Monday, May 30, 2011

AMIK & Cooper Mountain

Simplicity, creativity, modernity & tradition are how I would describe Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen. While modernity & tradition may not seem to easily live side by side these chefs make it seem effortless. However, thats not to say that a lot of work goes into that beautiful plate set in front of me.

We started this most recent meal off with a glass of Cooper Mountain Pinot Gris 2008 Reserve Willamette Valley $16.99. This is a perfect example of what pinot gris can achieve in Oregon. Aromas of almond, pear, fruit blossom & minerals lead to medium bodied yet crisp refreshing palate.

Our first course was a bowl of spaghetti carbonara with fried sweetbreads. This warm hug of a dish was elevated with unctuous sweetbreads. The round texture yet bright nature of the Cooper Mountain Chardonnay 2009 Reserve Willamette Valley $18.99 matched up so delicously. This style of chardonnay is very old world with an emphasis on expressing location rather than oak or malo.

Second course was seared halibut with roasted pistachio puree & spring vegetables paired with Cooper Hill Pinot Noir 2009 Willamette Valley $18.99. The halibut was seared crisp but super tender & moist in the center. The pistachio puree brought out an earthiness in the pinot & they both just sang together in a delightfully savory way. The wines acidity cut through the richness of the puree & a supple fish.

Course three was Donnell Farms Hangar Steak over mustard green shoots paired with Cooper Mountain Pinot Noir Mountain Terroir 2008 Willamette Valley $35.99. I love love love hangar steak because of it's toothsomeness. It takes talent to coax this cut of meat into a tender beauty & A&M know how to do it. Pairing it with a spicy/bitter green shoot was a stroke of genius. The supple, luscious, earthy, elegant & sensual pinot noir was absolutely delightful. What Cooper Mountain is able to do with pinot noir is nothing short of beauty. When you match hauntingly sensual wine with exquisitely prepared food it's easy to have a lovely evening.

Friday, May 13, 2011

French Style California Wine with a French Style Memphis Menu

As I said in the previous post, I don't really drink much California wine anymore. Not because of poor quality at all but just because my passion lies elsewhere. However, Zaca Mesa is one of the few that get me going. It's so blatantly obvious that ZM looks to France for both inspiration & style. Their wines are beautifully balanced. Chef Ben at Napa Cafe looked to France as well when planning the menu to pair alongside the ZM wines.

The seared walu on the first course was perfectly prepared, super moist & worked so well with the rose & the melon. The sweetness of the melon & the tender fish brought out the fruit & texture of this super yummy pink wine.

Course two was a lovely surprise. I rarely eat chicken because of the multitude of poor preparations & because it seems so boring most times. This was not the case with this chicken. The skin was super crispy, like chicken "bacon", the meat was moist & very flavorful. The sauteed greens were earthy & had a sweet-savory element that was lovely. The viognier just sung alongside this dish. It had great weight but wasn't overly heavy, nice creamy texture but a bright acidity as well.

Two of my favorite things in the world are braised meat & bacon. Put them together & get the idea. Braised shortribs with bacon aioli?? Seriously? I want more of this right now, it was rich & succulent & a great partner with the Z Cuvee. The savory -salty-creamy-sweetness of the aioli & the rich meat brought out the texture & spice in the wine. Awesome.

The finale had the other two of my favorite things: syrah & lamb. Now Wellington doesn't necessarily evoke thoughts of France but the technique & presentation did. The meaty-earthiness of the syrah mirrored the earthy flavors & textures of the lamb & the mushroom & the fennel. Absolutely knockout.

I'm constantly surprised by Napa Cafe's food. It's definitely one of the top tables in town.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Zaca Mesa Dinner at Napa Cafe

There are still seats left for the awesome dinner this Wednesday night (May 11) at Napa Cafe. For the full menu please click here.

It's no secret that I rarely speak about California wines. My passion just lies elsewhere. But make no mistake, when they are good they are really good. Zaca Mesa is an example of a winery that puts a lot of attention on balance. These are gorgeous wines that showcase sustainably farmed vineyards. Rhone style wines that are simply delicious. When matched with the exquisite cuisine of Napa Cafe its sure to be a night to remember. Only $55/person gets a stunningly delicious menu & beautiful wine pairings. Call now for reservations 901.683.0441. Seriously! Call now!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Alise Merritt with Zaca Mesa Winery

I had the pleasure of recently interviewing Alise Merritt with Zaca Mesa Winery. She will be the guest of Napa Cafe at their wine dinner with Zaca Mesa on Wednesday May 11. For more information about this outstanding opportunity to taste some wonderful wines alongside expertly prepared food click here.

When people ask you "What's a roussanne or viognier?" how do you respond to them?

"I generally say they are an “alternative white” and do my best to pour a splash in a glass for them to taste! Viognier is becoming more widely known. Roussanne is a beautiful wine that so many of us in the trade enjoy sharing this jewel with our friends and favorite wine customers – which usually have not ever heard of Roussanne. I’ll test the waters to see how much interest is shown and allow that to dictate how detailed I get in my explanation. Some just want to taste and enjoy while others may want to know where the name Roussanne originated. Which, btw, when the Roussanne grapes ripen they turn to a russet color (reddish brown) and “roux” is French for russet!"

Syrah, unfortunately, seems to be one of those grape varieties that ebbs & flows with trends. Zaca Mesa thankfully seems to ignore what trends say & just continues producing beautiful syrah. What do you see out in the market in response to your syrahs?

"It’s no surprise that when I meet with someone within the trade that loves Syrah and is enthusiastic, they are able share their passion and create a huge following. On the other hand, if I meet with someone that says they love Syrah but are unable to move it (restaurant, retail shop, wine club, etc.) or they might say their particular market “isn’t a Syrah market,” they are usually right. Regretfully Syrah may be the last one invited to the party but is often times the belle of the ball!"

Rhone & Rhone style wines are some of my favorite. Have you seen the thirst for these types of wine increase, remain steady or decrease over the course of your time with Zaca Mesa?

"People within our profession (Restaurant Owner, Sommelier, Retail Consultant, Food and Beverage professional, etc.) love Rhone style wines and in particular Syrah. We are quite passionate and are always trying to convert and enlighten those that will listen and take the time to taste these beautiful wines! Since blends have been one of the popular trends, I’ve seen an openness, willingness and thirst for our wines."

Zaca Mesa has been blessed with some very good critical acclaim & scores. Is that a double edged sword?

"Scores, accolades and acclaim are a great deal like life and we roll with it. We’ve discovered that in general Wine Spectator leans toward our Syrah, Wine Enthusiast our Whites and Robert Parker (no surprise) our blends and it shows in the scores. So there’s usually some kind of solid acclaim out there for our wine. We hope that people will use these as a guideline and allow their taste buds to be the judge as to whether or not they enjoy our wine!"

What's your latest favorite pairing with which Zaca Mesa wines?

"Wasabi covered almonds and our Viognier!"

Join Alise Merritt of Zaca Mesa Winery at Napa Cafe on Wednesday May 11 at 6:30 p.m. for a fun night of great wine & delicious food. Cost to attend is $55 per person plus tax & gratuity. For reservations please call 901.683.0441.