Yesterday I had the privilege of attending the Justin wine-tasting that was held for wine buyers of the Tahoe area (!).
It was located at The Pacific Crest restaurant, which is an off-shoot of the old Bar of America in old-town Truckee. It was hosted by the wine maker himself (and his name really is Justin) and one of my favorite wine reps, Diane, who was kind enough to invite me. Well, she got a sale out of me before I ever even left the dining room, and I plan to line up some more selections for the week or two to come…I just need to sell through some other labels at the store first.
So it wasn’t just wine (thank goodness) but there were several courses of lunch to accompany the variety of wines as well. One trend I have noted as of late with some finer California wines is that sustainability s becoming a prominent trend in growing the grapes, and then the wines themselves are created to be particularly food-friendly. Justin’s vines, grown in the western-end of Paso Robles, are farmed organically, and sometimes even bio-dynamically (one step up from organic), but he is not certified…it is just a matter of philosophy… There is another winery, up in Napa Valley called Long Meadow Ranch, that incorporates not only an Inn and restaurant (as does Justin’s winery), but also raises their own grass-fed beef! They additionally make their own olive oil – & they have ponies…
I think that this is a very nice integration of concepts, that will keep all of the various aspects thriving in harmony, though only time will tell. There are so many challenges on the horizon, not just economically, but in terms of farming, and food supplies in general…& I don’t think too many people consider the impact global warming is having on wine-making! Which sure, it is perhaps not so important as food (perhaps…) but it would be truly tragic for the art of making wine to be lost, just because the world got all apocalyptic and crazy and people were running around cannibalizing each other, or what have you… But anyhow, back in reality, or at least the far end of old- town Truckee, here’s what we had for lunch:
As we were seated, we were served Sauvignon Blanc, and Justin explained to us that he plants all of his white wine grapes at the higher elevations of his property, and that the soil is very rich in limestone there, in fact he even has a limestone quarry on his property as well. The limestone, of course adds a minerality to the wine, which is a desired trait in pairing whites with food.
He also explained that he was heavily influenced by French wines, in choosing his vine stock, as well as fermentation techniques. So the Sauv Blanc was light and dry, and very refreshing after my trek across town (an effort to avoid drinking and driving) in the incredibly unseasonal heat! (Again, global warming…no joke, kids.)
We were then presented with the first snippet of food, served in the classic California gourmet style. A salad of roasted beets, which I typically don’t care for, but this presentation was quite nice. They were baby beets, and though they were roasted, they had been rehydrated in some sort of sauce, so that they were tender, sweet, and in beautiful shades of pink and orange. They were adorned by a few petite leaves of rosy lettuce, and sprinkled with chopped candied walnuts, and finally drizzled in a fresh vinaigrette. It was a very small salad, artistically arranged – & I know many folks frown on this hoity-toity approach to food, but I found that it made the overall salad eating experience so much more appealing. I mean who really wants to eat a big huge plate full of bitter greens? I know it’s “good for you” but really now…
Our sommelier (yeah, that’s right) then came around with the Chardonnay. Again, the style was largely French, using French oak as well, but with reserve, so that is was not a “butter bomb” of a Chard, it had more balance and minerality as well. This wine was accompanied by a pan-braised scallop served over chanterelle mushrooms and a light sorrel pesto. Yuuuum! Scallops have always been a favorite of mine, and this was so perfectly cooked, and also the first time I can specifically recall eating chanterelles, and then to sip the wine in between bites, it was divine!
And then we got into the reds. Nearly half of Justin’s wine production is Cabernet Sauvignon, so we began there. The Cab was also light and fresh tasting, particularly in comparison to the collection of blends that were to follow. The next dish out was a poached organic egg and pancetta over fettuccine in a creamy sauce – basically a fancy version of bacon and eggs, served over pasta, with a side of french-bread, brilliant! This was accompanied by a second glass of red, Justin’s trademark, Isosceles.
This wine is blended as follows: 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot, and is also the label I bought a 6-pack of before leaving. It is much fuller than the straight cab, and has more angles, if you will – in flavor and structure. We were then presented with the main course, short ribs over horseradish mashed potatoes, au jus – or however you would say that, I think the menu said “in a natural jus” which is just French for meat juice!
What a lunch, eh? Justin even came over to where I was eating and said, “I can’t relive you are eating all of this – where are you putting it all?” To which I replied cheerfully, “In my shoe!” I dunno – I was pretty buzzed by then… So then along with the beef came the Savant, which I would like to buy a couple bottles of for Dad and I. This blend is Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, a very big wine, full of aromas and layers – my taste-buds were simply reeling by this point, so I won’t venture into any specific tasting notes – but I definitely liked it!
& finally, we finished up with dessert. Ah lunch-dessert…& to think sometimes I don’t even bother with lunch! All the chefs working in the kitchen came out, serving us a petite round of bread-pudding laced with chocolate, topped with fresh whipped cream and a dark chocolate and white chocolate swizzle stick on top for garnish, along with a teensy sprig of mint leaf! This final dish was paired with a small glass of Obtuse, Justin’s port-style dessert wine. This gem is made up of Cab Sauv, and traditional Portuguese varieties, and is then blended again with 170 proof, unaged, grape brandy.
Badda bing badda boom!
I am going to buy some little bottles of that next week – we are getting well into autumn now, so dessert wines will be coming into fashion once this heat drops off a bit… & that was that, I walked back, across town to New Moon, sweating out the bulk of the alcohol my blood had accumulated over the past two + hours, drank some water, and went home to rest!
What a treat…