Saturday, January 26, 2008

Argentine Wine Dinner

I hosted 2 successful wine events this week, and the first of those was the Argentine Wine Dinner at our local restaurant Delius. Partnering with Delius owners Dave and Louise Solzman, as well as importer Susie Sykes of Mendoza Wines, and Mendoza Wines representative (and wine country customer) Abbe Rabenn, we put together a show of magnificent proportions.

It was a 6 course prix-fixe dinner, paired with 6 Argentine wines, served in the restaurant's prix-fixe dining room, which is a cozy, romantic, secluded room within the restaurant's newly remodelled interior. Thirty diners showed up to see what we had up our sleeve. Many were regular customers of The Wine Country.

We started off with a delicious mini empanada, which was a bit like a delicate puff pastry (as opposed to a fried pocket), and this was paired with 2006 Terza Volta Sauvignon Blanc. A very nice start. Clean, crisp wine, but as someone in the audience commented "not too crisp." For those who don't love an excess of acidity, like found in some New Zealand whites, this was the perfect solution - an easy-drinking Sauv Blanc with citrus but without too much of a bracing aspect. Worked well with the appetizer #1.

The second course was my favorite - a diver scallop served with an orzo/proscuitto saute - very savory and perfect on the palate. I could just have had that course, a bit plateful. The scallop was cooked a pointe - just cooked on the inside - Chef Louise just has this impeccable timing it seems, with the cooking times of her food. This was paired with 2006 Terza Volta Malbec Rose which sang with the dish, as there was acidity, a gram or 2 of residual sugar, and some body in this rose, which some in the audience commented was as good as a Provencal rose. A great compliment!

The third course was a soup: a creamy mushroom soup with a hint of curry - very fresh, rich, earthy and creamy, with some depth in the flavor which belied the brandy hidden within. This paired well with the 2003 Maestre de Campo Merlot, a red wine with soup, which is no easy feat, but it was achieved. At this point, my husband, who was attending with his parents, who were all enjoying the meal and the wine pairings, asked if we selected the food for the dinner first then found the wines to go with it, or if we did it the other way around. I answered that we chose the wines first, and the chef made a menu to go with the wines. Which is quite interesting, and I shared that I think this is what good chefs do - they can actually cook for specific wines. A case in point was this soup, which, if it were a thin soup with a watery base, would be so awful with red wine, but because it was not, it worked very well.

The 4th course was a pork tenderloin served on white beans and roasted onions. Succulent and delicious would be how I would describe this pork dish. Again, the meat was cooked a pointe - just cooked - showing some pink which is perfection. A very savory dish that paired well with the wine of the night for most present: 2004 Terza Volta Malbec. The Malbec really was the star, and it showed the point we were making, which was that Malbec is the red of Argentina. While the other wines were good, let's just say you could arguably find other Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon or Rose or Sauvignon Blanc from other countries and regions, but you will not find a better Malbec than the ones they produce in Argentina. This wine stole the show, and if this was the only wine we were pouring that night, that would have been just fine for most present. Rich and flavorful in the glass, the wine keeps giving, and is major bang for the buck at just $14.99 a bottle.

The fifth course was rack of lamb, a clear winner at the outset, expertly prepared, again, medium rare, perfect, not bloody but tender and juicy. This course paired with 2 wines, 2004 Terza Volta Cabernet Sauvignon and 2003 Bates Red Wine (Malbec, Merlot, Syrah). There were fans of the Cabernet, which is silky and easy to drink, but probably runner-up wine of the night was the Bates, which, incidentally, is approximately 70% Malbec - this too was rich and layered and the finish went on and on. A great wine with a meat like lamb, and of course, would sing with beef.

The final course was dessert, which was paired with coffee, and by this time, everyone was satiated and starting to fill out their order forms for wine, which I happily collected, along with comments about how great and affordable these wines are. Definitely great quality-price ratio on wines from Argentina, especially small production stuff like what we were tasting.

It was definitely a successful evening, and a testament to how great it is to work directly with importers who will partner with you to promote wines they personnally have selected halfway around the globe. There's nothing like it. Because at the end of the day, passion is the whole thing behind wine. If there's not passion, it's just another beverage that gets you wasted, and that's no good at all.

You gotta have passion.

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