Dinner with a wine maker


I admit it; I love to go out for dinner.  I love it even more someone else pays.  So when it came time for the annual Loxton Cellars winery dinner, I made sure I was available.  I get the best of both worlds, I get to go to a good restaurant, the El Dorado Kitchen in the town of Sonoma and the winemaker paid.

Not only did he pay, he pulled some wines from his personal collection to pair with what we were going to have.  In addition to great food, we were going to sample the great wines listed here: 2004 William Selyem Hawk Hill Chardonnay, 1992 Galah Sparkling Shiraz, 2002 Rochioli Estate Pinot, 1985 Bordeaux & 2006 Peller Estates Riesling Ice Wine.

Pre-Dinner: 2004 William Selyem Hawk Hill Chardonnay.

While we were winding down the day in the tasting room we opened a bottle of William Selyem Hawk Hill Chardonnay.  What was very intriguing about this wine is the fruit is sourced from a vineyard we get Chardonnay from as well.  The styles are different but similar … if that makes any sense.  The Hawk Hill Vineyard is very close to the Pacific Ocean which means a long growing season.  Typically these grapes are harvested in November, much longer after a lot of red varietals are harvested.  What does this mean?  A lot of sugar.  High sugar means high alcohol.  And with the William Selyem example … this is true … 15.1%.  This high level of alcohol was exhibited in a lot of heat in the wine.  It didn't feel very balanced and the finish was a bit odd.  Knowing William Selyem to be a high quality producer I had to wonder (out loud) how this could happen.  It appears for this particular year, the wine maker was in Baltimore when the grapes should have been harvested resulting the grapes were picked too late resulting in very high alcohol.  After the Chardonnay, we closed up the winery and headed out to the El Dorado Kitchen.  5 people squeezed into my little car and off we went.

Appetizers: 92 Galah Sparkling Shiraz

Sparkling Shiraz is definitely an Australian specialty.  Yes, other countries do sparkling red wines but for some reason, for me, I associate sparkling red with Australian.  I can honestly say that this wine was probably the hit of the night.  All the sparkling Shiraz I have tasted had some sweetness like a demi-sec champagne.  This wine was big and bold.  Apparently, it had been aged for five years and an 8 year old port was used for the dosage.  The wine had a big mouth feel, tannins, and lots of flavor.  For an aged sparking wine it showed incredible structure and paired incredibly well with appetizer we had.

house made charcuterie

smoked paprika cured pork loin - meyer lemon, shaved parmesan
cabernet sauvignon cured beef eye of round - caperberries, pickled red onion
fennel sausage - olive & pepper tapenade, fennel pollen
pork terrine - cornichons, whole grain mustard
duck rillette - endive & orange marmalade
crispy baby artichokes - onion rings, garlic confit, meyer lemon, sweet carrot puree, fines herbes aioli

Second Appetizer: 2002 Rochioli Estate Pinot

Next up was a great wine from one of the greatest cult wine producer in Sonoma.  We had a nice aged estate example.  The estate wine is a blend of the different vineyards and blocks.   Once again I had high expectations which weren't quite met.  It was a very good wine but not great.

prince edward island steamed mussels - creamy sauvignon blanc broth, tarragon, crispy fries

Main Course: 1985 Bordeaux

Okay, I know I should have taken better notes but I forgot.  All I can remember it that this 85 came from a super second (growth).  Had a great aroma that got better as the wine opened up.  Leather, cedar and smoke.  It was robust with great tannin.  One problem with having one wine to try and pair with every main course is that it doesn't work.  Below are the entries that were ordered.

red wine braised short ribs - truffle fries, horseradish crème fraiche
liberty duck trio - seared duck breast, leg confit, pate, sunchoke, fresh organic huckleberry sauce, benziger family ranch biodynamic braised greens
bacon wrapped pork tenderloin - spaetzle, brussels sprouts, whole grain mustard sauce

Since the Bordeaux was aged nicely it had softened up quite a lot but it still have some strength.  The surprising thing was that it didn't hold up to the short ribs.  It didn't overpower the pork or the duck.  It actually complimented very well.

Dessert: 2006 Peller Estates Riesling Ice Wine

By this time there wasn't much room for dessert … but I wasn't going to let this opportunity pass me by.  I really wanted to try the ice wine / crème brulee paring.  I picked this one:

orange crème brulee - infused orange peal, chocolate shortbread

As it turns out, this works pretty damn well.  The acidity in the wine balanced off the creaminess of the dessert.   I am very happy that I made room for dessert.  And just like that, the night was over.

John Andrews is a software product manager during the week and is a professional Tasting Room staffer at Loxton Cellars in Glen Ellen, CA on the weekends.

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