Tableside with a Somm: Bondir Cambridge

Curious about restaurant wine lists? Each month, Boston Globe wine columnist Ellen Bhang chats with a sommelier about a couple of terrific bottles and recommends food pairings – you come away a savvier sipper.

For Jason Bond, the trip of a lifetime began with a winning recipe.

“I’m trying to hang onto the experience,” says the chef-owner of Bondir Cambridge, reflecting on a recent journey to Argentina. Fortunately—for us and for him—he’s pouring a couple of special bottles that call to mind his April sojourn.

The 10-day expedition was the culmination of a recipe contest sponsored by StarChefs and Wines of Argentina. Competition organizers sent Argentine wine samples to semifinalists, and invited them to develop dishes as pairings. Bond, inspired by an Argentine petit verdot, used his restaurant’s fireplace to prepare an asado-style platter of roasted kuri and futsu squashes, basted with venison fat, and served with preserves reminiscent of the Patagonian Calafate berry. Out of more than 100 US chefs vying for the prize, Bond was one of 10 awarded the trip. A second group of winners will travel there in the fall.

After landing in Buenos Aires, the chefs were whisked south to cruise the ice fields of Patagonia. They even got to tread on a glacier. “We had spikes on our shoes, led by a guy teaching us not to fall in a crevasse,” quips Bond.

Glacier walking aside, the spotlight was on the country’s diverse pours. “In total, we tried well over 300 wines,” says Bond, reflecting on the experience of tasting and dining alongside winemakers at some of the country’s best estates and restaurants. Upon returning home, he went to work. “The first week I got back, I wanted to see how these wines would be when not standing next to the Andes,” he says. He was in no way disappointed, and promptly added selections to Bondir’s 30-bottle list.

Two wines that Bond likes to pair with courses of his ever-changing tasting menu are made by Zuccardi, a producer based in the rugged Uco Valley, south of Mendoza. The family is one of Argentina’s most lauded and prolific wine exporters.

A 2016 Zuccardi “Serie A” Torrontés is a lovely example of the white wines that impressed the chef during his travels. He likens the perfumed pour, made with grapes from Salta, in the country’s north, to gewürztraminer. The wine’s floral notes and acidity pair winningly with white asparagus, poached sous vide in a cherry blossom brine, then grilled with a hint of char. Batons of the elegant vegetable, together with fresh cheese and watercress, are plated on an emerald-hued nettle puree.

Third-generation winemaker Sebastián Zuccardi, whom Bond got to meet, crafts a 2012 malbec called Finca Canal Uco, named for a high-altitude vineyard. The pour’s chalk-like grip is thought to have its origins in the calcium-rich soil in which the vines are grown. The ripe red, which blooms soon after uncorking, expresses dried flowers, plums, and a little salinity. It’s a sumptuous match for duck magret, presented with pureed parsnip drizzled with a silky jus, sautéed nettle leaves, and foraged mushrooms.

The trip was a rare opportunity for a busy chef to slow down and enjoy the pleasures of the table. “You need to spend time eating and drinking with the people you like,” he says. “That’s what it’s all about.”

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