Saturday, June 21, 2008
This weekend is the Sta. Rita Hills Wine Fest and along with the activities several wineries host dinners in the evening.
This is the third year that I have been fortunate to get on the list for the private dinner at Clos Pepe Estate.
The wines poured at this dinner are from pinot grapes sourced from the Clos Pepe vineyards but 3 different winemakers. We had Wes Hagen from Clos Pepe Estate, Brian Loring from Loring Wine Co. and Andrew Vinegello from A.P. Vin Wines.
The evening started in the courtyard of the house with "pizzas from the wood fired oven" which is outdoors in the corner of the courtyard. Every house needs one of these. Unfortunately most houses do not have the room for something this size.
Servers were passing "Smoked Salmon, Mascarpone and American Caviar pizza, Homemade Sika Venison Italian Sausage and Buffalo Mozzarella pizza and Grilled Bison Loin with Manchego and Basil pizza. These were all served with 2007 barrel samples of the three wineries. I will say I was impressed with it all. I did watch my consumption of pizza because we still had dinner to navigate through. But I could have stayed where I was and noshed on pizzas all night. They were excellent.
We were asked to go into the house to be seated. There were 7 tables of various sizes so I headed for the larger one. It is easier to seat a single person at a large table than one that is set for 6 or 8. I am aware of this and do not like to break up couples or people who want to sit together. I was standing behind a chair at the large table when Cathy Pepe came up and asked if I would mind sitting at another table that had a single seat as she needed two seats together for someone. No problem with that for me so I headed to where she wanted me to sit and it was Brian Loring's table. So I had dinner with the "boys". Five men and me. We did have a great time after they figured out they did not have to watch their "P's & Q's" with me.
First course was "Carpaccio of Kona Kampachi (fish) with Avocado, Clos Pepe Olive Oil and Maldron Sea Salt. Served with 2007 Clos Pepe Estate Rose. This is the first year for this wine. Wes's intern winemaker decided to make this wine with grapes that were left hanging after harvest. He got to them before the birds did and made this interesting Rose. Only 70 cases made and it sold out very quickly. I was allowed to buy 6 bottles and I will really enjoy them this summer. It was slightly dry with just a hint of sweetness and a little bit of effervescence. The fish of course was raw, sliced extremely thin (carpaccio) and had a wonderful flavor. The oil and salt was a very nice compliment to the fish.
Second course was "Grilled Maitake Mushoooms with Sesame Aioli, Steamed Spinach and Bonito". This dish was paired with A.P. Vin 2006 Clos Pepe Vineyards Pinot Noir. Another real interesting dish. Great flavor. The spinach was rolled with the bonito inside. I have not had Maitake mushrooms before. They looked like a flower and tasted similar to Portabello mushrooms. Bold flavor. Again another excellent pairing. A.P. Vin wines are more towards the burgundian style and very food friendly.
Third course was "Pan Roasted South Texas Antelope with Cranberry Beans, Heirloom Beets and Smokey Bacon-Star Anise Jus". I have eaten antelope before but since this is farmed raised it was not quite as gamy. I find it similar to lamb and and young goat. There was nothing left on my plate. The wine served with this course was the Loring Wine Company 2006 Clos Pepe Vineyard Pinot Noir. Brian's wines are bolder that Wes's and Andrew's but the boldness paired well with this particular dish
Individual cheese plates came to the table. "Rinconada Dairies Poza Tomme with Sweet Butter and Baugette. The wine paired with this dish was the Clos Pepe Estate 2005 Pinot Noir. 2005 was one of my favorite vintages but after tasting the 2007 barrel samples I may change my mind.
I have tasted Clos Pepe Pinot Noir from 2000 to 2006.
A dessert tray was set down - "Family Style Dessert", very small shortbread cookies, chocolate truffles (handmade) and local fresh strawberries. This was a prefect ending to a very rich dinner. Wes Hagen's roasted coffee was served,
Again to me another fantastic dinner is a gorgeous setting. The temperature had dropped from the heat of the day and it was a beautiful evening. Great dinning companions, fabulous food , great wines and me. What more could I ask for. I'm already looking forward to next years bash.