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|l||Dining with Fine Wine
A fairly recent phenomenon on our local gastronomic scene is the explosion of intricate wine dinners, which are served in courses and feature a speaker describing various aspects of wine. It's a chance for chefs to veer away from their normal menus and show off their skills with usually more haute fare as well as a chance for customers to learn more about the somewhat intimidating world of wine.
Since I am still learning about the properties of wine and tend to choose a bottle the same way that I decide on a trifecta (best name and color), I packed my high expectations and set off to Midway, KY for Bistro La Belle's Rhone-inspired wine dinner, narrated by Pat Wylie of Vintner Select Imports.
Bistro La Belle, owned by Laura Wolfrom Murphy, is a very charming restaurant on Main Street that blends in with the historic railroad town with a rustic brick façade and warm, inviting lighting. Inside, the walls are covered in an eclectic mix of paintings and photographs, and the tables are clothed in Indian print cotton. Their customary menu is a creative blend of regional and continental cuisine, and their daily specials are never dull.
Our wine host for the dinner, Pat Wylie, was very informative and excited to tell us about Vintner Select Imports and their wines. They are importers and distributors of unique and rare wines, some of which are personally chosen blends only to be sold in the States. They have also just completed an amazing 20,000 square foot warehouse in Ohio that maintains constant temperature and humidity control of 65 degrees and 65 percent humidity. Their concern for the proper conditions for wine is impressive and the selections that we tasted with dinner were excellent. They distribute locally to Tates Creek Spirit Company, Le Matin Cellars, The Liquor Barn, and Shopper's Village.
The first of this four-course meal was a slice of country pâté, made with duck and veal, on drizzled raspberry reduction, topped with two crostinis, and served with Les Tourettes 2000 wine. The pâté was very rich and fragrant as it should be, not mild or fatty, and initially coarse in texture but smooth when piled on the crostini.
Les Tourettes is a Grenache blanc and Viognier blend made by Jean-Marie Guffens, whose reputation rests on his work with white grapes. Pat describes it as, "a cross between great Condrieu and great Chateaunufe Blanc, creamed and complexified by Guffens' trademark working of the lees." This was a really good white and can be found for around twelve to thirteen dollars a bottle.
The following course was another white wine, Alban Viognier 2000, and a large, shallow bowl of Bouillabaisse. This French fish soup contained shrimp, mussel, and pan-seared scallop served in a saffron broth with diced fresh tomatoes and julienne strips of leek and fennel. The broth was lovely, the saffron clung to the shrimp, and was delicious. Lightly spooned on top of the seafood was a very tasty rouille (a puréed sauce), made from roasted bell peppers, garlic, dijon, French bread and olive oil.
The Alban Viognier is the finest example of Viognier in the world according to Pat, and is a, "hauntingly scented, oily textured wine." Only around 500 cases are produced a year, which is a small amount compared to the current norm of mass production. This was my least favorite of the four wines, not that it was unpleasant, just intense. Pat said that it was not for the faint at heart. It's priced at around twenty-three to twenty-four dollars a bottle.
The third course, our entrée, was an almond-encrusted New Zealand rack of lamb served with Quartetto McLarenVale Shiraz 1998. The very tender lamb was placed on top of mint pesto and oven roasted beets with fresh grilled asparagus. The pesto was a new twist on the old mint idea that worked very well and the vegetables were crisp and sweet.
The Quartetto is from hilly terrain where the days are warm and the nights are cool - the perfect conditions for a Shiraz. "These growing conditions, coupled with low yield production, creates a wine that is beautifully balanced with intense berry fruit, extremely concentrated and silky smooth, unusual by Shiraz standards," explained Pat. Also very interesting, the Shiraz originated in the Rhone in France and is called Syrah. The price for this wonderful wine is around twenty-nine to thirty dollars a bottle.
The final round was one of my favorites: the cheese course. It's a nice change from the typical dessert ending and a perfect wine accompaniment, which for this course was Domaine Des Relangnes La Cuvee Vigneronne Chateauneuf du Pape - how dramatic. The cheese to assist this wine name needed to be just as inspiring and was. A small plate of double crème brie, cambazola (which is a combination of camembert and gorgonzola), and raclette (similar to gruyère) was served with apples, grapes, and sliced hearty multigrain bread. The cambazola was melt-in-your-mouth good and the three cheeses together were a very nice combination that can be difficult to achieve.
Domaine Des Relangnes La Cuvee Vigneronne Chateauneuf du Pape was a blend of three Rhone varietals: Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre and was reviewed by wine critic Robert Parker as, "a deep ruby color as well as flamboyant aromas of black cherry jam, smoke, and underbrush." Beautiful color, and sells for around twenty-four to twenty-five dollars a botte.
The Bistro La Belle did a great job, along with Pat from Vintner Select Imports, and there are quite a few opportunities to take advantage of wine dinners being offered in town and I recommend that you try one. They are pricey at first glance, but you will walk away having eaten a meal that should be exceptional, having drunk wine that was specially chosen to accentuate the food, and learned a little more in the large vocabulary of winespeak.
Bistro La Belle
Please email your culinary heads-ups to Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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