A Meal Fit For A King PLUS An Evening To Remember
lifetime I am humbled to say I have experienced many meals that I will truly never forget. Contrary to what you may anticipate, all of these meals were by no means lavish. Of course meals that I have experienced that were lavish are easy to remember like the last meal I had at the long closed La Chaudiere Restaurant formerly located in Winston Salem (I had Veal in Grapefruit Butter, yummy) or the meals my wife and I have enjoyed at culinary destinations like Chez Francois in Great Falls Virginia or right here in our own local area at Second Empire Restaurant & Tavern under the culinary genius of CIA trained Daniel Schurr.
In contrast, I still remember bringing my wife a burger from Char Grill the night before our daughter Stefani was born or the steak dinner the hospital served us to celebrate the occasion afterward. I still remember the meal I had the morning of my wedding with my groomsmen and the infamous "buttering of the bread" at breakfast as Dad and I discussed the condition I had arrived in for our rehearsal dinner (the night AFTER my bachelor's party).
Now I must add yet another sumptuous dinner to the list of meals that I will truly never forget and here are the details to not only see if you agree but share with you the details of a meal "fit for a king".
Exactly two weeks ago today this incredible meal was hosted and orchestrated by my good friends Dave and Kathy Nershi. Dave is the renowned publisher of Vino-Sphere, voted in 2020 one of the Top 100 Wine Blogs. He is also a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) as well as APWASI Certified Wine Specialist: Argentina, South Africa. In addition he is a board member for International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association. His content is available on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and on the web at http://www.vino-sphere.com/.
His wife Kathy may not be as famous nor have her husband's accolades but I can tell you from personal experience that she knows her way around a kitchen! Together this duo has wine and good food well in hand so whenever they have a gathering I consider myself fortunate to be on the guest list. Our dinner exactly two weeks ago today actually started several months ago when Dave attended a webinar where the wines of Livermore Valley California were featured. The Livermore Valley AVA is about an hour east of San Francisco and home to a number of outstanding vineyards and wineries.
Thanks to the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association Dave received multiple bottles of wine from various vineyards and wineries in that area and hence the idea of a tasting was born. The tasting was taken to a whole new level when the idea morphed into pairing the wines with small plates supplied by the guests and from there the idea grew wings. So with Dave in charge of the wine and Kathy in charge of the food all that was needed was to assign each guest a particular wine and have them pair a small plate with the dish.
By the way, with all this planning and execution we all forgot that there was one thing we could not control - the weather. As a result, wintry precipitation forced us to reschedule our original date for the gathering on Friday and thanks to the flexibility and schedules of the participants we were able to meet two days later on Sunday evening.
Our meal began with an incredibly delicious and tantalizing charcuterie display created by Kathy. We all enjoyed a dazzling array of olives, nuts, cheeses, meats and even caviar. All the while we sampled the first wine of the evening which was Longevity Family Winery 2020 Rosé of Deb-Ru-Veé . This limited production rosé was our first wine of the evening and paired extremely well with the charcuterie. The wine is ruby pink and has fresh strawberry, apple and citrus notes. Crafted from 69% Grenache, 17% Syrah, and 14% Mourvèdre it is the product of Longevity, a black-owned winery founded by Phil and Debra Long. The wine is a salute to Debra, who passed away in 2019 from cancer. The wine was dry, rich and fruity with hints of strawberry, raspberry and stone fruit - an excellent way to start the evening,
In my opinion, nothing heralds a unique event like sabrage (the art of opening a bottle of sparkling wine with a sword like tool ) and nobody does it better than Dave. After seeing him do it for the first time, he inspired me to purchase my own saber and for my blind Vermentino tasting last spring Dave sabered not one but two bottles of sparkling. So you can imagine how excited I was when he took my suggestion and sabered a bottle for this momentous meal. The bottle he sabered was Page Mill Winery 2014 Blanc de Blanc and it was delicious. This is a labor-intensive wine and it gets three years of aging after the wine gets its second fermentation in the bottle. For six months the bottles are turned by hand two to three times a day as part of the process. With a yeasty brioche like flavor it paired well with the shrimp and caviar on the charcuterie and added an air of festivity to the meal.
For the next course, we enjoyed Las Positas Vineyards 2020 Estate Albariño with Baltimore’s Best Crab Cakes served with Butternut Squash/Pear Soup Shooters with Pepitas. First lets talk about the wine. I have long been a fan of this unique varietal since first tasting it at Sanctuary Vineyards on the coast of NC in Jarvisburg. Surry Cellars also crafts an excellent wine from Albarino which is a varietal very popular in Spain. This wine is aged in stainless steel with 20% being fermented in neutral barrels. This medium bodied wine was highlighted by hints of apple, melon and apricot and paired well with the accompanying dish.
I have always been a sucker for good crab cakes especially those that are mostly lump crab meat with just enough binder to hold them together. With a small squeeze of lemon they were delicious and I could have eaten many more. They were paired with a delightful Butternut Squash/Pear Soup Shooter with Pepitas. Topped with a little crème fraiche the soup was savory, delicious and full of flavor. At this point my taste buds and palate are keenly aware we are about to experience something special.
Next in line may very well have been my favorite because as the host Dave will tell you I said more than once that I love beurre blanc. The Garré Vineyard 2019 Chardonnay Reserve was paired with Salmon Marseille with Beurre Blanc and Julienne Vegetables. If you have never samples this simple, yet lavish butter sauce you owe yourself this simple indulgence. Whether with seafood (especially scallops and grilled fish) or vegetables this sauce elevates whatever it touches. The poached salmon was cooked to perfection and the capers added a salty briny pop to the dish. The julienne vegetables were visually appealing and had just the right el dente texture. It had all the looks and taste of a high end restaurant dish.
The Garré Vineyard 2019 Chardonnay Reserve is from Garré with just 100 cases produced. It is barrel fermented and sur lie aged in American Oak for six months. It also gets partial malolactic fermentation. The nose is hints of green apple and lemon, It features light oak with a medium body and notes of apricot and tropical fruit.
Next in line was Murrieta’s Well 2019 The Spur with Beef Short Ribs Served Over Creamy Polenta. I was extremely impressed by the drinkability of The Spur which is made from 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petite Sirah, 9% Merlot, 7% Malbec and 5% Petit Verdot. This is a rich tasting wine with black cherry notes, rounded tannins, and hints of oak and cinnamon. This wine was easy to enjoy with notes of black cherry, cranberry and subtle oak with notes of clove. On the palate there are tannins, and a rich, long lasting finish with great mouthfeel. The wine paired well with the Beef Short Ribs Served Over Creamy Polenta. This hearty dish stood up well to the wine and the creaminess of the polenta offered a complimentary texture and flavor.
Our next course featured Wood Vineyards 2018 “Big Wood” Zinfandel with Forest Mushroom Risotto with Broccoli Rabe. The Wood Vineyards 2018 “Big Wood” Zinfandel is a big wine boasting flavors of raspberry and blackberry. This jammy wine with notes of vanilla and cinnamon paired well with the Forest Mushroom Risotto with Broccoli Rabe. The earthy flavor of the mushrooms and the creaminess of the risotto paired well with the wine which boasted an ABV of 16.8 %. I have always had a soft spot in my heart for risotto ever since my good friend Michael Harrell made it for me at dinner during the Pinehurst Member Guest Golf tournament many years ago. Broccoli Rabe, also known as rapini, is actually more closely related to the turnip family than actual broccoli and has a unique bitterness I love if the vegetable is cooked correctly.
Finally it was my turn and when I found out I was "batting clean up" I can assure you I felt the pressure. But when I found out my dish was being paired with a 100 point wine I knew I had to step up my game in a big way. The wine for my course was the 2017 Lineage made from 75% Cabernet Sauvignon with 20% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. For this coveted wine a total of 3,984 bottles were produced. With notes of black cherry, light oak, and strong tannins this wine was indeed impressive. Steve Heimoff, formerly a writer for wine enthusiast, stated that of the 2017 Lineage stated that of the thousands of Cabernet blends he’d tasted over the course of his career, “None have been better.” High praise indeed for a very worthy wine.
With this big bold wine I choose to pair it with the flavors of beef and lamb and I mimicked a dish I had seen at a dinner sponsored by Vino Wine Shop in Pittsboro and Chef Regan Stachler. With inspiration from Chef Regan I presented Bacon-Wrapped Beef & Lamb Meatloaf with Blackberry Ketchup Glaze, Grilled Root Vegetables, Red Bliss Potatoes and Sauce Chasseur. Wrapping the meats in bacon allowed them to soak up flavor and remain moist during the cooking process and the acidity of the blackberry ketchup was a welcome addition to those seeking to liven the dish. The sauce chasseur (also known as a hunter sauce) provided a savory component from the addition of mushrooms and tomatoes. The carved red bliss potato was roasted and paired well with the grilled squash and zucchini. A final garnish of fried onions added a bit of crunch and texture. Overall I was pleased with the dish and relieved it was favorably received by the guests in attendance.
When you consider the impressive array of wines that we sampled and their quality just from a wine tasting standpoint it was a stellar event. To pair these outstanding wines with expertly executed culinary dishes whose flavors and presentation rivaled that of many upscale restaurants elevated this gathering to memorable. Finally when you consider most of us had never met before and how Kathy orchestrated the flow of the dishes and courses I felt very fortunate to be part of this memorable meal and evening I will never forget.