I was thrilled to learn that Trey Busch, winemaker of Sleight of Hand Cellars in Walla Walla, would be coming to town. The icing on the cake was finding out that Napa Cafe was hosting a dinner pairing his wines with some fabulous courses. Napa's wine dinners are always so well thought out & paired in very interesting ways. Chef Rick's food is truly some of the best in the city. Match that with Sleight if Hand's fantastic wines & this was sure to be an awesome Tuesday night.
As an aperitif we were poured both Renegade Wine Co. Chardonnay 2009 Columbia Valley & Renegade Wine Co. Red Wine 2008 Horse Heaven Hills. The chardonnay was steely & bright with lots of tingly acidity that got my mouth watering & ready to take a bite out of something. The merlot had dark lush plum & blackberry fruit with a nice hint of fennel & dusty tannin. They are both lovely & inexpensive introductions to the Trey Busch style.
First Course: Smoked Trout & Granny Smith Apple Salad
Paired with Sleight of Hand "The Magician" Evergreen Vineyard Gewurztraminer-Riesling, Columbia Valley 2010
This dish was lovely way to begin. The smoky briny flavors of the trout balanced against the crisp tart-sweetness of the apple were perfect together. The dish itself was almost like a pate or terrine that was creamy & spreadable. The wine's acidity cut through the richness like a laser. This blend is floral without being like perfume & has gorgeous notes of jasmine, ginger, honeysuckle, mandarin orange with a bright racy palate. Even though the pairing itself was done so well I could easily see having either the dish by itself of drinking this wine without any food. They were matched well but could stand alone.
Second Course: Littleneck clams with bacon, parsley, olive oil & white wine
Paired with Modern Wine Co. Chardonnay Columbia Valley 2008
I was very interested in tasting wine because I was hoping it would continue my belief that Washington wines have much more age-ability than California. Typically consumers might shy away from a four year old white wine. However, this chardonnay did live up to expectation & showcased that even Washington whites are have longevity without sacrificing anything like texture or flavor. The clams were beautifully tender with a clean savory, ocean sweetness that were amplified by my best friend bacon. The chardonnay took it to the limit of almost overwhelming the clams but then seamlessly intertwined with the flavors the dish. I love clams so I adored this pairing. I try not to make prejudiced statements such as "I hate chardonnay" because I hate people who say that. However, I typically am not going to reach for a chardonnay when I'm selecting white wine. This wine would definitely be one I would go for. It has power & depth but is balanced by vibrant acid without which would change it completely.
Third Course: Venison Loin, rosemary, cherries, sweet potato
Paired with Sleight of Hand "The Spellbinder" Red blend Columbia Valley 2010
It isn't often that one sees venison on a menu which is strange given that the Memphis area is filled with so many avid hunters. Regardless, I was happy to see it & even more excited to taste it paired with this wine. The venison had a very tender texture but still some toothsomeness to keep it from being almost too tender. The rosemary & cherries brought out the mild gamy quality of the meat which matched up so well against the round, gripping dark fruit & fine grained tannins of the Spellbinder. The wine itself doesn't need food to help it along but it was a seriously delicious match with the venison. I hope to see venison more often.
Fourth Course: Chile Rubbed flank steak, Bone Marrow, Parsnips, Red Wine Sauce
Paired with Modern Wine Co Malbec Columbia Valley 2005 & 2007
It's always a special treat to taste side by side vintage comparisons. Malbec is a rising star grape in Washington & it's easy to see why. It has the texture & bold fruit of Argentina but a hint of earth & age-ability of Cahors. Marrow. Marrow. Marrow. I love love LOVE marrow. Whats not to love? It's meat butter! This was easily one of the most beautifully plated dishes I've had in a while. The steak was lovingly draped over a sawed open marrow bone that cradled the perfectly seared meat. It tasted outstanding too. The flank was cooked perfectly medium rare with a nice hit of chile that was soothed by the rich creamy marrow. Both vintages dark fruit & earthy spice notes lifted up the chile & smokiness of the meat. The 2005 had begun to mellow but still had years & years of life in it. The 2007 was almost a baby with bold dark depth that spoke of years to come of unraveling flavors.
Trey is a very cool down to earth guy & his wines are fantastic. It's always so wonderful to meet winemakers whose wines I adore. It's even better when they turn out to be as friendly of a person as Trey.
Napa Cafe rocked this dinner. I can't wait to see the new bar!
All of the above wines are available at Joe's Wines & Liquors, 1681 Poplar, 901.725.4252. Follow Joe's on Twitter @joeswines or find them on Facebook.