Thursday, February 23, 2012

Winey Tasting Notes: My Dinner With Gregory Graham Wines

Don't you just love the idea of a "wine dinner"? Pairing a different wine with each course, witty conversation, tasting insights? Ahhh...yes.

But I have to admit that sometimes I come away from pairing dinners with what can only be described as a food induced coma. Seriously, 5 courses? I am usually happy to get one (or 2 if you count the salad as a separate course - I usually just call it the "vegetable") course on the table and eaten by all of us at the same time. So 5 different courses, each accompanied by a wine, can be a little daunting.

Blue Canyon Restaurant
Well, last night I went to a wine dinner and lo and behold, did not come away with a coma. (It was a good thing too, cause I had invited my mother in law and was in charge of getting her home safely.) The event was held at The Blue Canyon Restaurant in Twinsburg, Ohio, which also happens to be one of my favorite restaurants. Hubby and I celebrated our 20th anniversary there and to sit on the patio on a summer night is truly delightful. They really have got the idea of a wine dinner/tasting down pat - just enough food to enhance the wine, but not enough to have you nodding off onto your neighbor's shoulder. Or worse, into the food, which would just be messy. Extra kudos go out to chef Danny Jenks, who dared to plan a menu on Ash Wednesday! How do you pair big and bold reds without meat? He promised us we wouldn't miss it - Mom and I didn't.

Gregory Graham Winery
The featured winery was Gregory Graham Wines, a small winery in Lake County, California (about 45 minutes north of Napa). One of the pluses of being a small, hand crafted type of winery is that you get that personal touch - we did last night, as Greg's daughter, Lisa, joined us for the tasting, complete with her Ipad and pics of the winery. (Full disclosure, during the course of the evening, she and I discovered that we are members of the same sorority, which brought on a big hug and elicited some teasing from other tasters. And no, I did NOT ask for the family discount.)

First up, a 2009 Viognier (14.5%) paired with butternut squash/ginger soup. The wine was just beautiful. A light gold color, a full body and flavors that just soared with the ginger in the soup. (Winey Mom is on a ginger kick lately - gotta have my ginger tea in the morning.) The aroma was peachy and flowery - the flowery smell you get in  your garden when it's in full bloom. The taste was peach and warm oak. It was lively and bouncy in my mouth and had a wonderful clean finish to it. A winner.

Then came a 2010 Chardonnay paired with lobster ravioli and spaetzle. (Chef Danny had me at "lobster".) And the reason that all those tasty carbs didn't start me on my coma journey was that it was one ravioli over a small serving of the spaetzle. Whew! The wine itself was full bodied and gave off aromas of oak, herbs and I swear this one is true: bacon. I kept trying and trying, but that was definitely what I was sniffing. The taste was of oak and bacon and some smooth caramel overtones. I liked it with the ravioli, but I can't get past that bacony tang.

Next was a 2006 Syrah (14.5%) paired with a couscous, mac and cheese mixture in half a baked potato. It was held together by a wonderful cream sauce that Chef Danny admitted had a secret ingredient in it (hint: it starts with "V" and ends with "elveeta"!). Yes, we were surprised, but it was a good surprise. A very good one. The Syrah was wonderful! You could smell the blueberry in it right away. There were also some dried herbs in the aroma that kept it from being too sweet. The taste was one of my favorites: smooth with a bite! The oak was mellowed with the overtones of the ripe blueberries, cherries and other pie fruit. I don't know anyone who didn't like it. (Mom and I each went home with a bottle.)

On to the 2008 Cinder Cone Reserve (14.6%) - a blend of Syrah, Cabernet, Grenache and a bit of Malbec. It was served with a yellow beet, watercress and portobello mushroom salad. The aroma was pepper and dark fruits. It tasted of pepper and oak and had a long, tannic finish. If you don't like your pucker at the end of a big old red, pass on this one. With food, though, it holds its own and probably should be sipped with food and not by itself.

Last was the 2008 Zinfandel (14.8%, also 5% Petite Sirah) which was served with a white pepper raspberry mousse tart. (I came THIS CLOSE to stealing my mother in law's tart, coma be damned, but resisted temptation. It was Ash Wednesday, after all.) When I heard "Zinfandel" my first thought was, uh oh. I don't normally get along well with big Zins. But Lisa described it as a "fireplace wine", and that kind of got my hopes up - any wine that screams to be sipped by a fireplace can't be all tannins, can it? And it wasn't! The aroma was of mild pepper and some orange marmalade. It tasted of very ripe berries and some warm wood and felt very full and rich in my mouth. The tasting sheet used the words "Port-like quality", which is the perfect way to describe it. Again, mom and I each went home with a bottle. I plan on using the fireplace all weekend long.

Great company (we sat with very fun, wine loving family), amazing food in small portions and 5 pours of some very expressive wines. A good time was had by all, comas were not had by anybody!


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