An Evening with Charles Smith Winery at Tastings

Friday, September 3, 2010 - 
If you haven't noticed, my love for Tastings has continued to grow exponentially with each Wednesday evening.  Yes, it is a great place to frequent on a Thursday evening or Saturday night, maybe even to grab a drink with friends after a hard day at work on Monday.  But to me, the gem of of Tastings is the Wednesday Wine Dinners.  And if you read this blog - you would already know that from the many reviews that I've posted.  This past Wednesday, hubs and I ventured down to meet our friends (including my long lost sister, AU, and the N's from Fall Creek Eclectic, and Mr. A) for what was expected to be another tasty evening with Chef Steven Unrue.

The wines we would be enjoying were from a Washington winery, Charles Smith Wines with focus on 'The Modernist Project' and the K Vintners line.  Charles Smith is somewhat of a "rocker" in his design and production.  As we made our way through the food and wine, I couldn't help but absolutely adore the graphics of these bottles.  All green bottles, the simplicity of the black and white coloring gave these graphics an even more contemporary feel - I adored a few and will point out my favorites as we work our way through.

The first three wines were from the Modernist Project, and we began with a 2007 Chardonnay, Eve.  The label should have given it all away, but I was still very surprised with how tart and crisp this chardonnay truly was.  As it had been sitting out for a little bit and wasn't extremely cold, it helped smooth out these flavors and grew on me with a few more sips.  However, it wasn't the creamy texture that I adore of chardonnay's - the apple flavor was too abundant.

Carmel Apple salad - I had no idea what to expect.  The bitterness of the watercress and arugula matched perfectly with the sweetness of the caramel vinaigrette.  The vinaigrette was smooth and light, despite what you would think of caramel.  Unrue took a simple caramel mixture and with several flavors, including sunflower oil, made it a perfectly balanced vinaigrette.  Not too sweet (like a olive oil would have made it) and not too tart.  And what can match better with the caramel flavors but apples?  It was a burst of fall (which is just what I'm craving) as great flavors were presented in a simply delightful dish.  Had me wondering, "What can I experiment with when creating my own vinaigrette's at home?"

My favorite label belonged to the "Kung Fu Girl" Riesling.  Yes, another reisling that once again, surprised me.  This 2009 varietal was vibrant with apricot and other fruity flavors.  I was surprised with the mellow dryness of the riesling.  I was even more surprised that I liked it more than a chardonnay.

To match the citrus flavors of the wine, we were presented with Kung Pow Tuna.  The tuna and nectarine tartare sat on a bed of pickled carrots and celery.  Sitting in a pool of citrus spice, which Unrue called 'kung pow broth,' we were served crisp fried wonton chips.  The orange flavors of the broth really stood out as you could taste a mix of some sort of soy sauce - that is - until you got the mild heat of the sirachi.  With the creamy tartare and the salty wonton chips - this was a fantastic combination.  I soaked up that tartare with as much juice as I could.  With a finishing pickled taste, this dish calls for a nom nom.

The 2008 Velvet Devil Merlot was RN's favorite label of the evening.  The third course brought us to the reds of Charles Smith, and unfortunately, this merlot wasn't extreme in flavor.  Call me an optimist, but this could be a great thing for non-red wine drinkers.  It was surprisingly smooth and didn't seem dry to me at all.  I would encourage these white wine drinkers to try it, because though it wasn't bold on my palate, there was a creamy, firm finish to it (and notions of chocolate popped with the dish we were served with!)

Chocolate Bunny.  I'm not normally a person who thinks "but that animal is SO cute!" when I eat food.  However, bunnies are a bit different.  But I try everything - this chocolate bunny dish wouldn't be an exception.  And I'm SO glad that I did.  The chocolate braised rabbit had fantastic flavor like any braised meat should, and the undertones of rosemary completed the taste.  With the cherry salad on top, it didn't add a sweetness, but a smooth, mild finish due to the vinegar that they were soaked in.  The shining star of this dish - roasted parsnip puree.  I love roasted root vegetable purees, and this was a treat as it was buttery and smooth with lingering notes of gorgonzola mixed in.  It's creamy texture was a perfect compliment to the wonderful bunny (think meat Angie) that sat upon it.

The gothic graphic of the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon got hubby's favorite label vote.  To me, it was once again, better than the previous red (each just got better throughout the tasting) but still a standard cabernet sauvignon.  I believe the reason I really enjoyed the smooth finish and taste of the red currant was because of the beef burgundy that we were served.

Hubs loves beef burgundy, so he was very excited to receive a perfectly roasted (as was mine!) slice of New York strip loin for our fourth course.  The deconstructed beef burgundy consisted of a thinly sliced, tender piece of strip loin paired with cedar planked roasted mushrooms and the woody spice of thyme.  When combined with the blackberry-balsamic reduction, it melted in your mouth.  Any balsamic reduction is good in my book, but the combination of the fruit took it to the next level because of the comfort of this dish.  The flavors of carrot really stood out to me, as the mushrooms and strip sat upon a spread of green curry carrot.  I didn't get much curry flavor, and I'm not a huge fan of cooked carrots (I don't know why - I do keep trying them.) which is maybe why I really tasted carrots and not curry.  It was only a smidgen, and the orange color made it beautiful plate - my eyes ate that up.

Final course consisted of a taste of K Vintners 2007 Syrah, Milbrandt Vineyard.  I love syrah's because of the bold spiciness that can stand up to deep flavors.  This was earthy like it should be and helped cleanse the palate after each delicious bite of the chocolate-bacon birthday cake.

Yes.  I said chocolate-bacon birthday cake.  I love chocolate, I love bacon and I love birthdays.  This warm mini cake was smooth and creamy rather than dense and heavy like a flourless cake can sometimes be.  With bacon flecks baked right in, perfect salty undertones made it melt in your mouth delish.  There was a black currant cream on top, which gave it that sweet finish.  A lot of expectations for this dish due to the name - I am happy to say they were not only met, but I was still surprised by an unexpected flavor: cayenne.  Why did I not expect there to be a spice in this as it only makes sense?!  The lingering heat and smoky taste had me wanting more. 

Another successful night?  Absolutely!  I wasn't itching to buy a bottle, but it did get me excited that hubby and I will be in Seattle at the end of the month.  We can't wait to try all of the Washington varietals.

And as for the food,  I left happy.  Can't wait to see what will be done with Sept. 15th varietal series: The Blends.  Want to join me?  Better make your reservation, and let me know that you'll be there - you won't want to miss it!

Tastings of Indianapolis
50 West Washington Street