Elizabeth and I went to The Wine Trials 2010 book release party at Seppi’s on Wednesday night. I was one of the blind tasters for the first edition of the book. The Wine Trials 2010 is a completely rewritten new edition that “recommends 150 wines under $15 that outscored $50-$150 wines in brown-bag blind tastings of the latest vintages.”
While we were waiting for everyone to arrive, we were served some Brut Cuvée from Domaine Ste. Michelle, a $12 Washington state sparkling wine that was preferred by over two-thirds of The Wine Trials blind tasters over a $150 bottle of Dom Pérignon Champagne. As a passed appetizer, we had some Alsatian tarte flambée, which looked and tasted like some really good thin crust pizza. I can’t think of a better pairing to showcase the values of The Wine Trials than pizza with bubbly.
After sitting down for dinner, we were served roasted red beets and frisée salad with goat cheese over apple paired with a Grüner Veltliner, Federspiel Terrassen, Domäne Wachau from Austria. The thinly sliced beets reminded me a little of beef carpaccio in appearance, which I think disturbed our vegetarian table mate. I still had some of the sparkling wine left over when the salad was served, and I actually preferred it over the Grüner with the salad. Although I am usually a Grüner fan, I thought that the herbaceous subtlety of the wine couldn’t really stand up to the vinaigrette in the salad.
Next up was a lobster bisque with crab cake on sugar cake matched with a White Rioja from Marqués de Cáceres (Spain). I’m not sure what “sugar cake” on the menu referred to, but it turned out to be a pleasant surprise of sugar cane, which formed the “stick” on crab cake “lollipop”. I appreciated the whimsical tropical allusion in the hearty cold-weather bisque. I have fond memories munching on sugar cane when I was a kid in Taiwan. The white Rioja had a vegetal lightness to counterbalance the creamy hearty soup.
The main course was a duo of monkfish “osso bucco” over saffron risotto and miniature rack of lamb over sautéed spinach. I’m not sure where the osso bucco reference came from, but the dish tasted great. Both the monkfish and the lamb were perfectly cooked. I didn’t really taste the saffron in the risotto, but otherwise it was wonderfully executed. The wine pairing was Rioja Crianza from Bodegas LAN in Spain. I’m not sure what LAN stands for in this case, but Elizabeth and I noted that it is a geek-friendly name, and could play well with 8-bit wine. LAN party anyone?
The next course was a cheese plate with blue cheese and Gruyère paired with an Altano Douro, Symington Family Estates from Portugal. I am a frequent vinho verde drinker, but I had never tried a red from Portugal before. It was a real revelation. Elizabeth and I both agreed that it was a unique wine and our favorite of the evening. I don’t have the words to describe it, just try it, it’s less than 10 bucks a bottle.
Finally, for dessert, we had a flyer chocolate cake paired with a dessert wine from Greece, Mavrodaphne of Patras, Kourtaki, which had a caramelly taste, and a nice lighter-bodied alternative to the usual pairing of Port with chocolate.