Taste Our Terroir: Livermore Is Lip-Smacking Good
Taste Our Terroir: Livermore is a food and wine pairing event held yearly on the last Thursday of July. The event brings the wineries and restaurants of Livermore together in a vibrant celebration of the marriage of food and wine. You can taste the dedication and passion behind the pairings that were worked on ardently by both parties. And you can tell when the wine and the food saluted each other from afar as if making the perfect dry martini over the telephone.
The winners, according to the Judges, Sara Schneider of Sunset Magazine, Nicholas Boer of Diablo Magazine and Chef Rocky Fino, author of “Will Cook for Sex,” were:
Best Classic Pairing: Vasco Urbano Wine Company and Zephyr Grill and Bar
Vasco Urbano Wine Company, 2012 GSM “The Sheriff”, Livermore Valley (Winemaker: Collin Cranor)paired with house-cured lamb bacon BLT in puff pastry (Chef: Nick Musser)
Most Innovative Pairing: Cuda Ridge Wines and Posada
Cuda Ridge Wines 2012 Cabernet Franc, Livermore Valley (Winemaker: Larry Dino)
and braised boneless pork ribs simmered in a tomatillo-cilantro sauce topped with charred creama, garnished with pickled cactus, carrots and sweet onions served atop a corn tostadita (Chef: Eduardo Posada)
Note: This is the second year in a row that Cuda Ridge won the Most Innovative Pairing category, last year with Beets Catering.
Judges’ Best Pairing: Garré Vineyard & Winery and Garré Cafe
Garré Vineyard & Winery, 2010 Profound Secret, Livermore Valley (Winemaker: Wayne Re) paired with all natural short rib papa rellenas. This consisted of tomato and olive braised beef short rib encased in buttermilk whipped potatoes, deep fried with a panko crust and finished with a Profound Secret gastrique (Chef: Robert Sapirman).
THE PEOPLES CHOICES
Best White Wine Pairing: Longevity Wines and 1300 on Fillmore
Longevity Wines, 2013 Pink Pinot Grigio, Livermore Valley (Winemaker: Phil Long)
paired with Barbecue Shrimp N’ Creamy Grits: Anson Mills course white grits with pan seared barbeque shrimp, topped with garlic, shallots, herbs and white wine cream sauce (Chef: David Lawrence)
Wood Family Vineyards, 2012 Big Wood Zinfandel, Livermore Valley (Winemaker: Rhonda Wood) and Molé pulled pork tacos with chipotle lime slaw (Chef: Ethan Muritori)
WINNERS ALL AROUND: CHEFS GET THE NOD
The real winners this year were the Chefs, who seemed more passionate and eager to step up their game than ever before. Most of the chefs not only tasted the wines beforehand, they did so multiple times, tuning the dishes as the weeks played out. Those creative, inspired and tireless culinary artisans should all be given a hand forthwith!
Similarly, the wines were delightful and the winemakers who were into the whole pairing deal carefully chose a wine they thought would make an impact or an impression.
LAURA’S FAVORITE PAIRINGS
Top honors for the most obvious effort it took to make both the wine and the food has to go to the 2011 Lineage paired with the outstanding Duck Four Ways, by Beets Hospitality Group. Not only is it a long term and expensive labor of love to make such an outstanding wine, but to finally have a restaurant that would put the necessary effort into showcasing the nuances of the wine with such a worthy and outstanding dish, was rewarding in every way.
Those delicate, spongy buns were housemade to perfection: smeared with duck pate, they made the duck sausage melt into the tannins of the wine like most of us felt like we were melting into the dancing disco-like light patterns on the floor. This pairing was like an elegantly costumed waltz, measured and marvelous.
Continuing with the music theme, the honor for most nuanced, carefully crafted Food and Wine Minuet goes to Retzlaff and Honor Kitchen and Cocktails for the exquisite lamb carpaccio coronet, served in a crunch cone, topped with microgreens and eucalyptus foam. The peppery lean and gorgeous 2007 Merlot Cabernet blend met the perfectly seasoned food, measure for measure, as nothing else quite did.
It was the impeccable balance of the pairing that reverberated long after you enjoyed it. Not a “hit you in the head pairing:” instead, a “hit the nail on the head” pairing.
A Sizzling Samba of a combo goes to Longevity for their happy Pinot Grigio paired with those divinely smokey grits, and easy to enjoy in a small portion, too. More wineries and restaurants should go with this “less is more” philosophy.
The most Flavorful Food and Wine Tango honor goes to Vasco Urbano and Zephyr. What a massively interesting set of flavors in a small bite.
A runner up in the Tasty Tango category was the Las Positas 2011 Tempranillo tastily paired with The Winemaker’s Pourhouse. The Catalan-stylered wine braised beef with polenta, gremolata and Manchego cheese needed just a wee bit of Aleppo or cayenne pepper to meet the wine on its own terms. Biggest Rhumba-like Rumble goes to Rhonda and the molé taco Executive Chef Ethan Muritori of First Street Alehouse concocted. Now, this was one powerful dish, kinda in the “hit you on the head,” category.
One thing’s for sure, there’s no limit to the creativity of the Chefs and Winemakers when they’re battling for top honors at Taste Our Terroir.
BY: LAURA NESS, WINE JUDGE & WINE WRITER
Laura 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.