I love attending wine dinners for two reasons. First of all, they are very educative and secondly, they are always enjoyable. There is the excitement of trying out wines from different parts of the world and India, and the curiosity to see how well the pairings will work, because each time there is an unconventional combination. The dinner is almost always preceded by a talk by a representative of the Winery, who throws light upon the vineyard, the style of winemaking and characteristics of the wines which they will be serving. Useful little nuggets of information for any wine enthusiast.
One such wine dinner which I attended recently, with my colleague Pawan Soni, was at Prego,Westin Gurgaon, featuring wines from three different regions of the United States, represented by prominent wineries like Stag’s LeapWine Cellars from Napa Valley, Chȃteau Ste Michelle from Washington (this is Washington state’s oldest winery and is located near Seattle) and Erath Winery from Oregon, all of which are owned by one company which is Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. It was an opportunity to interact with their Export Manager David Andrew and also an occasion for the restaurant to showcase the creative cuisine of their immensely talented Italian Chef Emilliano Di Stefano.
The evening began with the Chateau Ste Michelle Eroica Riesling2011 from Columbia Valley, an off dry “any day” wine which is the highest selling Riesling in the world as it is very “food friendly”. It was served with some delectable salmon hors d’oeuvres.
For the sit down dinner there were three wines from the Stag’s LeapWine Cellars, a Chardonnay, a Merlot and a Cabernet Sauvignon. These were from their mid-level range which come under the designation “Napa Valley Collections” and are wines made from estate owned vineyards as well as purchased grapes from other vineyards in the Napa Valley. For those not very familiar with the name, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars is a very well know winery from the Stags Leap district of Napa Valley, California. It achieved international fame when its 1973 vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon was rated the top red wine in a blind taste test by leading French experts at the historic Judgement of Paris in 1976, where it beat the first & second growth vintages from Chȃteau Haut- Brion and Chȃteau Mouton-Rothschild. This victory put California on the wine making map of the world and had a huge impact on the United States Wine Industry. Imagine what would happen if a vintage from Nasik were to win at an international stage such as this. Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars is not to be confused with Stags’ Leap Winery and the way to distinguish between the two is by the placement of the apostrophe before and after the s in the word Stags.
The Stag’s Leap Karia Chardonnay 2011 which was paired with a Goat cheese, pear, walnut, honey salad, lived up to its name which is derived from the Greek word meaning graceful. A well structured, delicately spiced, elegant and refreshing Chardonnay, it was the right choice for the salad.
Next was the Erath Pinot Noir 2012 from Oregon with strawberry, raspberry and cranberry flavours so typical of a Pinot. A little light on the palate which left you wanting more, but when paired with the Bacon Wrapped Scallops and Asparagus in a saffron sauce; it got the punch which it lacked on its own.
The next pairing had us all a bit confused. Stag’s Leap ArtemisCabernet Sauvignon 2011 and Mushroom and Shrimp Open Ravioli did not really work well. Though the wine was medium bodied, it had depth on the palate with huge flavours of cherry, coffee and chocolate. It could have worked with another pasta dish with mushrooms, but not this one.
It was the Stag’s Leap Merlot 2009 which was voted as every one’s favourite. Described by Winemaker Christophe Paubert as a “serious Merlot” it was a delicious fruit driven wine with great balance and acidity and subtle notes of spices like pepper and cinnamon. It was paired with Braised leg of lamb with curry potato and vanilla sauce which was cooked perfectly and showed the talent of the young Italian chef.
The meal ended with a Hazelnut Tiramisu served with Grappa and Espresso. I was shown how to drink coffee the Italian way by Tarsillo Nataloni, by adding the mascarpone and grappa to the espresso. Try it next time; you will be surprised with the result.
– Lavina Kharkwal