“Winemaker dinner” is probably one of my favorite phrases. Why you ask? Well, it combines what we’ve long since established are two of my favorite things: food & wine. If you’ve been following along with me on this blog, you’ll see that I’ve attended several winemaker dinners over the past year and a half and always have raving reviews afterwards. That probably has a lot to do with how picky I am when attending them, the perfect wine and the perfect restaurant make quite the excellent pair. You really can’t go wrong when you attend one for wines you enjoy at a restaurant that is notorious for delicious dishes! That principle is what brought me to the William Church Winery (@wmchurchwinery) dinner at Russell’s Dining & Bar (@RussellLowell / @RussellsDining). I have long enjoyed the wines of William Chuch, the owners of which happen to be WSU Alum (Go Cougs!). While I had tasted through their line-up on numerous occasions, I had yet to try their selections with food pairings, something I was very excited for. This dinner featured a five-course menu paired with five of the William Church wines. The evening was held in the beautiful upstairs loft area at Russell’s, which I had only ever previously seen empty! It was a beautiful room with the dinner tables all set out and was the perfect setting for our meal.
We started our meal with a dish that is always a favorite of mine, Butternut Squash Soup with Duck Confit and Fried Shallots. This was paired beautifully with the 2010 Viognier. Owner Rod Balsley described this wine and their continuing adventures into making Viognier. He described the 2010 vintage as offering flavors “true to what a Viognier varietal is supposed to give”. The creamy soup with the crisp Viognier was amazing, and the fried shallots really brought out the apple and pear flavors of the wine. The soup also had a nice spice to it which complemented the sweetness of the butternut squash quite nicely. I will note that I LOVE this Viognier and loved it long before I had it paired with this dinner. If you’ve never tried it I suggest you get on it ASAP, the winery is due to sell out of it by the end of this weekend! I did, however, have the opportunity to get a sneak peak (ok, a sneak taste) of the 2011 vintage during fermentation and shortly thereafter (I have connections), and I’m very excited to taste the finished product. The 2011 vintage of this amazing wine will be even better yet!
Our next course was a Pan Seated Pintelle with a Poultry Jus, White Pepper Polenta and Balsalmic Reduction paired with the 2007 Sur La Mer. Sur La Mer means “on the sea” which is a reference to the town of La Rochelle in western France where owner Leslie Balsley was born. This is a classic Bordeaux blend comprised of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 10% Malbec, and 10% Petit Verdot. It’s lighter in style and was delicious paired with the balsamic flavors in the pintelle dish. The creamy polenta balanced out the wine nicely.
The third course served was a Wild Boar Peperonata paired with the very first vintage of William Church’s Cabernet Sauvignon (a 2005). The boar was so tender and the Cabernet structure balanced out brilliantly. There were just a few cases left of this Cab at the time of this dinner and I think they sold out that very evening! The wine, a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, has fruit from Conner Lee Vineyard of the Wahluke Slope AVA. It “still has acid and tannin and could probably lay down for another 5-6 years” according to Rod. It was such a treat to try something from their very first vintage! Another perk of the winemaker dinners: there are always those types of fun surprises.
We then moved on to a Grilled Tenderloin with Apple Demi Glace, Parsnip Mashed Potatoes, Baby Carrots and Roasted Apples. This was served along with the 2008 Malbec. The nose at first was almost like candy but the first taste brought a huge pepper punch that was very complex. The pepper came out even more with the taste of the tenderloin and no additional pepper was needed on the meat because the wine made up for it! There was also fruit to the back of the palate with the food pairing. The tenderloin was perfectly cooked and it really was an excellent pairing. The winery has always recommended their Malbec with anything grilled, which I definitely agree with after this pairing. Assistant Winemaker Marcus Rafanelli explained how this was the first wine that he made at William Chuch from start to finish where he was able to taste the grapes in the vineyard all the way to the bottle. Because of that, this vintage has always been very special to him.
Our dessert course of the meal was a Chocolate Pecan Tart paired with the 2008 Syrah. While there are many that say that chocolate and wine aren’t meant to be paired together, I will say that the Syrah and chocolate combination always seems to do the trick for me. In this case, there was a nice floral touch to the Syrah and it paired nicely with the chocolate and the mild nuts of the dish.
At the end of the night, I was both full and excited to have learned about new pairings for some wines I already have on my wine racks at home. Once again Russell's provided a killer meal from start to finish and made excellent choices on what to pair with each of the wines selected by the winery. What and when will my next winemaker dinner be? We shall see!