The next time a wine guy tells you that you should really only have a gewurtz or riesling with sauted ramps, bop them over the head, be strong. Tell them to hold the fruity wines, what you want is a red dominated by earth with some allusion to red fruit. Preferably a pinot, syrah or cab franc. Don't let them convince you otherwise.
P.S. When we loaded the car up with the ramps, the car reeked of the smell, which I rather enjoyed. The next morning, carting my share back to the city, they started to smell like Lily of the Valley! I thought I was having some sort of sensual hallucination. Just to reality check, I asked the man from Enterprise Auto what the car smelled like. "A flower shop," he said. Can any one out there solve this mystery for me?