Not Your Dad's Natty: Zakary Pelaccio on Natural Wine
Back by popular demand (and because natural wine is damn good) is the Hudson Valley’s largest and only natural wine festival, Peripheral. Created by Fish & Game and BackBar chef/owners, Zakary Pelaccio and Jori Jayne Emde, the festival is in its second year and has doubled its featured wine producers, is highlighting more food vendors, and has welcomed Rivertown Lodge as a sponsor.
Inspired by well-attended natural wine events in New York City, Pelaccio noticed a void for a similar celebration in the Hudson Valley. Since opening Fish & Game in Hudson in 2013, Pelaccio and his team have curated an extensive and thoughtful list of natural wines. They worked for five years, tasting from producers all over the world, learning along the way that there are a lot of natural wines out there, with more being produced year after year. “I have so many favorites and I’m constantly learning about new producers," he says. "I try to always be moving forward with my tastes.”
The production of natural wine is archaic; Grow the grapes, free of pesticides and other chemicals, then either crush them or let them macerate with whatever wild yeast has accumulated on the fruit. The fermented outcome: wines full with the grape’s essences and terroir. Pelaccio describes natural wines as “buoyant” tending to “bob and weave on the palate,” making seamless pairings with a wide range of cuisines.
Producing wine in this way, alongside natural forces and without man-made processes is as romantic as it sounds. And Pelaccio feels this romanticism has turned from a trend to a lifestyle. “People are attracted to the culture and ethos of natural wines; it’s an honest product and a product that tastes of the place. It’s truly something delicious and special. Celebrating it is something I want to do on a regular basis.”
And so he does. Pelaccio’s recently published cookbook, Project 258: Making Dinner at Fish & Game, includes extensive musings on some of his favorite natural wine makers. Through his natural wine fever, Pelaccio hopes to inspire others to get to know the flavors of where they live. “Natural wine falls in line with the philosophy of this area and the question we asked ourselves when opening Fish & Game: What does this place taste like?”