Going into my first winemaker dinner, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Wine and scrumptious food were sure to make an appearance, I knew that much. However, what I experienced was a transportive evening filled with whimsical conversation, unique taste sensations and an increased appreciation for what someone can make with a grape.
“TGIF,” I thought as another Friday evening presented itself. Even the mucky weather and my oh-so-attractive rain boots weren’t going to keep me from visiting New York Vintners to see and hear winemaker Wells Guthrie talk about his Copain wines and taste Chef Ryan’s food creations I’d seen tantalizing me on Facebook. The night began when I was handed a glass of the 2008 Viognier Tous Ensemble. Sipping the wine and snacking on some amazing smoked Italian olives, I was a happy camper. Because all of the displays in the interior of the store are on movable track, everything was slid forward and an awesome event space materialized in the back of the venue. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what they were, but the magnificent smells emanating from the open kitchen were making my mouth water. Mingling with the guests, I met a wide diversity of people – some from the finance world, some frequent customers who lived around the corner and some wine newbies eager to learn and have a great time.
Jesse Warner-Levine, the Director of Sales, introduced the evening saying, “this is New York Vintners and this is kind of what we love to do.” I thought that was a great way to start off the dinner because it made me feel like the people behind the event were passionate and genuinely excited about giving me a great experience. Describing the space, he said it “allows us to present wine in its proper manner, which is with food.” And with that, a beautiful plate of food made its way to my place setting.
The first course was Sashimi Napoleon comprised of tuna, scallop and rockfish with baby mache ver jus, pickled watermelon radish and broken soy vinaigrette. The combination of the three seafoods was magical, and when combined with the texture of the salad made for a wonderful dish. While fish is traditionally paired with white wines, tonight I was surprised to find this course paired with two reds – 2007 Tous Ensemble Pinot Noir and 2009 Tous Ensemble Syrah. Wells Guthrie stood to speak at one point and he commented on this unusual but excellent circumstance. “It’s a hard thing usually to have pinot noir and fish, but [Chef Ryan] made this dish savory enough that it works really well,” he said. I agreed.
Everyone at my table felt like old friends at this point – discussing the wines, raving about the food and sharing stories about a recent wedding and honeymoon trip to Burgundy. The second course arrived and I think we all let out a collective “ooooooooooooooooh.” We all had Brandt Farms Flat Iron Steak with mini goat cheese ravioli and chanterelle sauce. Chef Ryan made sure to let us all know that Brandt Farms treats their animals fairly and prides themselves on humane practices, so that made me happy. I don’t usually eat meat cooked rare, but this was delicious. I cleaned my plate! The raviolis were a crowd favorite and the mushrooms in them disappeared within seconds, they were that good. The wines paired with this course were a 2009 Les Voisins Pinot Noir and a 2009 Les Voisins Syrah.
Wells got up again to speak more about these second two wines. He described how he sourced grapes from vineyards of different bedrock compositions. In the Anderson Valley, the ground is mostly made of sandstone. For the Les Voisins wines, with voisins meaning village, he took advantage of grapes grown on schist or decomposed granite to create a richer wine that allows it to easily cut through the fat of the meat and pair nicely. I felt like I learned a nice piece of trivia with that one.
The last course brought to us was an Artisanal Cheese Plate, and among the six people at my table, I think we all had different favorites. Honestly, I don’t know that I could pick a favorite because each of the three cheeses was so different, yet delicious. Paired with a 2007 Monument Tree Pinot Noir and a 2007 Eaglepoint Ranch Syrah, this course made for the bow on the present for this meal.
Wells wrapped the night up nicely saying, “Food and wine have this great synergy. Sometimes you just don’t even know it’s happening, but you’re eating and drinking and it’s great.” Well, let me tell you. I was eating and I was drinking. And it was great.
New York Vintners Correspondent