There are few things in life that I enjoy as much as a well prepared meal, perfectly paired with award winning wines. My children’s laughter or a smile and kiss from my husband are certainly contenders…but that’s for a different blog.
I had the pleasure of attending (yet another) Livermore valley winemaker dinner this past Friday evening. Set among the olive orchards at the Purple Orchid Resort, I can’t think of a more picturesque location for such an event. It was an intimate gathering of about 50 guests, all looking to learn more about Concannon wines, and how they pair with each of the 5 courses served.
The beautiful table, in the Purple Orchid’s olive orchard
Appetizers – Pacific Scallop with Toasted Shallot-Pickled Ginger Jam on house made potato chips, Organic Heirloom Caprese Skewers with “Foot Prints” Olive Oil Finish, and Wild Mushroom Puff Pastry with Sherry and Fresh Herbs – with 2011 Reserve Viognier or 2010 Reserve Stampmaker’s Red
My personal favorite appetizer was the scallop. The shallot and pickled ginger jam had such vibrant flavors that brought out the melon and citrus notes in the 2011 Reserve Viognier.
First Course – Roasted Corn Chowder with Sweet Dungeness Crab – with 2011 Reserve Chardonnay
Paired with the 2011 Reserve Chardonnay
This rich chowder had great flavor and texture, with chunks of crab and crunch from whole corn kernels that kept me going back for more. The 2011 Reserve Chardonnay had crisp apple and citrus notes that balanced the richness from the chowder nicely.
2nd Course – Spring Salad with Fresh Organic Strawberries and Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette – with 2011 Reserve Assemblage Blanc
Paired with the 2011 Reserve Assemblage Blanc
This course took me a bit by surprise, as it offered one of my favorite pairings of the night. The combination of the sweet strawberries, meyer lemon dressing, and the fruit forward blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon was truly delicious. While I’m a big salad lover, these courses are usually not my favorites at winemaker gatherings, so kudos to the chef and winemaker for this one!
Third Course – Salmon Roulade with Fresh Herbs and Calamat Relish, Spring Peas and Brentwood Corn Succotash – with 2010 Reserve Pinot Noir
Paired with the 2010 Reserve Pinot Noir
Isn’t this plate beautiful! The salmon was a roulade, with bright herbs and calamata olives adding just enough fresh flavors to balance nicely with the reserve Pinot Noir. While there weren’t any Spring Peas, as mentioned on the menu, the crunch from the bell pepper added a nice spice element that accentuated the raspberry and earthy notes in the wine.
Fourth Course – Cumin-Coriander Crusted California Rack of Lamb, Manchego Polenta, Balsamic-Red Pepper Gastrique – with 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Paired with 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
As Concannon Vineyards can claim that approximately 80% of California Cabernets can be traced to one of the Concannon clones, I had high expectations from this wine. It was released a mere week before the dinner at Purple Orchid, but certainly did not disappoint. The lamb was perfectly cooked, and was accented by the gastrique, which was actually made from more berry (perhaps boysenberry…) than the claimed red bell pepper. This fruit helped heighten the red cherry, plum, and cocoa notes in the wine, so I was pleased with the chef’s decision to deviate from the menu.
Fifth Course – Homemade Tiramisu – with 2010 Petite Sirah Port
Paired with 2010 Petite Sirah Port
When my husband and I first started drinking ports, we were certainly not drinking Concannon’s Petit Sirah, but we should have been. Overall, I am not one to sit around a fireplace and enjoy a glass of port – more likely a big Petit Sirah or Cab, but this port may change my mind.
The deconstructed tiramisu, comprised of a rich zabaglione cream, lady fingers dipped in coffee syrup, dusted with cocoa powder was delicious on it’s own – but with the Petit Sirah port, was truly fabulous. To be fair, I had consumed a fair amount of wine by this point, but let’s assume that my taste buds were still functioning the way they are meant to.
As I have discovered over the years, one of the best parts of a great winemaker dinner are the conversations one enjoys during and after the meal. The Concannon Vineyard dinner was absolutely no exception. I am lucky to count many attendees as friends now, and I look forward to seeing them, and you, at a future Livermore winemaker dinner.
Thank you Liz Sullivan for sharing such an amazing night with me!