Thursday, January 27, 2022

Livermore Valley Wine Dinner Highlights Region’s Diverse Styles

Livermore Valley wines deliver more enjoyment at gourmet food pairing event.

Winter Vino Dinner A Memorable Night

When I attended a recent International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association webinar, it reminded me of the greatness of Livermore Valley wines. This California AVA, just about an hour east of San Francisco, has 50 wineries ranging from 100-case boutique operations to 400,000-case industry heavyweights. There are more than 30 grape varieties grown there. Be sure to check out my recent article to get the background on this historically important area.

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Following the webinar, the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association was kind enough to send some bottles for a more wide-ranging tasting of the area’s wine. To help with this arduous task, it was time to call in reinforcements!

We decided to stage Winter Vino and wine and food pairing dinner and invited three other couples. Each couple would prepare a dish to pair with one of the wines. I must say, they outdid themselves. Special thanks to the Green Dragon for overseeing the entire food aspect of the event.

We had originally scheduled the event for Friday evening, but predictions of a winter storm and dangerous roads caused us to recalibrate and move the dinner to Sunday. The snow was melting by that time, but there was still enough for me to make a wine snowman out front with a five-liter Jeroboam bottle. Here’s a look at the dishes and the Livermore Valley wine from the soiree.

Longevity Family Winery 2020 Rosé of Deb-Ru-Veé and Charcuterie

This limited production rosé was our arrival wine. The wine is ruby pink and has fresh strawberry, apple, and citrus notes. It is 69% Grenache, 17% Syrah, and 14% Mourvèdre. Longevity is a black-owned winery founded by Phil and Debra Long. This wine is a salute to Debra, who passed away in 2019 from cancer. This wine is a favorite at the winery.

The wine is dry, but is elegant with plenty of fruit. It paired nicely with our charcuterie and mingling. Please note the salami “rose” in the photo. SRP $24.

Page Mill Winery 2014 Blanc de Blanc with Shrimp and Caviar

It was suggested by my friend Arthur Barham (of Merlot2Muscadine) that we begin the dinner with sabrage. If possible, I wanted to saber a sparkler from Livermore Valley. Tami Kelly, who handles PR for Livermore Wine Country, rode to the rescue and arranged for this beautiful bottle of traditional method Blanc de Blanc from Page Mill.

This is a labor-intensive wine and it gets three years of aging after the wine gets its second fermentation in the bottle. For six months the bottles are turned by hand two to three times a day as part of the process.

A couple of good strokes from my Champagne saber sent the top of the bottle sailing into the night sky. The wine is crisp with light yeasty notes. It was a dazzling start to our dinner. SRP – $75. 

Las Positas Vineyards 2020 Estate Albariño with Baltimore’s Best Crab Cakes

with Butternut Squash/Pear Soup Shooters with Pepitas

Albariño is Spain’s most famous white wine and it is gaining a strong foothold in the US as well. The Albariño from Las Positas is a beauty with green apple aromas and crisp grapefruit, pineapple, and lemon notes. This wine is aged in stainless steel with 20% being fermented in neutral barrels.

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In Spain’s Rias Baixas region, this pairs immaculately with mussels and other fresh seafood. We also found the seafood match to be golden. The Green Dragon whipped up some Baltimore-style crab cakes accompanied by a soup shooter. The soup was butternut squash and pear topped with pepitas. Just the perfect bite for this wine (although I could have used another crab cake or two!). SRP – $35.

Garré Vineyard 2019 Chardonnay Reserve with Salmon Marseille with Beurre Blanc and Julienne Vegetables

This Chardonnay from Garré is uber-limited, with just 100 cases produced. It is barrel fermented and sur lie aged in American Oak for six months. It also gets partial malolactic fermentation. The technical notes fail, though, to portray the beauty of this wine. It’s creamy with a satiny mouth feel. There are luscious notes of apple, apricot, and tropical fruit.

The pairing of poached salmon covered in a beurre blanc sauce was prepared by Diane and Gary. It was melt-in-your mouth delicious. It was hard to concentrate, however, because Arthur kept saying loudly, “I love beurre blanc!” SRP – $42.

Murrieta’s Well 2019 The Spur with Beef Short Ribs Served Over Creamy Polenta

The Spur is one of our favorite red blends. It introduced me to the flavorful possibilities of Livermore Valley wines a number of years ago. We’ve sampled a number of Murrieta’s Well wines, and they are sensational. The 2019 The Spur is made from 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petite Sirah, 9% Merlot, 7% Malbec and 5% Petit Verdot. This is a rich-tasting wine with black cherry notes, rounded tannins, with hints of oak and baking spice.

Sharon and Bill provided the short rib dish and it was a luscious pairing with The Spur. The juice from the short ribs melded with the creaminess of the polenta creating a winner. SRP – $40.

Wood Vineyards 2018 “Big Wood” Zinfandel with Forest Mushroom Risotto with Broccoli Rabe

We didn’t know quite what to expect with the Big Wood Zin, especially since its ABV is 16.8%. That is indeed a big wine. The first few sips dispelled any wariness. This is big, bodacious, and beautiful. In the glass, it is deep dark cherry in color. Plush cherry flavors combine with chocolate notes and ample vanilla. This is a plump wine with round, juicy tannins.

Green Dragon delivered on the food pairing for Big Wood, creating a Forest Mushroom Risotto with broccoli rabe with unlimited quantities of grated parmesan cheese. My question is, “Broccoli rabe, where have you been so long?” The delicate broccoli rabe with the richness of the risotto went hand-in-hand nicely with Big Wood. SRP – $36.

Lineage 2017 with Bacon-Wrapped Beef & Lamb Meatloaf with Blackberry Ketchup Glaze, Grilled Root Vegetables, Red Bliss Potatoes and Sauce Chasseur

When you are in the presence of greatness, you know it. That’s how we felt with the 2017 Lineage. Steven Mirassou, a sixth-generation winemaker from America’s oldest winemaking family, has a goal to make one of the truly great Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines in the world. He struck paydirt with the 2017 Lineage. Renowned wine critic Steve Heimoff awarded the 2017 Lineage an unprecedented 100 points. Heimoff remarked that of the thousands of Cabernet blends he’d tasted over the course of his career, “None have been better.”

Arthur and Mary had the challenge of creating a dish to pair with this 100-point beauty. They delivered in grand style: a tower of perfect meatloaf bathed in a blackberry ketchup glaze and sauce chasseur. It was certainly the best sauce chasseur I’ve ever had (I’ll let you guess how many I’ve tasted…).

Lineage has 75% Cabernet Sauvignon with 20% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. A total of 3,984 bottles were produced – and we were able to sample #240. The wine has lovely layers and although this is a big wine, it feels balanced with every grape playing the perfect role. Black cherry, light oak, and mint notes add to the experience of savoring this beauty. Red fruit notes, courtesy of Cabernet Franc, add acidity.

This is a wine that can age for 30 years. We just couldn’t wait. Arthur’s meatloaf was a stack of goodness, and certainly worthy of a fine dining restaurant and a 100-point wine.

Cheers to the Livermore Valley AVA and all of our guests who made this evening so special.

Full disclosure: These wines were received as a marketing sample.

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