5 to Die For Livermore Food and Wine Pairings


Livermore Crowns “Taste Our Terroir” Winners!

Each year, Taste Our Terroir gets more competitive and far more interesting from a consumer point of view. Easily one of the best food and wine events I attend on a yearly basis, Taste Our Terroir kicks off on the third Thursday of July with a food and wine pairing competition, where wineries team up with restaurants to vie for top honors.

At this year’s event, it was gratifying to see the number of white wine pairings had doubled over last year and there were three rosés this year: a record. Things are trending in a less red meat-focused direction. Kudos to those who used quail, duck, rabbit, pork and lamb this year. I’m sure there were some who were asking, “where’s the beef?”

This year, 20 teams competed for top honors in this highly anticipated event that most winery and restaurant participants spend months on perfecting in hopes of winning one of the five coveted awards. Here, then, the awards:

Best Classic Pairing: Nottingham Cellars and Sauced BBQ and Spirits

  • 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Livermore Valley (Collin Cranor, winemaker)
  • Smoked brisket French dip layered with horseradish cream, chipotle blackberry sauce atop a baguette (Brenden Scanlan, executive chef and owner)

Notes: There was nothing “French” about this dish, with its assertive flavors of chipotle blackberry and horseradish, but it was addictively flavorful and was outstanding with the robust, high acid, silky textured, juicy Cabernet from Nottingham.

Most Innovative Pairing: Longevity Wines and BackDoor Bistro

  • 2016 Vintner’s Select Pinot Grigio, Livermore Valley (Phil Long, winemaker)
  • Seared pork belly with local stone fruit pico de gallo and green goddess sauce (Lindsey Chelini, head chef and owner)

Notes: This fired on all cylinders with sweet, heat, crunch, savory and fat. How could you not love the combo of bacon and green goddess? The wine coaxed all the fruit to the forefront, for a perfect experience.

Judges’ Best Pairing: Dante Robere Vineyards and Sabio on Main

  • 2014 Element 116 Bordeaux Blend, Livermore Valley (Dan Rosenberg and Bob Bossi, winemakers)
  • Duck confit taco in a duck fat tortilla with a plum and mint pico de gallo (Francis Hogan, executive chef)

Notes: This actually was done with Asian Five Spice which can get out of hand, and my portion was so overwhelmed by it that I couldn’t taste anything afterwards. But the wine was big and bold and handled the expansive flavors of the dish quite well.

And the coveted People’s Choice Awards:

Best White Wine Pairing: Occasio Winery and Forno Vecchio

  • 2015 Chardonnay, Livermore Valley (Dave Hendrickson, winemaker)
  • Seared scallops with candied bacon and cauliflower purée garnished with spicy citrus microgreens (Jason Landas, executive chef)

Notes: This dish was a marvel of textures and flavors that were nicely pulled out and complimented by the wine. In particular, the lemongrass pulled it all together.

Best Red Wine Pairing: Wood Family Vineyards and First Street Alehouse

  • 2014 El Loco Rojo (Rhonda Wood, winemaker)
  • Char siu taco with marinated pork wrapped in a tortilla and topped with a honey sriracha aioli and cilantro (David Cortes, executive chef)

Notes: This dish was so popular, they had run out by the time I got there.

About the win for the Occasio pairing, John Kinney says,

“A win is always hoped for, but never expected. I am really proud of the young talent emerging in our area. Thursday night was the finest showing of local wine and food yet – an event that our Valley can be proud of.

What is really satisfying is that we could win one of the awards. What is, perhaps, best is that each of our neighbors won awards in different categories. How unusual is it that four of the five awards went to garage wineries within a stone’s throw of each other!”

Longevity, Nottingham, Occasio and Wood Family are all located in walking distance of one another on Vasco Road. It’s becoming as popular as the Tesla Road corridor. This could be Livermore’s real “wine ghetto.”

A few notes on some of the other dishes. A big thanks to all the wineries who went with white or rosé, giving people who don’t eat meat some tasty alternatives to enjoy. The Page Mill Chardonnay was delightfully harmonious with the seared Kampachi and Thai basil and macadamia nut pesto finished with coconut balsamic vinegar: great textural integration. And they get the award for green delivery, as the dish was served on a Thai basil leaf.

The 2016 Cedar Mountain Pinot Grigio was a smash hit with the sea scallop gravlax atop wild mushroom mousseline and hackleback caviar on French cocktail blini. Who knew PG could stand up to something so very rich, but it did, and brilliantly so. Porters at Poppy Ridge really nailed that one.

Wente’s 2016 Small Lot Eric’s Chablis style Chardonnay had a lovely touch of creaminess, perhaps from fermenting in concrete egg. Several people I spoke with had never encountered an unoaked Chard they liked until this one. A real winner.

Murietta’s Well’s 2015 Zarzuela blend was amazing with the garam masala pork belly jerky, and the 2014 Steven Kent BDX Collection Cabernet Franc was harmonious with Posada’s soft, yet complex lamb meatballs.

For next year, perhaps a vegetarian category should be added, so chefs have another award target to aim for, and attendees have a broader range of dishes to enjoy.

This year’s judges were Catherine Fallis of PlanetGrape.com, Carolyn Jung of FoodGal.com and Laura Levy Shatkin of Napa Sonoma Magazine.

Congratulations to all those who labored long and hard to put Taste Our Terroir 2017 together this year. And a special congratulations to all the winners!


Laura NessLaura Ness, aka “Her VineNess,” is an accomplished wine journalist and wine critic whose passion for wine was ignited by a visit to France, where she had the unmatched pleasure of tasting Sancerre in the medieval town of Sancerre – splendid!— and then a Saumur, after visiting the Chateau de Saumur in Chinon. The concept of terroir came alive in those incandescent moments. She regularly judges wine competitions and serves on the tasting panels of the Pinot, Cabernet and Chardonnay Shootouts. She was instrumental in helping define the unique sub-regions of the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA in concert with Appellation America. You can usually find her sipping and smiling in Mendocino, Livermore, the Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Cruz Mountains and Paso Robles. Laura writes extensively for many industry and consumer publications, and has weekly wine columns in several Bay Area newspapers. She blogs, irreverently and sporadically, at myvinespace.com.

Leave Your Comments Here!

Your Name (required)

Your Email (will not be published)

Your Comments

WANT A PHOTO BY YOUR COMMENT? Click Here Takes like 2 minutes.
Attention: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment. All SPAM will be deleted.

PUBLISHED DATE: July 24th, 2017 | WINE CATEGORY: Food & Wine Pairings
POST TAGS: , , , , , ,