Monday, March 07, 2011

Willamette Valley Vineyards at Restaurant Iris

I've said it before & I'll continue to say it. I'm obsessed with Oregon. It's food, its landscape, its people but mostly its wine. Willamette Valley Vineyards is one of the larger wineries in Oregon & they produce delicious bottles that really reflect the Oregon style & especially its soil & climate. Winemaker Don Crank just so happens to be a Memphis boy too! Restaurant Iris hosted Don for a dinner paired with wines from Willamette Valley Vineyards.

First Course:
Tennessee Foie Gras paired with Champagne "caviar" & pickled cauliflower paired with Riesling

This is a riesling that will win over naysayers. It has a nervy acidity with mouthwatering fruit & a nice mineral hit. This wine is seriously quaffable & cut right through the rich, earthy, unctuous & delicious foie gras. I'm more than thrilled that we can get fresh foie gras so close to home.

Second Course:
escargot & housemade gnocchi paired with Pinot Gris

Shockingly, I have never had escargot before. Not because I avoided it but just because any opportunity I might have had to order it I've always opted for something I found more intriguing. Kelly English's gnocchi is one of the best dishes I've ever experienced. His gnocchi is pillowy, light, creamy, & so very comforting. They are a beautiful contrast to the toothsome yet tender snails. These little guys were earthy & briny which the garlic laced buerre blanc elevated & amplified nicely. The pinot gris' acidity contrasted quite well with the sauce & briny snails. The dish really brought out a hazelnut-like nuttiness in the wine.

Third Course:
Newman Farms pork with grits in a chardonnay ragu paired with Chardonnay

Newman Farms pork is some of the best out there & in the hands of such a talented chef the true natural flavor just sings. The roasted pork easily gave way to my fork due to its tenderness. The sauce was rich but not heavy & the creamy grits were near perfect. Most chardonnays would overpower a dish like this but thats the beauty of this bottle. It is more Meursault in style with a round texture but elegance & acidity as well. I'm not a chardonnay basher but I just don't drink them. This bottle I would drink!

Fourth Course:
Dueling Brulee-Strawberry Buttermilk Creme Brulee & Chocolate Creme Brulee with a pecan cookie paired with Whole Cluster Pinot Noir

This wine was beautifully translucent with a nice ruby color. The aroma was intoxicating with earthiness, a hint of mushroom, cherry & tea. The fruit & acidity in the wine was a nice match with the strawberry buttermilk. It didn't pair up with the chocolate as well, they seemed to clash. However, it's quite difficult to pair "dry" wines with dessert. I know most people will say cab & chocolate always works. Yeah it works if its new world cab (i.e. Cali or Aussie) because you are putting sweet with sweet. But an elegant pinot with dark chocolate didn't sing. No matter. This dinner was out of control delicious!

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