Friday, September 30, 2011

"A Farmer's Wine Dinner"

While The Chef and I were in Seville (of which more later, I promise), I got a note from Josh Spurling of Table Wine in Asheville asking us to be his guests at an event billed as "A Farmer's Wine Dinner." That got a fast "yes" out of us, and a quick post to the calendar on the iPhone. This was a Good Thing, as we began the next day immersing ourselves in the joys of eating and drinking in Spain, and forgot entirely about everything related to our lives back home. Yeah, it was a great time, a description of which will eventually occupy many megabytes and pixels here.

The dinner was last night, and it was the kind of event we like best: A complete surprise, in the best possible sense. Now, as you know, I am an advocate for wine dinners. Wine's highest calling is as an accompaniment to food; thus, wine dinners put wine in the most appropriate context. That's one reason for advocacy. Another one is we like to eat and drink and have a good time. Anyway, I've been to a lot of 'em, but never one quite like this: It was held at the store, it was very casual (folding chairs and tables, paper plates, self-serve) and the owner did all the cooking. Well, almost all. Josh made a soup (a puree of butternut squash, sweet potato, and ginger--at once subtle and substantial) and a nifty slow-braised pork loin. The redoubtable George Lowe produced a puttanesca sauce-based vegetable lasagna, which we enjoyed greatly, even in the face of our own prejudicial belief that a lasagna that does not contain a pork product is not really lasagna at all.

Why “Farmer”? Because all the food (and some of the wine) was organically farmed.

As an apéritif, Josh poured a pair of sparklers, both of which are old friends: Domaine de Martinolles Blanquette de Limoux, made in the traditional style, mostly from the local Mauzac grape, with a little bit of chardonnay and chenin blanc; and Domaine du Pas St. Martin Saumur Blanc, made from chenin blanc. The former had aromas and flavors of citrus and apple, with a little yeasty, slightly oxidized character, and the latter with similar fruit qualities, plus that good mineral quality we expect in wines from the Loire.

The reds included Pierre Chermette's basic Beaujolais, a nice little berry bomb, possibly the world's most food-friendly red wine (which is why every bistro in France pours one); a wonderful Cahors (the original home of malbec, as has been discussed at length elsewhere) made by the highly regarded Philippe Bernède of Clos La Coutale, a modernist whose vineyards have been in his family since before Napoleon, and who uses stainless steel and temperature control and a dollop of merlot to produce this early-drinking gem; and a fat, rich, fruity Coteaux du Languedoc, a Rhone-like blend of Syrah and Grenache, from winemaker Gerald Bru of Chateau Puech-Haut.

The standout of the evening, though, was a beautiful white Burgundy, the Domaine du Prieuré Savigny les Beaune from the Maurice family (Jean-Michel and his son Stephen). It is made in what I call, for lack of a better term, the “clean” style of chardonnay: Bold apple and citrus aromas and flavors, distinct mineral character, moderate body, and not a hint of the hazelnut note that is a common calling-card of whites from the region. It was the most expensive bottle of the evening, but quite possibly the best value, since it compares favorably with village-level Burgundies that cost twice as much.

As they say in the colorful patois of my homeland, it was a Wicked Good Time, and thanks to Josh, the lovely Lynn, and First Mate George for a great evening. It was inspiring. In fact, it's inspired me to start paying more attention to the local scene than before.

To which end: There is another wine dinner/tasting coming up very soon (Wednesday, October 12) of wines from importer Neal Rosenthal's French portfolio. It will be in two parts; a tasting at Vinsite, followed by dinner at Table. Rosenthal's Trey Stephenson will be on hand to pour. Price is $65/person, all-inclusive except tax. Call Les at Vinsite (828.252.4545) for details.


Our host.





Our hostess.



Lasagna-maker extraordinaire, George Lowe.

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