Last night, I was able to attend a wine pairing dinner at my club. It was an interesting evening, and I’ll share the highlights:
Frei Brothers Sonoma County Chardonnay, 2003. This Chardonnay began with aromas of melon and apple. The flavor was smooth, featuring green apple and pear. The finish was crisp and a bit spicy. There was a hint of acidity. Supposedly, Frei has cut back the oak aging from 12 months to just 8 to reduce the oak in this wine. The pairing was with Lobster Risotto in a Cold Gazpacho Sauce. The combination worked well, although this easy to enjoy Chardonnay would pair with many foods and be suitable on its own as well. The best part of this course was the crispy cup molded from slightly browned cheddar cheese.
Bridlewood Estate Winery Viognier, Central Coast, 2004. You won’t find much Viognier on your grocer’s shelf, although over time more vines are being planted around the world. The Bridlewood Viognier seemed a bit like a Chardonnay but tasted of peach and created a pleasing tingle on the tongue. The effect was due to light carbonation – not like a champagne, of course, and no bubbling was evident in the glass. All in all, it was an interesting and fun wine. The Viognier was paired with a Spiced Thai Chicken Roll with Roasted Heirloom Tomato. The slightly bubbly wine worked well with the spicy chicken roll and the sweeter, seasoned roast tomato. (Pairing the Thai chicken roll with a roas tomato was an interesting and unusual choice itself.)
Red Rock Merlot 2004, California. This merlot was the highlight of the evening. A currant aroma led to a mix of berry, oak, chocolate, and spice. This full-bodied wine is one of those less common wines that seems to light up all parts of one’s tongue. There’s a lot going on in that wine, and it’s unfortunate that it currently is being distributed only through the restaurant channel. If you find in on a wine list, it shouldn’t be too expensive – give it a try. The food pairing was equally robust – Veal Osso Bucco and Grilled Jumbo Prawns. The merlot held its own with the meaty gravy, flavorful veal, and smoky grilled prawns. Certainly, this was a fine combination of wine and food.
Bridlewood Estate Winery Syrah 2003, Central Coast. This Syrah was fine, though following the robust Merlot it seemed slightly diminshed. Blackberry, oak, and pepper led to a strong, even more peppery, finish. It was paired with an Organic Martini featuring Fresh Michigan Organic Greens Flavored with Tart Apple. The “martini” was indeed served in a martini glass, but seemed to be a well-chopped mix of slightly bitter salad greens and apple. Rather an odd dish, perhaps, that did little to improve the adequate Syrah.
Nachtgold Eiswien, 2004. This ice wine from Prestige Wine Group offered sweet pear and melon flavors. It has a mere 8.5% alcohol, and its texture is lightly syrupy. Paired with Bananas Foster, the ice wine was sweet enough to maintain its flavor. I don’t drink ice wine often, and the Nachtgold Eiswein reminded me of the simple, sweet pleasure of this kind of dessert wine.
Summary. This was a pleasant evening, with the best wines of the night being the Red Rock Merlot and the Nachtgold Eiswein. I’d encourage readers to look for these events at local fine restaurants, dining and country clubs, etc. While wine tasting events at a local retailer are both fun and a great opportunity to sample a diverse selection of wines, they can’t quite compare to a full set of food pairings in a formal dinner setting. If you’re lucky, you’ll enjoy not only a set of dishes that have been chosen with uncommon care for their unique flavors, but also a set of wines that have been selected by the chef and sommelier to work well together.