Seasons 52 delivers wine in the glass and on the plate

Raleigh eatery makes “juice of the vine” approachable

A look inside the private dining room of Seasons 52 restaurant at the Crabtree Valley Mall in Raleigh, Tuesday, September 12, 2017. The restaurant chain is based around eating seasonally and boasts a large selection of fine wines. (Eamon Queeney)

RALEIGH – North Carolina is celebrating Wine and Grape month during September, and there are plenty of ways to enjoy these delicacies.

Grapes have a prominent place on cheese platters. Wine is the cure after a long, hard day. Grapes dip well in chocolate fondue. Wine can help create the perfect cream sauce to slather over chicken. Everyone has their own recipe for using wine and grapes.

Seasons 52, a fresh grill and wine bar located at Crabtree Valley Mall in Raleigh, serves up its share of steak, seafood and classical American cuisine with a variety of wines for the palate.

The wine list features wine from around North Carolina and the globe with more than 100 wines by the bottle and 52 wines by the glass. Culinary delights such as the wood-grilled filet mignon is doused in a red wine sauce to maximize flavor.

“We are focused on finding the freshest and highest quality ingredients to offer our guests,” said Bryan Florence, executive chef partner. “We have a great culinary team that strives for new cooking techniques and different methods to bring out the real, natural flavors of the different products we use.”

Wine has three main uses in the kitchen — as a cooking liquid, a marinade ingredient, and as a flavoring in a finished dish.

“The most classic technique for using wine in cooking is for glazing,” said Florence. “Short ribs in a pan with a little bit of seared wine can help release caramelized flavors from the bottom and help build a great flavor profile.”

While the food is cooking, the alcohol in the wine evaporates and only the flavor remains. Boiling down wine concentrates the flavor, including acidity and sweetness.

“You want to cook with a wine you would drink,” said Florence. “Cooking wines you can find in the grocery store are great options, but if you are really looking for a great flavor profile to build on then you want to cook with something you would drink. Not necessarily the expensive wines, but if you’re going to use a white wine, you could use a chardonnay.”

Wine is a primary ingredient at Seasons 52 when preparing sauces for dishes such as their popular Artisan Cheese Fondue appetizer.

“Choosing a wine to cook with is very much like choosing a wine to go with your meal,” said Florence. “The white wines tend to have fruitier, less robust flavors. Red wines, with more robust flavors, tend to stand up well with your pork and beef.”

“Your heavier, red meat items would pair with a red wine while your seasonal, lighter items like fish would pair with a white wine,” added sales manage Cam Heinsohn.

For example, lobster and fresh mozzarella flatbread partners with sauvignon blanc.

“Wine is one of those things that is so subjective,” said Heinsohn. “Some people are very opinionated about what they like, some people are more equal opportunity consumer and feel anything is approachable. It’s about learning our guests, where our wine team comes into play, and having so many options available, you can bring them to the table to have the guests try different ones and really have fun with it.

“The 52 for our restaurant as a whole is really about having something new to experience 52 weeks out of the year,” she added. “This visit it may be an ingredient you have never tried before, the next visit it may be a wine that’s new for you to discover, or it may be a new cooking technique.”

It’s a happy coincidence the wine list offers 52 varieties by the glass — a different one for each week of the year.