Restuarant Wine Tasting

Sometimes, the most challenging wine tasting events are the ones that don't have a theme. I just go out and purchase wines for a tasting, and it is basically whatever I felt like buying at the time. So what does a photo of quesadillas have to do with wine tasting? Keep reading....

For the last wine tasting event with the Arrowhead Wine Enthusiasts, it was a bit more challenging. For the first time, we were meeting in a restaurant whose menu featured half Mexican food and the other half was steaks and seafood. We were limited on what types of appetizers would be available for the tasting. We had steamed clams, and mussels in garlic, along with chicken tenders, onion rings, and steak quesadillas. An odd mix, but I will tell you, all the attendees felt this was one of the best tastings we had done in a restaurant. The trick was finding the right wines to work with the odd mix of hors d'oeuvres. Food pairing is always a key component to a tasting!

The steamed clams and mussels were the easiest to pair. I decided to go for a wine that most of the attendees were probably unfamiliar with, as well as one they would recognize (at least recognize the name, not necessarily the taste). For the first wine, we went with the Sauvion Muscadet Sevre-et-Maine Sur Lie Cardinal Richar. A long name for a wonderful white wine from the Nantes, in Loire France. The grape is Muscadet, or better known as Melon de Bourgogne. I'll write about this wine on my next blog.

The second wine was Mer Soleil Silver un-oaked Chardonnay from the Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey California. While everyone is familiar with Chardonnay, they may not know what an un-manipulated Chardonnay tastes like. This crisp, clean Chardonnay was a nice pairing for the seafood, and went surprisingly well with onion rings, and the guacamole.

For the third wine, I took a risk. I have found that most people are still reluctant to try Rose, thinking they are sweet. But what better wine is there for a transition from white to red, and that can work with all types of foods? While I am a big fan of certain California Roses (those that follow this blog will know my favorites), I decided to go with a French wine from Provence. I chose the Domaine Fontanyl Rose de Provence. Very dry, with a somewhat bitter finish, but nice amounts of strawberry, cherry and watermelon on the palate.

The transition into reds was the toughest wine to choose. The challenge with Mexican food is usually the heat, and high alcohol levels can accentuate the heat. I wanted something fruity, but wanted dark red fruit. I focused in on Zinfandel (a notoriously high alcohol wine, due to high natural sugar content).  The California Sierra Foothills produce some nice jammy zinfandels. So, I looked for a low alcohol wine, and found it in the Shenandoah Special Reserve Zinfandel. There was just a little bit of Petit Sirah added, making this a fruity wine, with nice acidity, soft tannins, and just the right balance...making it a prefect pairing for the steak quesadillas.

For the last wine of the evening, I went "heavy". I chose a wine from the Duoro region of Portugal. What is the best known wine of Portugal? Port! The Quinta Do Vale Meao Meandro is made from the same grapes as your dessert Port (Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Sousão, Tinta Barroca, and Tinto Cão), except it is not fortified, so is not sweet. The wine is deep red, full, dry and fruity, but had nice balance for a big wine. In hindsight, this wine could use some air, and I would have decanted it, or opened it up well ahead of time.

Hopefully these five wines will give you some ideas on what you can do, and encourage you to explore some wines that you wouldn't normally try. Oh, and that restaurant....if you are in the Lake Arrowhead area...check out the new Borderline Restaurant in Cedar Glen. Located in an old bordello, you might just be surprised my what Ricky is offering on the menu.

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