Last night I helped to host a very successful wine dinner, if I say so myself!
Not sure why I felt so surprised - generally speaking, though they take of bit of dancing to plan with a restaurant and a store, they always seem to turn out just fine.
Last evening, the event was at Da Vinci restaurant, a place local to me and close to The Wine Country. The restaurant is beautifully laid out and situated next to the Long Beach airport, and has large floor to ceiling windows through which natural light shines through, and you can watch small planes land and take off. The decor in the restaurant is Italian in flavor, but very modern, with high ceilings, a circular layout, and a visually appealing wine cellar high above the bar. The setting is really impressive, and paves the way for a good evening. Last evening, it happend to be perfect in that at the start time of 6:30 pm, there was still so much daylight that made a primarily white wine dinner feel like a natural ode to spring.
The 40 or so participants were each greeted with a glass of sparkling Kir, the wine I didn't supply. It was a nice touch, though, something sparkling and pretty to greet people as they arrived, something to take their mood from the traffic and their jobs to something fun and relaxing. With this, people enjoyed a small amuse-bouche which was a blend of cheese and something else - I don't remember since at this point I was too busy saying hi to everyone and introducing myself as the importer representative.
The first course was a grilled shrimp salad with fennel, to be paired with 2007 Rhein River Riesling, a basic Riesling made from grapes grown in the Rheinhessen region. Everyone seemed to love this wine and love its very reasonable price, and I too was impressed at how crisp and refreshing it was. It was really a look at how great the 2007 vintage in Germany was, because even this humble little wine could be so clean and inviting. The wine paired well with the salad, and gave me the opportunity to talk about how versatile fruity Rieslings can be, especially in the summer when salads and shellfish grace the dinner table more often.
The second course was lobster raviolis. We were served three plump house-made raviolis filled to the brim with sweet lobster meat, and instead of sitting in a rich creamy sauce, they were in a clear liquid that might have been simple warm water, garnished with herbs. Though I had never before seen such a presentation, I enjoyed it very much, and the raviolis were light, fresh, and delicious. Paired with this course was the 2005 Rebholz Muller-Thurgau, which is a delightful bone dry white wine with freshness (in spite of its age!) and excellent minerality. This is a great wine with white fish or even seafood pasta like we had, and its bone dryness cut through through the richness of the dish quite well. I thoroughly enjoyed the pairing, and enjoyed the opportunity to talk about how Germany produces excellent dry wines, as well as sweet.
The third and main course was a delectably prepared braised pork belly. I have had pork belly in restaurants such as Lucques and Cut, but last evening's pork belly was surprisingly excellent and impressive. It was served perched above mushroom risotto which was rich and creamy and actually just the thing we needed since we were drinking wine. This course was served with two wines, an idea from The Wine Country's owner, Randy Kemner - first, a red: 2005 Kunstler Pinot Noir and then a white later harvest Riesling: 2006 Dr. F. Weins-Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese. This turned out to be a fun exercise in wine pairing with food, and everyone seemed to get a kick out of it - two very different wines - a dry red with a touch of age on it, compared to a rich, sweet white.
Diners were urged to try the red first, since it was drier, and people really liked it - the Pinot Noir showed gorgeous cherry fruit along with smokey bacon and a touch of earth. It went very well with the rich mushroom risotto and the pork. But there was a bit of a red berry sauce served with the pork, though thankfully not too much - when one took pork plus sauce together, the dish went much better with the Riesling Spatlese, and once one started with the Riesling, it was hard to drink anything else - this wine is rich and long in the mouth with just a certain something that tells you that Dr. F. Weins-Prum makes great wine out the Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyard!! This was a wine that people could not get enough of, almost the wine of the night you might say, though many people also loved the other wines.
That ended the wine portion of the meal; we were served a palate cleansing pannicotta afterwards, which was nice, and some folks got extra pours of the Spatlese to enjoy with the dessert. Others ordered coffee. But everyone was happy and totally enjoying the evening it seemed. People began filling out their order forms to purchase the wines. All was good.
Can't wait for the next wine dinner!