Monday, March 14, 2011

Dinner with winemakers

a few of the evenings bottles
Preparing a dinner for winemakers is an interesting challenge. The meal must be well balanced and complimentary to the wines but the challenge lies in not knowing just what wines the the winemakers will bring! 
Certainly there will be a few standout California Pinots and Chardonnays but just as certainly someone is bound to bring an outlier. Some obscure Austrian Riesling or knockout French Beaune could throw off an entire menu!
gougeres, with various whites
To start the evening off right, we served gougeres, still warm from the oven, with crisp cold white wines and a lovely Roderere champagne.
Striped bass, grilled whole and stuffed with lemon, fennel and onions provided an impressive main dish.
pearl barley pilaf; fennel celery salad w/ pecorino shavings
A simple fennel and celery salad, finished with pecorino shavings alongwith a pearl barley pilaf with shitake mushrooms & hazelnuts pleasently complimented both the fish and the wines, without overstating their place. For dessert, the ever favorite winter citrus tart.
Among the dozen or wines opened, the breakaway gem of the night was undoubtedly the 1978 Morey-Saint-Denis. A 33 year old Burgundy that just happened to be the most elegant, exceptional wine I have ever tasted. Brownish plum in color and cloudy in texture, the physicality of the wine was unlike most any wines of today.
I don't know that specific flavors can be assigned to every wine every time. Sometimes, to me anyway, its more just a feeling than a flavor. This wine was a perfect example of that. While it might sound even more pretentious than just saying 'red plum' and 'curred meat', drinking this delicate, complex wined reminded me only of a rare, antique, handmade lace.
The only thing better than enjoying this wine was enjoying this wine with winemakers. One noted the high fill level of the wine before opening, establishing how well the wine must have been stored over the last 3 decades. The cork collapsed into the screw in three pieces, a clear sign of its age, but had not absorbed much of the wine, again touting its good storage conditions. The high acid profile of the wine meant it must have been barely drinkable at bottling, but a large part of what made it so incredible 30+ years later! A generous and exciting addition to many great wines of the night.


  1. Holy Shivers, Whole Bass! The only thing this dinner was missing was a '78 Brendan Willard, crumpling constitution and all. Truly outstanding! Chef to Chef!

  2. I suspect the term 'wine makers' in California is somewhat different to the term in Yorkshire. Grapes are few and far between here. Did anyone bring a bottle of dandelion wine? Or hawthorn blossom? Or blackberry? These are my home-made wines, and I often wonder what a conniseur might think.

  3. Hi ben,
    I can safely say I've never tried dandelion, hawthorn blossom or blackberry wines in all my days but I am officially intrigued! I would love to try what sounds like very floral wines and would be interested in the task of pairing them with the right foods!
    I must ask, how did you come to discover butter date?
    To many happy returns!

  4. Hello Butter Date

    You have 'wine making' listed in your profile, as do I. So, I check intermittently who recently has posted with this interest in their profile, and have a look at their blog. Hence stumbling across you.

    Some of my wines are unpairable - potato and pumpkin spring instantly to mind (ghastly!). But many are lovely, if a little on the sweet side. I drink 'grape' as a treat.