We already talked about our day in the Hudson Valley during traditional adults getaway trip (you can read about it here). Culmination point of the Saturday night was a special dinner. I call it “special” as this is something we always spend time preparing for as part of our getaway. Our ideal scenario is to find a restaurant which would do a special tasting menu for our group, and would allow us to bring our own wines which we would pair with the dishes. More often than not we are successful in this plan – this year was no exception.
The Mountain View Brasserie restaurant in Greenville, New York agreed to create for us a special tasting menu, and we came up with the wine pairings for all the dishes. Of course, the challenging part is doing the “blind” pairing if you will – all we have is the list of ingredients in the dish, and the pairing is solely based on our imagination. The good thing is that we usually do this “hard work” together with my friend Zak, who owns the wine store, so we have a good number of wine options. We always make an effort to keep the cost reasonable – talking about this dinner, only one of the wines was $25 retail, the rest were $20 or less.
For what it worth, here is our dinner menu, with the wine and pairing notes, and addition of the pictures. As the idea here was a relaxing dinner with friends and not a blogger’s dinner, all the pictures are taken with the iPhone and, well, it is what it is…
We started dinner with NV Rivarose Brut Rosé, Provence, France (Syrah/Grenache blend) which was nice, round and simple, well supporting the conversation.
Our first dish was Maryland Crab Cakes served with Lobster Sauce, which was delicious and very generous in size. We paired it with 2014 Templar Cellars Komtur Ekko Pinot Gris, Czech Republic (100% Pinot Gris) – I wrote about this wine before, and while the wine was excellent on its own, the pairing was simply outstanding, with the wine nicely complementing the dish.
Our next dish was House-smoked Salmon Napoleon with horseradish cream and gaufrettes garnished with capers and red onion – the dish was interesting, quite tasty, but rather unexpected under the category of “Napoleon”. Our wine pairing was 2015 Notorious Pink Grenache Rosé, Vin de France (100% Grenache), which was medium bodied Rosé, and the pairing was okay, but not mind-blowing (the flavors didn’t fight, but were not enhancing each other either).
Warm Hazelnut Crusted Goat Cheese with Market Greens was more successful as a dish, nice crunch on outside contrasting with the goat cheese acidic profile. We used the same wine for the pairing and it worked perfectly, complementing the dish very well.
You can’t have dinner without salad, right? We had Grilled Portobello Salad with Roasted Peppers, Fresh Mozzarella Cheese, Tomatoes, Spicy Walnuts, Market Greens with Balsamic Vinaigrette which was very tasty, but most importantly, it paired deliciously with 2014 Sangiovanni Kiara Pecorino Offida DOCG, Marche, Italy (100% Pecorino). Yet another wine I tasted before and loved, and it was perfectly complementing the salad flavors.
Vegetable Risotto with Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese served with Roasted Sea Scallop was one of the absolute favorite dishes – perfectly seared scallop, working nicely with sweet flavors of corn risotto. Interestingly enough, we missed the sweetness as dominant taste element in this dish (just one word in our defense – corn was not listed among ingredients), and the same wine, Pecorino, didn’t work that well – it was just an okay pairing.
Our next dish was Baked Salmon Fillet with Orange and Olive Butter – again, perfect execution, moist and flavorful fish. The wine, 2011 Portal del Priorat Trossos Tros Blanc, Montsant, Spain (100% Grenache Blanc) was full-bodied, plump and delicious, working very well with the dish.
We were definitely looking forward to the Sautéed Wiener Schnitzel with Spaetzle, and the dish didn’t disappoint – very tasty, perfectly seasoned, delicious sauce. The pairing choice was 2013 Templar Cellars Komtur Ekko Pinot Noir, Czech Republic (100% Pinot Noir), yet again the wine I was familiar with – and I’m glad to admit that the pairing was spot on, with the perfect melding of flavors.
We finished our main course with Roasted Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb Provencal – I’m sure that even from the quick glance at the picture, you would expect that this was a tasty dish, as you can tell that meat was properly cooked – and you would be right, as it tasted appropriately delicious. Equally appropriate was our choice of wine pairing – succulent 2012 Seigneurs d’Aiguilhe, Côtes de Castillon, Bordeaux (Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend) Bordeaux, classic cassis and mint taste profile and classic complement to the lamb – outstanding pairing.
This concluded main portion of our dinner – and before we talk about dessert, I would like to commend restaurant on the smart way to present the tea. Take a look below:
Our first dessert was Warm Apple Tart with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and Caramel Bourbon Sauce – I’m sure you don’t need my lame description here, it was simply indulgent. And for the pairing – you can’t beat one of the best and most universal dessert wine pairings – Moscato d’Asti. We had 2015 Cascinetta Vietti Moscato D’Asti DOCG, Italy (100% Moscato d’Asti) – light, effervescent and clean.
Our last dish was Grand Marnier Chocolate Mousse with Fresh Orange Sections – excellent by itself, and pairing very well with 2014 Quady Essencia, California (100% Orange Muscat).
I think this was one of the most successful tasting dinners we put together, so for the next year, we have a very difficult task at hand – but we are up for the challenge. Cheers!
Mountain View Brasserie
10697 State Route 32
Greenville, NY 12083
Ph: (518) 966-5522
Brunello needs no introduction for the oenophiles. Quintessential, coveted Italian wines, coming from the heart of Tuscany, made from the signature Italian grape Sangiovese (Sangiovese Grosso clone, to be precise). Brunello di Montalcino was the first area in Italy which received in 1980 the status of DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita), top quality level designation for the Italian wines; Brunello are some of the most expensive wines coming from Italy today, with some of the bottle prices exceeding $500 on the release (Biondi Santi, Soldera). Wines had been produced in Montalcino for a very long time, going back to the middle ages – it is said that King Charlemagne frequented hills and taverns of the beautiful region – however, back then Montalcino was known for its white wine, called Moscadello. In the 1600s, the red Brunello started to take over the Moscadello, and today, most of the people don’t even know that the white wines are produced in the Montalcino region, as it is the powerful reds we all associate Montalcino with.
Podere Brizio is a relatively young estate in Montalcino, founded in 1996. The estate has about 30 acres of vineyards, practices sustainable viticulture and in the process of becoming certified organic. The grapes are harvested by hand, natural yeasts are used in the winemaking process. Folks at Podere Brizio love the Montalcino history so much that they put “10 Parpagliola coin, coined in 1556 as a symbol of the Republic of Siena in a year in which about 600 noble Sienese families took refuge in the fortress of our town in order to keep the Sienese Republic alive” on the labels of their wines. Podere Brizio produces about 50,000 bottles annually, with the whole production consisting of 3 red wines – Rosso di Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino and Brunello di Montalcino Riserva.
Now, let’s talk about the dinner, which took place at the restaurant called Vespa in Westport, Connecticut. Not only Vespa offers delicious Italian and Mediterranean food, but the restaurant boasts a wine list which has a lot of unique and interesting wines – when was the last time you saw Erbaluce from Piedmont, Cinque Terre Bianco from Liguria, Frappato from Sicily or a “wine geek special”, Rosso del Contadina from Frank Cornelissen, Sicilian maestro of natural wines? Owner Bobby Werhane has special affinity for the uncommon wines and not afraid to put them on the wine list, which of course makes Vespa a perfect food and wine destination for any foodie and wine aficionado alike – and Vintage Vespa is the series of the wine dinners which serves as a testament to that.
We tasted through 4 different wines from Podere Brizio – 2013 Rosso, and Brunello from 2010, 2007 and 2001 vintages, so in essence, this was a vertical tasting. There was one small challenge – the wines were not sufficiently decanted prior to the tasting. Brunello typically are big wines, and they need an ample time in the decanter, or they will not show all its beauty – as you will see from my tasting notes below, this is what happened.
Our dinner consisted of 4 courses. We started with Chicken Liver Pate (Red Onion Mostarda, Toasted Brioche) which had great texture and was absolutely delicious. To my surprise, 2013 Podere Brizio Rosso di Montalcino worked very well with the dish, contrasting the sweet nuances with its tart acidity.
Our second course was Ricotta Cavatelli (Braised Pork Shoulder, Tuscan Kale, Golden Raisins, Toasted Pine Nuts) – again, outstanding, touch of heat and great flavor, hearty and heartwarming (sorry, 2010 was too tight for that, so no pairing notes).
Our main course was Prosciutto Wrapped Veal Tenderloin (Pickeld Sautéed Carrots, Almond Purée) – my notes mostly consist of the exclamation points – wow! flavor! presentation!, so yes, the dish was a treat for the eyes and taste buds alike. After decanting, 2007 Brunello was an excellent complement to this dish, and 2001 Brunello worked very well too.
The desert was outstanding – Coffee Crunch Profiteroles (Mascarpone Cream, Cappuccino Gelato) – imagine a marriage of a classic Profiterole with classic Tiramisu – yep, that was good. And no, we didn’t try to pair the dessert with the wine, we just enjoyed it by itself.
I did my best taking the tasting notes, juggling both delicious food and conversations with other guests, so for what it worth, my tasting notes are below:
2013 Podere Brizio Rosso di Montalcino (13.5% ABV)
N: Tobacco, earthy undertones, violet
P: Clean acidity, medium body, tart cherries, blackberries, tobacco
2010 Podere Brizio Brunello di Montalcino (14.5% ABV)
N: Violet, raspberries, blackberries
P: closed. Hint of tart cherries, but not much else
V: the wine was not decanted initially – and this is way too young, needed lots of time in the decanter. No rating.
2007 Podere Brizio Brunello di Montalcino (14.5% ABV)
C: Dark Garnet
N: Touch of plums, but mostly closed
P: Plums, nice tannins, good acidity.
V: 7+, needs time – should be decanted for at least 2 hours
2001 Podere Brizio Brunello di Montalcino (14% ABV)
C: dark Garnet, not a sign of age
N: Intense crushed berries, tar, leather, blackberries
P: Fresh tannins, great acidity, open, vibrant, great concentration and structure
V: 8/8+, just started to open, will shine in 5-10 years.
There you have it, my friends. Delicious food + Great wines = Vintage Vespa. Make sure to keep an eye on Vespa (probably their Facebook page is the easiest) so you will not miss the next wine dinner. Or better yet – head over to the restaurant and just make your own wine dinner – I’m sure you will not be disappointed. Cheers!
2A Post Rd West
Westport, CT 06880
This post is an entry for the 21st Monthly Wine Writing Challenge (#MWWC21), with the theme of “Pairing”. Previous themes in the order of appearance were: Transportation, Trouble, Possession, Oops, Feast, Mystery, Devotion, Luck, Fear, Value, Friend, Local, Serendipity, Tradition, Success, Finish, Epiphany, Crisis, Choice, Variety.
Let’s start from the mini quiz – is food and wine pairing an art or a science? Or is it neither and the question makes no sense?
I’m sure you can successfully argue both sides, as they do in debate competitions. Technically, cooking process is based on science – heat conduction, protein’s reaction to heat and cold, combining acid and alkaline – we can go on and on, of course the scientific approach to the food and then the pairing can be argued very well. But one and the same dish can be flawlessly composed from the scientific point of view – think about a steak which is perfectly cooked with a beautiful crust – but missing on all the seasoning and having either none or way too much salt – it would require an artistry and magic of the Chef to make it a wow food experience. So may be food and wine pairing is an art after all?
I don’t have an answer, and I don’t believe it is even important. The problem is that in many cases, that “food and wine pairing”, which is typically sought out and praised, is not possible, not universal and even not needed.
Yes, there are rules for the pairing of wine and food. Contrast, complement, balance of the body of the wine with the perception of the “weight” of the food, tannins and fat and so on. The rules work well when you create a tasting menu and pair each dish individually with the very specific wine, based on practical trial and error. However, once you try to extend your recommendation to say “try this stew with some Syrah wine”, that begs only one question – really? And overbearing Shiraz from Australia, or earthy, spicy and tremendously restrained Côte-Rôtie or espresso loaded Syrah from Santa Ynez Valley – which one?
Here is another example, simply a personal one. At a restaurant, my first food preference is seafood – scallops, bouillabaisse, fish – anything. My wife typically prefers meat, and so do many of our friends. Going by the standard rules (white with fish etc.), we are either stuck with water or have to order wine by the glass, and ordering wine by the glass is typically not something I enjoy doing – very often, “by the glass” list is short, boring and grossly overpriced. So instead of trying to pair wine with the food (don’t get me wrong – I like the “spot-on” pairing as much as any other foodie and oenophile), I prefer to pair the wine with the moment – a good bottle of wine which doesn’t match the food is still a lot better than crappy wine which would denigrate the experience.
Still not convinced? Think about a simple situation – old friends are coming for a visit, and you know that these friends like wine. Yes, I’m sure you will give some thought to the food, however, there is a good chance that you will comb your cellar over and over again in a search of the wines to create the meaningful wine program for the evening, even if the whole dinner would consist of one dish. You will spend time and time again thinking about your friends and trying to come up with a perfect, special, moment-appropriate and moment-enhancing wines.
Wine is an emotional connector. Wine elevates our experiences, making them a lot more memorable. You might have problem remembering what dish you had at a restaurant, but if the bottle of wine made you say “wow” on the first sip, there is a good chance that the special moment will stay in your memory, thanks to that special pairing which took place.
We pair wine with moments, and we pair wine with the people, for good and bad of it. If Aunt Mary comes for a visit, who enjoys a glass of Chardonnay with a cube of ice in it, is it really the time to break out Peter Michael or Gaja Rossj Bass? A Bogle Chardonnay would pair perfectly with Aunt Mary (not that there is anything wrong with Bogle – it is just perfectly priced for such occasions). However, if you know that your friend Jeff will stop by, who you know as a Pinot Noir aficionado, all the best Pinot Noir in your cellar will all of a sudden enter into a “chose me, I’m better” competition. And if none of them will win, the Pinot Noir at near by store will enter the fray. And keep in mind, all of this will be happening whether you will be serving steak, salmon or cheese and crackers…
Yes, when food is well paired with wine, it is really a special experience. But food and wine pairing which doesn’t work is really not the end of the world, it is still just a nuisance – and a learning experience, if you will. When the wine pairs well with the moments and the people, that’s when the memories are created, and that, as MasterCard likes to teach us, is priceless. Let’s drink to lots of special moments in our lives. Cheers!
What do you think of Côtes du Rhône wines? Côtes du Rhône (I like to call them CdR for short) are some of my favorite home wines. A “little brother” of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, they often offer similar, may be a bit less expressive taste profile, usually at a fraction of a price. They are also quite versatile with food, offering a wide pairing range, from lamb to game to cheeses.
I was reminded today of how good these simple CdR wines can be. While traveling (I’m in south of France at the moment, near Nice), I asked for the local red wine at the restaurant. Red Provence (that would be a true local wine) are made in a very minuscule quantities, so it is not surprising that restaurant at a small hotel didn’t have any. I was offered to look at the wines from the neighboring territories, such as Côtes Du Rhône, and I ended up picking the cheapest wine on the menu. It so happened that 2013 Antoine Ogier Artesis Côtes du Rhône AOC (14% ABV, €21 at a restaurant) was an excellent choice. The wine had red fruit on the nose with a touch of lavender, very soft tannins on the palate, soft and silky profile, plums, touch of minerality and excellent acidity, overall very balanced. After about 30 minutes the wine also showed tobacco and touch of pepper on the palate – a very classic profile overall. Drinkability: 8-
What was even better than just a nice glass of wine was that wine worked perfectly with food – this was an accidental success, as I didn’t think about the wine at all while ordering the food. The wine paired spot on with the Rabbit Pate, elevating each bite. It did the same thing with Grilled Veal with Creamy Mushroom Sauce. Believe it or not, but it was not even disturbed by an interesting dessert – a Pineapple Carpaccio (called on the menu “raw marinated pineapple”) with Lime Sorbet. All I can say that this was probably one of the most versatile wines I ever had – kudos to the winemaker for crafting such food friendly wines – I guess 155 years of history mean something.
Before we part, I want to live you with a couple of curiosities. Below you will see the back label of that bottle of wine, providing sulfates warning in 21 languages (I already shared that on Twitter). I find this interesting and a bit ridiculous (sorry – wine always contains sulfates, and no, they don’t cause the headache). The second picture shows an extremely thoughtful presentation of the condiments. I shared this on Twitter too, noting that I like the classy presentation, something which French mastered perfectly, only to be ridiculed by someone asking me if ketchup is a French food. Of course it is not, but think about how many times you were presented with the bottle of ketchup at a restaurant, only to think “where should I put it to – on the plate or directly on the fries” – by the way, both are equally uncomfortable choices? In this case, the problem is solved in the best possible way – here is your personal bottle, and you don’t need to deal with any puzzles, just enjoy your food.
Voilà! I’m done with my “notes from the road”. If you are in US, happy few last hours of the Labor Day holiday weekend. Until the next time – cheers!
I love traditions. I’m not talking about anything which is covered in dust and lasted for hundreds of years. I’m talking about simple life pleasures which you call traditions as long as it is something you do repeatedly, hopefully with joy and pleasure.
For about 5 years, we get together with group of friends for a weekend in August, which we call an “Adults Getaway”. The program for the “adults getaway” usually includes driving to an interesting small town within 200 miles radius, a wine tasting if there is a winery near by (doesn’t have to be a winery – one year we visited Hudson Distillery, for instance), a tasty dinner, a stay over at a nice B&B – but primarily lots great and fun time together.
When it comes to the tasty dinner, we usually try to control that experience as much as possible – that translates into finding local restaurant which will be willing to host us and work with us to create tasting menu, and ideally, allow us to bring our own wine which we will of course pair with the dishes on the menu.
Few weeks ago we got together for our “adults getaway” at Lewisburg in Pennsylvania. Our “anchor” for the trip was visit to the local winery, Fero Vineyards, which will be a subject of a separate post. For the dinner we contacted a few local restaurants, and finally decided to have our dinner at Brasserie Louis.
We didn’t have any specific dining theme in mind, and the suggested menu we received from Scott, owner of Brasserie Louis, exceeded our expectations – 11 different dishes – the dinner looked very promising. Now we had to decide on the wine pairings and go have fun. 11 dishes doesn’t mean we have to have 11 wines – we settled on 7 wines, as two of the desserts really were calling for the two different wine pairings.
The day arrived and we all got together (overcoming some interesting difficulties, such as flat run-flat tire, which appears to be a serious ordeal, especially during long distance travel) and here is the account of the wine dinner with all the details.
We started with Shrimp Ceviche (diced raw shrimp pieces in lime juice with cilantro, bell pepper, salt and pepper) – very nicely executed dish, great flavor, touch of heat. Our wine pairing was 2014 Fattoria Laila Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC, Italy (13% ABV, $11) – wine had a good open profile with some flower and white fruit notes, but most importantly, it paired perfectly with the flavor of ceviche, complementing and enhancing the dish.
Our second dish was Wild Mushroom Tart (puff pastry with wild mushrooms, Gruyere cheese and shallots topped with greens and a balsamic glaze) – another excellent dish, with peppery arugula melding well together with the earthy mushrooms and adding lightness to the cheese. The wine pairing here was NV Anna Codorniu Brut Rosé, Spain (12% ABV, $13, 70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay) – one of my favorite Sparklers, Anna Codorniu always over-delivers, with good structure and good body. Here the pairing was also successful, with the wine complementing the dish very well.
Our “in-between” dish was Harvest Salad (baby arugula with goat cheese, beets and candied walnuts tossed with a Champagne vinaigrette) – nice crunch, fresh, simple – and we used the same Anna Codorniu with this dish, and again, this was an excellent pairing.
And now, for the Main Course:
We started with Hand formed Crab Cake (lemon Beurre Blanc sauce, green pea risotto) – this was easily the best dish of the evening. You know how often crab cakes contain a lot of other “stuff”, various fillers (corn, peppers, etc)? This crab cake had just honest goodness of a pure, delicious crab meat – I only had anything similar in Maryland, which can be called a crab cake capital with its blue crab. This was just a “wow”dish. Our wine pairing was also excellent – 2013 Jean-Luc Colombo La Redonne Cotes du Rhone, France (13.5% ABV, $20, 70% Viognier, 30% Roussanne) – Jean-Luc Colombo is a very good producer out of Rhone, and this was one of his higher end wines – plump, full bodied, silky – complemented mild crab cake flavors spot on.
Next up – Black Sesame Crusted Yellowfin Tuna Steak (Yuzu teriyaki glaze) – the dish was nice and simple (tuna was a touch overcooked to my taste, I like it rare), and it paired very well with one of my all-time favorite red wines – 2013 Laetitia Estate Pinot Noir Arroyo Grande Valley, California (13.9% ABV, $20). Laetitia makes an excellent range of Pinot Noir wines, where Estate is an introductory level wine – which makes it perfectly ready to drink young. Delicious California Pinot Noir profile – smoke, plums, touch of earthiness – outstanding. The pairing worked quite well by complementing and enhancing the flavors of the dish.
We continued with Duck a l’Orange (pan seared duck breast, Grand Marnier reduction) – this was an okay dish (my piece of duck was slightly overcooked), but the sauce was excellent and fresh. We used the same Pinot Noir for the pairing, and wine and food worked together well.
Taking a break from the proteins, our next dish was Ratatouille (Provencal vegetable stew of zucchini, squash, wild mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, eggplant and sweet potatoes, touch of Parmesan cheese). This was the dish where the mastery of the Chef combined with amazing Pennsylvania vegetables (I’ve traveled all over East Coast – nothing beats PA vegetables, I’m dead serious) to bring out simply a perfection on the plate – vegetables still had a crunch, and the whole dish was just another “wow” experience.
Our choice of wine for the this and next 2 dishes was 2008 M. Chapoutier Domaine de Bila-Haut Occultum Lapidem Cotes de Roussillon Villages, France (14% ABV, $55/magnum). M. Chapoutier needs no introductions as one of the very best producers in Rhone, and this wine was outstanding – complex, with a touch of roasted flavors, great minerality, lavender. However, there was one problem – this wine didn’t pair well with Ratatouille, and it didn’t pair well with two other dishes. In some cases, it was indifferent (didn’t complement or contrast), and with Ratatouille it was even working against the dish. Well – it is what it is – we still enjoyed the wine and the food – just separately.
Our next dish was Lamb Chops (herb mustard crusted rack of lamb, minted demi-glace) – meat was nicely cooked, and of course lamb and mint jelly is a classic combination.
We finished our main course with Filet Mignon (grilled filet, scalloped potatoes and wilted spinach, truffled veal demi-glace) – the presentation was very interesting, with the steak knife put directly into each piece of the meat. The meat was cooked very well, and overall dish was tasty. And this was probably the only dish where Cotes de Roussillon wine paired marginally acceptable.
Finally, we are at Dessert!
We had two desserts to finish our evening. Strawberry Zabaione (egg yolks, sugar, Marsala wine, fresh strawberries) was very tasty and not too sweet. We paired it with NV Tütidì Brachetto Piemonte DOC, Italy (7% ABV, $12/1L). Brachetto is a lightly fizzed wine with a nice fruit notes, and it perfectly complements wide range of lighter desserts – and this was a case of a perfect pairing – they were delicious together.
We finished our dinner with Flourless Chocolate Cake, which was paired with Mount Palomar Limited Reserve Port, Temecula Valley, California (18% ABV, $38). Port and Chocolate – do I need to say more?
There you have it my friends – our wine dinner at Brasserie Louis in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. What is left for me to do here is to say Thank You to the owner Scott, Chef Chris Rubino and all the staff at the restaurant who made sure we will have a great time. Cheers!
101 Market Street
Lewisburg, PA 17837
Phone: (570) 524-5559
Facebook: Brasserie Louis
The dinner is a dinner is a dinner. Sometimes we eat just to satisfy the basic bodily crave for energy. We put something in the mouth, doesn’t really matter what, hopefully chew on it (or not) before gulping it down, and we are done. Then there are family dinners, let’s say spaghetti and meatballs – everything is home made and tasty, but the school day, upcoming play and huge homework project due tomorrow take over the whole experience. And then there are dinners where the food is perfect, the wine pairing is spot on and the good company of friends is amazing – those dinners become the experience.
We have a tradition with our friends – an adults getaway during late summer or early fall. Find B&B to stay within 2-3 hours of driving distance, visit nature trails, little towns and museums, visit wineries, have a good dinner, have fun and most importantly, enjoy the company of each other. Simple, isn’t it? This year would be the our fourth time doing this, and most of our trips had been described in this blog to the various degree. In 2010, we had a great time in Milford, Pennsylvania, and our dinner was definitely an experience. For that dinner, we were allowed to bring our own wines, so we managed to create the special experience (you can read about it here). The next year we went to the Grafton, Vermont – of course we had a great time, but when in Vermont, the cheese is much bigger deal than wine, so it didn’t really make it into this blog, and dinner didn’t make it into the “experience” level. Last year we stayed in the little town in the area of Woodstock, NY (the town was called Palenville), and the highlight of the trip was the visit to the Hudson Distillery (nope, dinner didn’t make it again). This year, we happened to stay in my home state, Connecticut, in the town of Norfolk. We had a great time visiting Connecticut wineries and visiting places in Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts (yep, you can move through all three states within 20 minutes of driving), but the highlight was … yes, you got it – the dinner.
Norfolk, a little town in northern Connecticut, is not exactly a Michelin-starred restaurant oasis. However, does the food needs to be acknowledged with the Micheline star to be good? Not really. It only takes a little bit of love and a little bit of soul. And when we take the soulful food, we can elevate it to the next level with … wine, of course (you didn’t expect me to say coke, didn’t you). And this is how you create an experience – one dish, one wine.
Once we had our plans for Norfolk set (meaning – we reserved our B&B), we reached out to the few restaurants in the area. We said that we are coming in a large group, and we asked for the special tasting menu, which we can pair with wine (preferably brought by us). Chef Heidi Dinsmore of the Wood Creek Bar and Grill offered a tasting menu – and graciously allowed us to bring our own wines without even charging a corking fee. The rest is history – one of the best dinner experiences ever, which you can see (sorry, only see) below.
Crostini with Roasted Pear Gorgonzola and a Balsamic Drizzle
Wine: 2009 Graham Beck Brut Rosé, South Africa
There was a nice combination of flavors in crostini, but we could probably use more pear and less cheese, and the toast itself could probably be a bit less garlic-y. The South African sparkler was very classic, with nice toasted nose, touch of yeast and fine mousse. As for the pairing, I would call it “unoffensive” – both the crostini and wine stayed in its own universe, and they didn’t collide nor complement each other.
Micro greens with Strawberries and a Lemon Vinaigrette
Wine: 2013 La Ferme Saint Pierre Cuvée Juliette Rosé Côtes du Ventoux, France
Salad was nice and fresh (what else do you want from the green salad, right?), and the wine had a nice strawberry profile. The pairing was excellent, the wine really complemented and enhanced the dish, despite the “simple salad” nature of it.
Shrimp with a Champagne Beurre Blanc
Wine: 2011 Bodegas La Cana Albariño Rias Baixas, Spain
Shrimp was cooked perfectly, and Beurre Blanc sauce was outstanding. La Cana Albariño is one of my favorite wines, and this bottle was no exception – bright fruit profile on the nose, but restrained and delicious on the palate. And the pairing? Spectacular, simply spot on. Wine’s acidity was a great complement to the sauce, so the dish was greatly enhanced.
Poached Halibut over Spinach, Saffron Heirloom Tomato Sauce
Wine: 2012 Buil & Giné Joan Giné Blanc, Priorat DOQ, Spain
Halibut, which is one of my favorite types of fish, was done “just right”, and together with spinach and the sauce was creating just one spectacular flavor pop. And then the wine… This wine deserves a whole blog post dedicated just to that wine by itself. White Priorat, a blend of 40% White Grenache, 36% Macabeo, 20% Viognier and 4% Pedro Ximenez had stunning complexity – orange peel, white stone fruit, minerality – really an excellent wine, rivaling best Chardonnays. And together with the dish? Another spectacular, spot on pairing, complementing and greatly enhancing flavor.
Beef Tenderloin over Mashed Celery Root, Bordelaise, Tiny mini Potato au Gratin
Wine: 2010 Château de Pibarnon Bandol Rouge Les Restanques de Pibarnon, Bandol, France
Beef was perfectly cooked, and together with the celery root and Bordelaise sauce, every bite was literally divine. The Bandol wine, which is 90% Mourvedre and 10% Grenache, had a warm spice flavor profile, so together with the steak the pairing was just outright delicious.
Guinness Marinated Pork, Cherry Au Jus, Arugula, Crispy Polenta
Wine: 2011 Bodegas Caro ‘Amancaya’ Gran Reserva Malbec – Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendoza, Argentina
The pork was melting in the mouth and the combination with cherries was excellent. The wine, made from two of the Argentina star grapes – Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, had an open nose with spicy, cherry-loaded palate. As you can imagine, cherries in the sauce and in the wine played together wonderfully, creating – yep, again – a super-successful pairing.
Fresh-made Sorbetto – delicious, clean, refreshing. Perfectly restored the palate before the dessert course.
Chocolate Tart with Fresh Fruit
Wine: 2000 Philip Togni Vineyard Ca’ Togni Sweet Red, Napa Valley
You can’t go wrong with the chocolate, and this dessert was a great proof of that – every bite was a decadent pleasure. And the wine… What can I tell you? It was definitely a mature wine, fragrant, with some sweet cherry notes and balancing acidity. Based on the information on producer’s web site, this wine was inspired by the famous South African dessert wine Klein Constantia, and it is produced from the grape called Black Hamburg (known as Black Muscat), which is quite rare in Napa Valley – and it is also a new grape for me (!). The wine perfectly complemented and literally added a new dimension to the chocolate tart, so our final pairing was again “just perfect”.
As we were settling into the dessert, Chef Heidi Dinsmore, the creator of the delicious experience, came to talk to us, so we had an opportunity to thank her and to tell her how much we enjoyed our evening, and how delicious the food was. If you are ever in the area of Norfolk, Connecticut, Wood Creek Bar and Grill should be on your list. Ahh, and I also have to say a very big thank you to our waitress Jessica, who did an amazing job managing our wine program, opening the bottles, changing the glasses and of course serving food – she was absolutely fantastic.
There you have it, my friends – the food, the wine and the company – a simple recipe for an unforgettable experience. Cheers!
Wood Creek Bar and Grill
3 Station Place
Norfolk, CT 06058
This is the last post in the series about our experiences at Hotel Fauchere in Milford, PA ( previous two posts can be found here and here). Have to warn you upfront – if you thought that there are too many photos in my posts, this one will be extreme – there are way too many pictures I want to share. Here we go…
Culmination point of our weekend getaway was chef’s tasting dinner, long anticipated and planned for. The dinner took place at The Delmonico Room at Hotel Fauchere – for historic reference behind the name and relationship with The Delmonico Room in New York, you can click here. Anticipated is fine, but what’s up with planning? Considering love of wine in the group, we decided to take upon the pairing of the tasting menu by ourselves. For the tasting and pairing experience, this was a good decision, for the service part – not so much. Not that I can really complain about service, all the plates, decanters, glasses and silverware were flying around properly, but the service was delivered in the stark contrast with “everybody smiling” (if you read my previous posts), I would say it was delivered with the stone face. There can be some objective reasons to that ( we brought our own wine, therefore I guess we questioned the level of wine service)… Anyway, let’s talk about food and wine
So we had 7 course tasting menu with two very small “single byte” dishes at the beginning and in the middle of the dinner. Menu focus was on the local, seasonal and fresh ingredients, and I think mission was accomplished quite well. We selected 7 different wines to pair with the dishes – 4 whites, 3 reds.
2009 Domaine Eugene Carrel & Fils Rousette de Savoie Altesse, France
2007 Staglin Family Vineyards ‘Salus’ Estate Chardonnay, Napa Valley
2009 Jorge Ordoñez Málaga Botani Sierras de Màlaga
1995 Domain Cazes Ambré Riversaltes Languedoc-Roussillon
We made a lot of good decisions with this set – but more about it later.
And here are the three reds:
2005 Bradford Mountain Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley
2005 Chateau La Grange Clinet Premier Cotes de Bordeaux
This was also a great selection, all worked very well with food – so lets get some details.
The first dish in tasting was Tortelloni A La Zucca (Seared Diver Scallop, Black Walnut, Sage Butter). Wine pairing – Rousette de Savoie Altesse.
I would honestly question composition of the dish, as pumpkin tortelloni didn’t do anything to the scallop, tortelloni looked almost as a presentation piece. At the same time, wine worked very well with all of the components in the dish – apple, leeches and earthiness worked well with pumpkin filling, and wine had enough fruit and acidity to complement scallop. One important thing to mention here – with this wine I was able to make a progress in the treble journey, as Altesse is a grape from Savoie which I never tasted before. Color me happy – 273.
The next dish was Foie Gras De Canard (Porcini Mushroom, Brussles, Pear, Pomme Maxim). Wine pairing – Staglin Salus Chardonnay.
Salus is produced by Staglin Family, one of California cult wine producers from Napa Valley (Staglin Family Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 just got WS 98 rating). Salus was one of the most beautiful chardonnays I tasted lately. Vanilla, butter, caramel, toasted oak and acidity of the wine worked perfectly with heavy but creamy texture of the foie gras.
Next dish was Roasted Black Sea Bass (Caramelized Sunchoke, Garden Chard, Cabernet Franc Emulsion). Wine pairing – Mara Pinot Noir.
1. It was one of the best versions of Roasted Sea Bass I ever had. So, by the time I realized that I didn’t get a picture of the dish, it was too late.
2. And I guess it was also too late because everybody got carried away after taking a sip of Mara Pinot Noir.
Mara Pinot Noir was really a centerpiece of the tasting. “Oh my god” was major phrase at the table after the first sip of the wine. I don’t think that wine should be described in terms of color, fruit and acidity. This wine should be described in terms of opulence and decadence it cast upon the table. “Total and absolute balance” would be the right way to put it. Anyway, if you can find a bottle, you should experience it for yourself ( about 250 cases total production). In my “drinkability” ratings it is defnitely a 9+.
Next dish: Sautéed Squab (Confir Potatoes, Red Peppers, Serrano Ham). Wine pairing – Bradford Mountain Zinfandel.
Deep earthy and gamey flavors of the dish ( tasted almost like a fried liver), were complimented well by spices and acidity of the wine. This was definitely a good combination.
Following on, major entree: Duo of Farm Raised Rabbit (Bacon Wrapped Loin, Rabbit Scrapple, Chestnut, Garden Carrots, Natural Jus). Wine pairing – Chateau La Grange Clinet Premier Cotes de Bordeaux.
Bordeaux had being nicely decanted, so it was open enough in time for this dish being served. Coming from magnificent 2005 vintage, this wine can be drunk right now, but will improve with some time in the cellar. The wine worked well with the flavors of the dish – combination of tender, a bit gamey loin and fresh garden vegetables was well complemented by dark fruit flavors in the Bordeaux.
And now it is time for desserts: Cheese Soufflé (Pinot Noir Must, Grape Aspic, Rose Champagne Granite). Wine pairing – Botani Sierras de Màlaga.
I discovered Botani Muscat at the dinner at The Capital Grille. This wine delivers incredibly bright acidity and fruit combination, every sip feels like it is full of live. That acidity was instrumental in this pairing. The wine worked quite well with both Granite and Souffle components of the dessert.
And last, but not least, one more dessert: Gala Apple and Granola (Apple Jack Caramel, Foraged Crabapple Confit, Cinnamon Gel, Pecan Brittle, Mulled Cider Ice Cream). Wine pairing: Ambré Riversaltes.
If Mara Pinot Noir was best of tasting, then this was the most interesting wine. This wine, made out of White Grenache, is made in the Solera style – it spent 7 years in the open tubs, developing delicate flavors. Ambré Riversaltes exhibited fresh and balanced flavors of toasted apple and caramel, which perfectly worked with “apple many styles” flavors of the dessert.
That’ s all, folks – it is time to conclude the report on the Hotel Fauchere experience. All in all, we had a great time, and will gladly do it again. The life journey continues…
401 Broad St
Milford, PA 18337