Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Woodfire/Lambert Bridge Wine Dinner

Last week, along with our friends Spencer and Kelly, Meg and I were lucky enough to get seats at an intimate wine dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Woodfire Grill. The menu was created and prepared to match the wines from Lambert Bridge Winery in Healdsburg California. Kevin Gillespie (you might remember him from Top Chef 6) and Nicolas Quinones put together an amazing five course menu that paired perfectly with several of Lambert Bridge’s wines. Andy Wilcox, from Lambert Bridge, was in attendance as well and he talked about each of the wines and the philosophy behind them. Lambert Bridge’s main ideal is that wine is a food group and is an integral part of a meal. They are very passionate about their Bordeaux style wines and to ensure the wines quality, they only craft small lots of each vintage. Their passion and high standards come through in the wines. Meg and I discovered the winery on our last trip to Napa and have experienced the hospitality and beauty of the vineyards first hand. Talking with Andy and others at the dinner about the winery brought back some great memories of our visit.

Here is a picture of the beatiful tasting room at Lambert Bridge

On to the meal!

In case you didn’t know, Woodfire Grill is known for using locally grown and seasonal ingredients, so the menu changes on a daily basis. For this wine dinner Kevin and Nicolas tasted the wines and then incorporated the flavors they found in the wines and created dishes that had similar or complimentary flavors in the food. They showed their creativity and incredible knowledge of wine in food with this menu. The food made the wine taste better and the wine made the food taste better. There were some great combinations on the table that night!
Here is the private room where the dinner and tasting took place

When we first were seated in the private room, the Amuse-bouche was dried cherry “gushers”, local easy cheese, and smoked cinnamon. This was a fun and interesting way to start the meal. The dried cherries provided a slight tartness to the smooth whipped cheese and the pop of the cinnamon rounded out the small bite. This was a great conversation starter at the table and went well with the 2007 Lambert Bridge Viogner.

Also paired with the Viogner, the first course was wild salmon and peach steamed in a fig leaf with fennel olive oil emulsion. When Kevin and Nicolas tasted the light and refreshing Viogner, they really pulled peach and citrus flavors out of the wine. The salmon with the slice of peach paired excellently with the Viogner.

Between the first and second courses, Andy explained why they use barrels that are created using a unique water-bending technique. They use these barrels so their white wines that are aged in French oak barrels are not overpowered with oaky flavors and the true flavors of the grapes come through in the wines. This was evident in the wine served with the second course. The 2006 Lambert Bridge Chardonnay was served for the second course and it was a nicely balanced chardonnay with just a hint of oak. A lot of California Chardonnays are overpowering with oak and that takes away from the true flavor of the grapes. Also in the Lambert Bridge Chardonnay, there were hints of vanilla, fresh cut apples and a slight buttery flavor. I bring up the butter to tie together the second course which was brown butter roasted lobster with a white chocolate and popcorn puree, fried banana and a glazed parsnip. On paper this might sound like a strange combination, but it was delicious! Once you took a bite of the dish and then a sip of wine, you realize how perfectly they went together. I could actually detect a butter popcorn taste in the chardonnay that I didn’t detect before tasting the food. This was my favorite course of the night!

For the third course we moved on to the “Dark Side” (as Andy would say) and were served the 2005 Lambert Bridge Merlot. The dish was a wood grilled duck breast, grilled mission figs, spring rapini and a coffe-fig jam. Again, a perfectly paired match, the richness of the duck and figs complimented the dark fruit flavors and smooth tannins of the merlot. Once my plate was completely cleaned, I savored the remaining merlot and it seemed like the flavors just lingered in my mouth even after the plates were cleared.

Bring on the fourth course! This course consisted of wood grilled lamb loin and leg, heirloom beets, dried cherry puree, roasted carrot and garlic and smoked chile oil. The wine that was poured was 2005 Lambert Bridge Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine and the food were both heavenly! The lamb was cooked perfectly and the dried cherry puree along with the garlic and smoked chile oil reflected the hints of dark fruit and nutmeg and clove in the wine. Everyone at the table was amazed at how the food and wine were going so nicely together. At that point Kevin Gillespie came out of the kitchen to talk to us about his thought process on the dishes. It was a nice treat to have him come out and talk to the group. It was at that point we realized how good the timing was for us since Kevin was going to be gone the next week to be a guest chef at the James Beard House in New York.

Executive Chef, Kevin Gillespie

Even though I was pretty full at this point, I couldn’t wait to see the dessert that was going to be delivered. Again on paper, I was a little perplexed on how the dessert was going to taste but at this point I had no doubt it was going to be good! Nicolas and our excellent server Matthew brought out the plates and they were visually beautiful. The plate consisted of foie gras torchon, strawberry cola pate de fruits, chocolate and pepper ice cream and chocolate sable. Yes, you read that right, foie gras as a dessert! I have never seen foi gras as a dessert and was a little hesitant. Because of that fact, I only tasted a small amount of the foi gras and I felt like it was salty and didn’t fit into the rest of the plate. That was a mistake on my part. I should have learned by that point that I should not judge an individual element on the plate but a combination of the elements. Once I got a bite of several of the ingredients on the plate the taste totally changed. It was at that point I realized the genius that was in the kitchen. All of those elements on that plate blended to make an unusual and delightful dessert. The 2007 Lambert Bridge Zinfandel matched well with the salty, sweet, peppery dessert. The full bodied spicy zin totally complimented the last course and was a great way to end the night. Or so I thought!

Andy, from Lambert Bridge, kept talking all night about the people behind the scenes that allowed him and his family to produce the wines they do and allow him to travel to these wine dinners. Earlier in the night he eluded to a special toast. Once the dessert plates were cleared, out came a shot of tequila for those who wished to toast the unsung workers back in California. It was an odd way to end a wine dinner but just added to the fun and frivolity of the night.

Overall the night was awesome! We all had a great time meeting new people, tasting wonderful wines and eating amazing, creative, local food. The staff at Woodfire was supurb; Nicolas, Bernard, Rick and Matthew couldn’t have been nicer and are all very knowledgeable. Kevin and his kitchen staff produced some incredible dishes that were paired perfectly with the yummy wines from Lambert Bridge. Even though Andy lied to us by not providing the coveted Crane Creek Cuvee, he was very informative and entertaining. He also promised to make it up to us somehow. I plan on holding him to it! We definitely look forward to the next wine dinner and our shipment of Lambert Bridge wines.


1 comment:

kristi said...

WOW, how completely fascinating!! I loved hearing about the menu and the pairings.........hmmmmm, How can I do it???