Apertif - 2008 Elk Cove Pinot Gris
We had the discussion of 'gris vs. grigio' (which is much like the discussion of 'syrah vs. shiraz' from a previous tasting) as we sipped the crisp pinot gris. The region determines the grapes, and this gris was smooth and delicious. Slightly lemony, it was a great way to relax and get in the atmosphere of the establishment. I really enjoyed sipping on this and watching them prep the first course rather than get straight into the meal. I love apertif's - there is something really great about the relaxation of a simple and clean glass of wine and this was perfect for the evening.
First Course - The Four Graces Pinot Blanc & Mediterranean Pasta Salad
A full balanced wine, The Four Graces produced a great product. Crisp with citrus and honey tastes, it was really was a clean flavor on the palate. Strong yet subtle, it had the flavoring of a classic pinot blanc. And the label - what great marketing (you have to visit their website, the simplicity of it makes me love.) It had a great citrus flavor, which made me very anxious to pair it with the Mediterranean Pasta dish we were served as I was expecting the same attributes of a clean taste.
This dish was a mix of flavors built around a serving of acini de pepe (which is a small Italian pasta - great for soups, etc.) A citrus pinot blanc vinagrette (I'm not sure if the Four Graces was used) dressed the pasta with chopped kalamata olives. A spoonful of toasted cashews gave a great crunch, and a few dollops of creamy goat cheese gave it a lasting taste. I was overwhelmed by the saltiness of the olives - it was really all I could taste - but the toasted cashews brought out the goat cheese to help mellow it (though hubs didn't really like the texture of the cashews, I thought it was well needed.)
Second Course - 2008 Penner-Ash Pinot Noir & Duck Confit with Roasted Grapes
A deep red glass of pinot noir really can hit the spot, and this serving from Penner-Ash was a good transition to the reds for the evening. The taste of black cherries was also pungent in smell, and the vanilla played well on the palate. I really enjoy a well rounded red when it can play strongly to many senses, so the combination of both smell and taste were great with what I knew would also be a savory dish.
Indiana based Maple Leaf Farms duck was sliced and presented in this dish. The duck was savory and thick in taste, soaking up the liquid from thewine poached figs. I loved the crunch of a fig with the meaty texture of the duck as the two different textures melted into one (great job to Abdula who presented us with this dish.) Another great element was the hazelnuts, which gave it another crunch but with an earthy, toasted taste. And another subtle crunch factor, sherry roasted red grapes. "Crunch" isn't always associated with grapes, but it is so subtle when the skin breaks and brings the juices to the palate, and with the sherry, was great flavor. On top - frisee and blue cheese salad - I would have loved to have a bit more of this to help compliment the dish, but I know that is just me and my love of cheese.
Third Course - 2003 Tyrus Evans 'Del Rio Vineyard' Syrah & Cassoulet Au Porc
Hands down, this is one of the best syrah's I've ever had. Hubby and I even bought a bottle and are looking forward to popping the cork open on it. It had a great spice to it, was bold in all dimensions, and had me returning for taste after taste. A limited stock is available - and I know why - it is delicious. And it couldn't have been paired any better with the cassoulet - best pairing of the night.
Many people can rave about how great Steven is with comfort food - there is no denying that he is phenomenal at it. So when a Cassoulet was presented, I knew this slow cooked, bean stew was going to be delicious. Cannellini and kidney beans were slowly braised with lots of great elements, including sausages (three varieties which included chorizo giving it a subtle spice,) fennel which lent the perfect sweet peppery taste, bacon because bacon makes everything better, and other stew comfort food staples (carrots, onions and celery.) This dish was creamy, rich and delicious - I'll admit that I wanted to lick the bowl (I'm not ashamed, it was fantastic.) Another great thing is that it was topped with speck and brown butter breadcrumbs. I'm drooling just thinking of it - favorite dish of the night hands down.
Dessert Course - 2008 The Pines 1852 'Old Vine' Zinfandel & Chocolate Covered Cherry Buckle
A deep red colored zinfandel, I loved the smell of chocolate from the glass. This mixed with the rich cherry flavors, it was a great glass of wine. Bold in flavor, I really enjoyed the opportunity to try a varietal from the "old vine" as it is one of the oldest in the Northwest area. A full bodied finish was great on the palate when combined with the richness of the buckle.
Buckle is essentially a cake with fruit - a fruit layer is baked with a cake layer and it "buckles" as it cooks leaving the person eating it with quite a treat. This treat that we indulged in was a dark chocolate cake, rich in flavor that was paired with sweet black cherries. If you enjoy chocolate covered cherries, you would enjoy this dish! Another great thing about a buckle, there is usually a great topping, and in this case, chocolate chip streusel was waiting to be dug into. And it wouldn't be complete without the warm blackberry zinfandel jam and fresh whipped cream. It was served warm and melted in your mouth - a perfect ending to a great meal.
One of the really great things about Tastings is trying new things, all while not committing to a full plate of food you may not enjoy or a glass of wine you don't like. I found two wines that were really great tonight (the Syrah and the 'Old Vine') that I probably wouldn't have tried, so it was a great opportunity to do so at a great price. I'm excited to see what this week has to offer in the "new" category of both wine and food, as well as to see the great staff who makes this all possible!
When you participate in tastings, what is your favorite thing about it?