A Case of the "Blends"

Friday, September 17, 2010 - 
Blended Wines.  Some people love them and have embraced this increasing trend while others have yet to try.  Tastings decided to expand their varietal series as we took a closer look at blended wines and a pairing of wonderful food.

First course was a white table wine, Pro-mis-Q-ous.  A combination of Gewurtztraminer, Chenin Blank and Chardonnay, the taste was subdued in flavor.  Originally, I could smell a hint of oak flavors, but after taking a bite of food, more intense flavor shine through.  Simple and basic in flavor, the three varieties blended well together to create a partnership.  The name says it all, does it not?

What normally would have been our apertif, we were treated to not only a tasting of wine but also to a pairing of food.  Unrue presented us with a warm pear and scallop salad.  Lemon-poached red pears and Granny Smith apples were on a bed of spicy arugula and then topped with perfectly pan-seared bay scallops.  I loved the use of the bay scallops, as it gave a delicate approach to the dish.  The red pears were not as grainy in texture (I'm not normally a fan of pears...yes, I think they taste like dirt...) but more crisp like the apples.  They soaked in the lemon flavors and were strengthened with the meyer lemon dressing.  The tartness of the lemon was refreshing, but what played well with it was the surprise of the St. Germaine foam on top.  This wonderful liquor made from elderflower gave the whole dish a sweetness that was cut by the salty flavors from a shaving of manchego cheese.  I loved the simplicity of the flavors in this dish - it was fantastic.

Our second course began the reds of the evening with a 2006 Michael~David "Incognito" Rouge.  Lodi Vineyards (located in California) produces this sharp, peppery smelling wine.  I was expecting the bold flavors of a Syrah after giving it a swirl and I was happy to have the subtle dryness delivered (if you remember, some individuals do not like reds like this.)  A fruity flavor of berries (especially blueberries) exploded on the palate and then rounded out with the tannines that I expected.  I had previously had this before (I can't help it, marketing gets me every time!) so I was happy to have another tasting.

Paired with the Incognito was the perfect dish - creole fish and dirty rice.  I had already envisioned sitting in Louisiana sipping the wine, so what a dish to match.  Wonderfully cooked mahi mahi was seasoned with creole spices and left you with a great back taste complimenting the wine perfectly.  The startchy dirty rice was cut with the richness of the fish.  To add another element, a basil remoulade was served on top leaving a basil heavy, creamy textured compliment.  A tinge of berry brought out the spices of the dish as well. A heavier dish, the second course contrasted sharply from the first, but I loved everything about it.  My favorite of the evening.

As I continued drooling over the creole mahi mahi and dirty rice (side note - all I want is dirty rice now...and that was a few days ago,) we were presented with our third tasting.  From Argentina, a 2007 Alta Vista "Atemporal" was smooth and full of flavor from the blends.   Malbec was the lead of the flavor, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and a varietal I've never experienced - Petit Verdot.  I could taste the richness floral and red fruits from what I would expect out of a Malbec, being "fruit forward" in taste.  It finished silky and smooth in the mouth.

I was excited to see a strong and flavorful dish for the course.  Falafel and Babaganoush - two elements that I adore - were beautifully presented in a colorful dish.  A cumin-scented chickpea fritter was chopped so that it had almost a rice texture to it but with all the taste of a chickpea.  Even hubs who doesn't like chickpeas could have had more fritters.  On top was a roasted Japanese eggplant, which I was extremely excited to try as I had never had theJapanese eggplant before.  Sweeter in taste, it paired well with the creaminess of the roasted tomato cream sauce which was poured over the tasting.  I adored the creamy and heavy taste of the sauce as it added a new texture to the grainy chickpea flavors.  The gentlemen sitting next to me told his date that he could be a vegetarian if all the dishes were like this.  For a minute, I thought he was going to start licking his plate, but alas...

Revelry Vintners out of Columbia Valley, Washington, produced our next tasting, the 2008 Reveler.  Luscious in flavors, this was a reverse-style Bordeaux made with a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.  It had a medium body with a clean finish and light tannines.  It is a limited series and was a great introduction for the reverse Bordeaux style that I had never tried.

With a bold flavor of the Reveler, what better to be served than lamb meatballs?  I love lamb but never had it in a meatball form, so I was excited to be served the red wine-braised lamb.  Served with a smooth porcini mushroom jus, pepper-roasted figs and maytag purple peruvian potatoes mad this a hearty dish.  I love the combination of the bleu Maytag cheese and thyme - it was a level of berry flavors combining with the earthiness of the smashed potatoes.  A little salty in taste, this was comfort food at its finest: salty but bold with meaty flavors.

Onto the dessert course, I was happy to not be given a dessert wine, but a white from Terra Alta, Spain.  I love Spanish wines and this 2007 Clos del Pinell Blanc was sweet but with a uniqueness of flavors.  Lemon amber in color, it had a grapefruit smell and was sweet (in the not overwhelming kind of way) on the tongue.  I could see this being served with a light dessert (as we were so happily served) or a seafood - seemed very versitle for a sweeter white.  Another thing I enjoyed, how simple the Spanish can be - can you get anymore basic with this label?
Mock cheesecake - I had no idea what to expect.  I was given a creamy, mascarpone panna cotta which was "eggy" in the perfect way (and yes, I understand that there are no eggs in panna cotta, but still, the cream, sugar and gelatin basics sometimes yield these flavors to me.)  A buttery, almond sugar cookie "crust" was sitting in a pool of sweet tangelo syrup.  The tangelo, which is a sweet fruit, similar to a tangerine, wasn't over the top sweet and complimented the mellow flavors of the mascarpone and almond.  The beautiful sparkle of the candied citrus and lychee (which is a berry) gave it a cruncy sweetness.  Light but sweet - a perfect ending to another wonderful meal. 

During the meal, I was able to enjoy a NEW addition to Tastings - the beautiful flat screen behind the open kitchen!  I know, a tv. And yes, it is exciting.  This is the perfect way for people who MUST see sports or something on the weekend to potentially have that opportunity.  For this tasting however, we were shown some classic pieces of digital art - a nice touch if I do say so myself.

I unfortunately can't make it to the next two Wednesday wine dinners (sad face) because I'll be heading to Seattle to try amazing food (happy face), but that doesn't mean you can't make it!  On Wednesday evening, they made a BIG announcement - Sun King Brewing is partnering with Tastings for an Oktoberfest Beer Tasting!  Beyond excited, as Sun King has some amazing craft beer (amazing tasting room by the way, you must check them out - they also great events, like HBG4) that will match well with Unrue's culinary masterpieces.  You should sign up for that one now - limited spots are available.  I already have my seat reserved, as well as the other marked evenings below:

September 22 - Regional Series: Napa in Nap Town
September 29 - Truly Progressive (Happy Anniversary to my hubby!)
*October 6 - An Evening with Burgess Cellars
*October 13 - Oktoberfest Beer Tasting with Sun King Brewing

Will I be seeing you at any of these events?