Dinner with a Washington star
I attended a wine dinner last evening at Mrs. K's Tollhouse in Silver Spring, where Chateau Ste Michelle's wines were paired with the chef's delicious creations. I had the pleasure of sitting at the table with CSM's Head Winemaker Bob Bertheau, who has been in charge of making all of the winery's still wines (Domaine Ste. Michelle's sparkling wines are in a separate divsion) for the past five years. I've always been a huge fan of this winery, and even got the chance to tour and taste at the breathtaking chateau a few years ago while on a trip to Seattle, so it was a huge thrill for me to hear Bob's stories about the hows and whys of making some of these incredible wines. I've always been amazed about how, especially with their red wines, the winery strikes that delicate balance of Old World restraint and New World fruit, at a price point that allows you to elevate even a weeknight dinner, or takeout. Many of their bottles simply taste a lot pricier than they are.
The pairings last night were stellar. Grilled shrimp with Thai peanut sauce was paired with the complex, rich 2006 Eroica Riesling, while the subtle, spicy notes and great fruit of the 2006 Canoe Ridge Estate Chardonnay played well with creamy lobster bouchee. The two main entrees were game--the first a tender, succulent ostrich with Cabernet reduction (the chef used the same wine we sipped with the course--2005 Indian Wells Cabernet Sauvignon); followed by pheasant breast with mushrooms and Merlot sauce (enjoyed with 2005 Canoe Ridge Estate Merlot). Bob pointed out that in WA, Merlot often has more structure than Cabernet--which is typically the reverse in other areas of the world where the two grapes are grown side by side.
Bob selected the botrytized Ethos Late Harvest Riesling to sip with apple foster and vanilla ice cream for dessert--and the consensus at my table was that this was the best pairing of the evening. The winery rarely makes ice wine, since the WA climate isn't always cooperative, but Bob said he prefers the complexity of this wine anyway--there was a lot going on in the nose, including a hint of the petrol that you often get in an aged German Riesling, which here manifested itself as a vinyl shower curtain. The flavor was rich honey and pear, though. Really beautiful.