Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Over The Top Dinner Focuses on Culinary Feats, Top Shelf Wine Experience

When we bid on a special dinner in the Exchange Club of Toledo silent auction at their benefit wine tasting, we had no idea the spectacular event that was in store.

Cold On The Outside, Party On The Inside

About 10 months ago we were the top bidders on a wine dinner to be put on by our friends Glorious T and Ann Baronas. We could bring four other guests and for one reason or another, it was almost impossible to get everyone’s schedule to sync.

The icy blasts of winter had their grip on the Toledo area before we could finally get our special evening scheduled. It certainly was worth the wait.

The party was held at the home of Glorious T and the Cabernetor. Ann’s friend Tom Nourse helped with the festivities and our “posse” included friends Maria, Larry and Donna and Maria’s friend Betsy. In addition to a winter weather advisory for Northwest Ohio, we had issued our own “wine advisory” for the evening. As a result, we took Uber to the dinner.

Let The Bubbly Flow

If there is a more festive way to start an event than sparkling wine, we don’t know it. Once we arrived we were greeted with Kir Royale cocktails. Kir Royale is a swanky Champagne and black raspberry cocktail made with Chambord liqueur and garnished with a lemon twist and a blackberry. The Chandon sparkling wine matched perfectly with our appetizer trio of prosciutto-wrapped goat cheese dates, mushroom caramelized onion palmier and amuse bouche ala Oscar. This was a sensational party already – and we had barely hung up our coats.

Our six-course meal continued with roasted carrot ginger soup and a winter salad with maple vinaigrette. Soup and especially salad are notoriously difficult wine pairings. Have no fear – as I knew he would, the Cabernetor had just the right wines. The first came from Ann’s cellar – a magnum of French rosé! It was the 2014 Chateau Hourtin-Ducasse Les Roses de Marie from Bordeaux, crafted from Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. It was a refreshing blast of springtime on a wintery night and paired brilliantly with the soup.

A pair of Balletto wines accompanied the next menu items. The 2014 Balletto Teresa’s Vineyard Unoaked Chardonnay from Russian River Valley rocked the salad and delighted my wife, the Green Dragon, who is no fan of oaky whites. The food and wine decadence continued with butter poached lobster paired with the 2013 Balletto Gewürztraminer. The spicy and floral notes of the Gewürztraminer were a nice foil for the rich flavors of the lobster.

The Main Attraction And Then Some

Many toasts and humorous stories later, it was time for the main course. The dish was beef tenderloin au poivre, which is steak with peppercorn sauce and crust. This was accompanied by goat cheese and garlic potato soufflé, balsamic roasted Brussels sprouts and garlic butter mushrooms. This was a culinary tour de force!

The entrée was paired with two magnificent reds from Lewis Cellars in Napa. Opening up (literally) was the  2004 Alec’s Blend. This is a superb composition of Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet. Both bottles from Lewis Cellars – treasures from Ann’s trip to Napa -- were decanted and were elegant companions to the beef. The group was amazed by Alec’s Blend, but my favorite was yet to come.

Following close behind was the 2002 Cuvee L. This wine is made only in exceptional years. It is 93% Cabernet Sauvignon with 7% Cabernet Franc. It is a towering beast of a wine, tamed by the steak and tannins that are integrating nicely. It is a limited production wine, with only 300 cases made. Randy Lewis was a professional race car driver for more than 20 years and raced in five Indy 500’s. He also excels at making supercharged red wines!

We needed a short break from the dining table, so we went downstairs to tour the wine cellar and work off some of the meal at the ping pong table. Larry drubbed me in the first game, but as I drank more of the Cuvee L, my game improved (at least I thought so!).

The Final Verse

How do you wrap up a spectacular wine and food extravaganza? How about a couple of “stickies,” which is what the Australians call dessert wine. Sea salt caramel lava cake was accompanied by Bellangelo Muscat Vin Doux Naturel from the Finger Lakes and the 2003 Dolce Late Harvest Wine from Napa Valley. A vin doux naturel wine is lightly fortified to stop fermentation before much of the sugar is converted to alcohol, leaving it tastefully sweet. The Dolce is called “liquid gold” and is made by the only winery in the US devoted solely to producing a late harvest wine. In this case it is Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon – rich and scrumptious!

We love lava cake and dessert wines. On their own, they would overpower, but were a nice match for a sweet dessert. Betsy, a sweet wine fan, was applauding every drop!

Thanks to Glorious T, Ann, Cabernetor and Tom for cooking and coordinating such an awesome event. Just recalling has brought defrosting thoughts to this chilly December night!

Photo credit to Betsy Watson Herman for the group photo of the “wild wine bunch.”

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