Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Vegetarian Wine Maker Dinner

Pavle Milic and Charleen Badman outdid themselves on Tuesday, July 19 at their celestial restaurant FnB. Pavle has taken his devotion to AZ wines to heart by arranging a series of wine maker dinners. This is our second such event. Joan and Kathryn and Ian and I are vegetarians and have long schemed about putting together a Cookbook that pairs wine with vegetarian recipes. I like to make food friendly wines. Food friendly wines tend to have subtle depth that is revealed best when closely linked to a mouthful of complementary food. Creative vegetarian cuisine has the same qualities.

When Pavle said it was time again for a Canelo Hills wine maker dinner at the restaurant, I suggested a vegetarian menu. Charleen can do magic with vegetables and recently quietly admitted to me, "I eat mostly vegetables anyway". We were on, and for the lucky restaurant full of patrons, it was magic.

What follows is definitely for wine and food geeks.

Course one was burrata perched on a big slice of heirloom tomato lying in a bed of Baba Ganoush, topped with preserved lemon relish. 2007 (disgorged in 2010) Sparkling Chardonnay was the wine pairing. Tart bubbles and lemon relish. Fruity Chardonnay and ripe tomato. Toasted eggplant and with the yeasty flavors of 3 years en tirage. Creamy burrata and the rich mouthfeel of Method Champanoise. Wow! I had never had burrata before. It is a soft fresh mozzarella with the texture of a perfectly poached egg and the mouth experience of a great kiss.

Segundo: A panoply of salad flavors and textures - padron peppers, sweet corn kernels, perfect fava beans, purple "green beans", purslane and baby bitter greens dressed with a romesco vinaigrette. A few cripsy peanut pieces were scattered about on the plate. Joining was the 2009 Malvasia. Malvasia in 2009 was beyond ripe and the intensely concentrated flowers and fruit of this wine resonated back and forth with the fresh vegetableness of the salad. Very ripe grapes make very high alcohol wine, 15.6% in this case, but the alcohol only served to soluble-ize the hidden fruit flavors in the salad. 100 mph fastball down the middle - smak, out of the park.

Troisieme: Fresh summer squash accompanied by fresh green peas simmered in a curry sauce was atop a freshly grilled naan and smeared with yoghurt. 2009 Sangiovese was the partner. Bing cherries + curry fruitiness. Spicy finish + curry heat. Tart mouth + creamy texture. I would have never thought of curry and Sangiovese. Now we've got another answer to "what would you pair this wine with?" A dream shot from beyond the half court line - swishhh, all net.

Quattro: Thinly sliced and grilled eggplant atop a bed of jasmine rice mixed with chickpeas and tiny lentils, topped with fresh cucumbers and a few leaves of mint. The eggplant was dressed in a sweet/sour, coriander sauce. 2009 Estate Tempranillo was up to the match. Dark, red, rich, perfectly balanced with notes of cedar, dark fruit, smoke and soft tannins. Penalty Shoot out, the Kick is Good - Team FnB wins.

Finale: Individual zucchini cakes with walnuts, marscapone, citrus, candied plums and plum sauce drizzle. NV Yummy Zin was just sweet enough, just caramelized enough, just fruity enough, just fabulous enough to reveal the flavors and textures of this dessert. SCORE!

I enjoyed visiting with old friends and meeting new ones. Seven patrons "came out" to me, quietly revealing they were vegetarians and were thrilled with this menu. Arizona wines made a good showing and I think there are some new converts. Thanks to Pavle and Charleen and the restaurant crew for putting together a fabulous dinner. Next time? Sometime after October. See you then.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Guest Blog: Creating a Barrel Tasting

Our guest blogger this week is Lisa Schoneman. While I'm away singing at the Carmel Bach Festival, Lisa is taking the lead in planning our July 30 Barrel Tasting. Lisa and her husband Scott are friends and Canelo Hills regulars, and we're lucky to have Lisa involved for this special evening of wine and food. Here's her report on the preparations:

From a planner's perspective, there are so many fun details to think about when planning an event - seating, linens, place settings, flowers. But the most important detail is - what is the focus, the inspiration for the event? In the case of this month's barrel tasting, the focus and the inspiration are Tim's exciting new reds. Which leads to the very pleasant dilemma of what foods to pair with the wines to show them off and treat the guests to a memorable food and wine pairing experience.

To that end, we spent a fun few hours with Joy Varga and John Hall of Canela Bistro tasting the varied reds right out of the barrel, sharing the tastes and scents we found in the wines and the 'food dreams' inspired by them. I really can't wait to experience the wines and the food together, and see how each compliments the other!

photo credits: AWGA (1), Scott Schoneman (2)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Los Vinos en Arizona

I wish I was much better at reading, writing and speaking Spanish, I really do, but I'm not. Fortunately however Kathryn is and she worked with editors at Tu Casa Neuva a popular lifestyle and travel magazine from Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico. The magazine has a regular "Arizona" section and featured in the May 2011 issue is a piece on Arizona Wineries with CHV&W prominently featured. Dust off your Spanish-English dictionaries or grab a Spanish speaking friend and enjoy the read.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

What would you do?

Shirley Williams was in the tasting room with some friends and naturally talk turned to the Monument Fire in Sierra Vista. A couple of Sundays ago the fire just seemed to blow up. From Sonoita the view was as if a volcano erupted. Shirley lives in Sierra Vista and this is what she saw from her home. She got out, safely thankfully, and no damage to her or Alan's home or neighborhood, other then a serious smokey smell to everything. The fire is nearly out, at least not spreading, and the monsoons are starting to get going but many areas in the western US are still at risk. Our thanks go out to all the fire fighters who work miracles against incredible and unpredictable threats.