Recap: Winter Wine Dinner
Last night we partnered with O'Connells American Bistro for an outstanding seasonal Winter Wine Dinner, featuring five very creative courses, paired with hand-selected wines. Chef O'Connell's knock-out menu had a Southern, low-country theme and the wine pairings worked well with each dish.
The evening began with Montsarra Cava, a sparkling wine, produced from a careful blend of native grapes in Penedes, Spain, along with passed hors d'oeuvres, including Outerbanks Crab with spicy slaw and aioli, Braised Pork Shoulder with creamed corn, crispy onions and Crispy Fried Chicken, arugula, cowboy caviar (a tasty bed of beans). The bright, small-bubbled cava did a good job of refreshing the palate for the wide variety of flavors.
The atmosphere of O'Connells Bistro is warm and inviting, as well as stylish and sophisticated, which is also a great description for Chef O'Connell's menu - familiar foods with a twist. As we found our seats, the second course was served - "The Buffalo Fish Fry", paired with Chateau Musar Musar Jeune Blanc 2009. Let's start with the wine. This incredibly aromatic white wine from Lebanon is made of 40% Viognier, 30% Chardonnay, and 30% Vermentino. Musar is legendary, one of the most written and talked about wine producers in the world today. The wine is greenish-yellow in color and has an intriguing nose of peach, apricot and pineapple. The palate is dry, but has a subtle hint of sweetness from the stone and tropical fruit flavor. Musar Jeune is a food wine, and its medium-body worked well with the Fish Fry - a tempura dipped wild salmon, over a butter poached lobster hash with smoked nova salmon tartar sauce. As I was eating this dish, I had a hard time deciding which I enjoyed better, the salmon or the lobster hash, because a new favorite flavor came out in every bite!
The third course, Southern Style Grilled Duck paired with Castell'In Villa Chianti Classico 2008, arrived on the table and Eric Genau, our Wine Director, described his recent visit to this estate in Tuscany. It is a village, not a winery, at the southern edge of the Chianti Classico zone, owned by Princess Coralia Pignatelli della Leonessa. The estate has been in existence since the 13th century and much of her land is used primarily for hunting game and the region's famously delicious wild boar, which they serve in the village restaurant. The vines here are incredibly low yielding and Princess Coralia releases wines only when ready to drink, which is not common in the wine world today. The Chianti is big, with earthy flavors, which is a perfect match for Southern Style Grilled Duck, a sausage and roasted mushroom "stuffing", house sausage gravy & duck rinds. This dish is awesome. The seasoning and salt in the stuffing surround the duck, while bits of sausage jump out like flavor diamonds. The rustic, primative qualities of Castell'in Villa shine through this pairing, and I am magically transported back to Italy, tasting the local environment where this wine comes from.
Next up, Grilled Beef Tenderloin paired with White Rock Vineyards Napa Valley Claret 2007. Certified grass fed, hormone free, Montana range beef, bacon, green chili, dry cheddar grits, creamed greens and aioli, paired with a highly-rated wine from a small family estate located in the southern foothills of the Stag's Leap Range rising above the Napa Valley. Wow. White Rock's Claret has a distinct Bordeaux-like personality, which is not surprising since this is a classic left-bank Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. The wine is smooth, sophisticated and approachable. It is a big, powerhouse wine, but it is really well-made and balanced. The well-intergrated tannins melt into the Beef Tenderloin and the earthy flavor marries the bacon, cheddar grits and greens elegantly.
Just when I thought I reached my limit, the All American Cupcake changed my mind - double sweetgrass valley chocolate and bacon cupcakes, with a peanut butter and maple mousse filling, and creamed peanut butter frosting. I expected the cupcake to be very dense and extremely rich, but it was actually quite light, with just the right amount of sweetness. We paired this decadent treat with Ferreira Tawny Porto, from the largest (and most popular) producer in Portugal. This tawny Port resembles a Ruby more than Tawny, offering a nice balance of fruit, oak and spice. Absolutely delicious.
If you joined us at the dinner, please comment on your favorite dish, wine or pairing! And if you missed this event, we hope to see you at another soon. For the most up to date schedule, check out our Monthly Events Calendar.