I love attending wine pairing events. For people who love food as much as I do, its really the best way to have delicious food with really good wine at a reasonable cost. Others may balk at the price tag, but when you think about it, you get to taste wine that usually cost thousands of pesos per bottle perfectly paired with excellently-prepared dishes. So, in my opinion, its actually a steal.
Wine lovers always look forward to Sommelier Selection's France Wine and Food Festival 2009, which usually comes around near the end of the year. Its a chance for Sommelier big boss Jerome Philippon to showcase his wines and at the same time do pairings with dishes prepared by the restaurants he supplies to. Its always fun for me to check out the menus on their web site and see which event I would like to attend. This year, there was double the number of restaurants that participated, giving more variety to the followers of these events.
For those who regularly drop by my blog, you know that I love eating at Marc Aubry's Je Suis Gourmand. The bistro fare is delicious and authentic, the servings big enough to satisfy even the biggest of appetites. After every dinner there, I leave completely stuffed and happy.
I make a reservation for me, Matt, my parents and our Ninong Mac. Since Ninong Mac's wife cannot make it, home-alone Cookie Goddess was happy to join us. We were lucky to have gotten the last table available for the evening, as the resto was already fully-booked two weeks before the event. As we settled in, we were approached by Socky, a fellow blogger and food lover, who was dining at a table near us with a friend. It was so nice to finally meet her, since we are both regular attendees of Jerome's events and have never had the chance to bump into each other. Until this one.
The theme for the wines at this years festival was organic, showcasing Jerome's personal picks of wines that were farmed and produced in this manner. Organic farming, as defined in wikipedia, is "the form of agriculture that relies on crop rotation, green manure, compost, biological pest control... to maintain soil productivity and control pests, excluding or strictly limiting the use of synthetic fertilizers and synthetic pesticides. As we later discovered through Jerome's guy, Victor, there are three levels of "organic" wines- natural, organic and bio-dynamic.
A wine is called "natural" when it is produced "organically" but has not been certified. "Organic", obviously, are those wines that have been produced through organic methods. Taking organic a bit further, "bio-dynamic" wines not only follow organic methods of farming, but also delve into the "spiritual" aspect of the vines as living organisms and integrate the lunar cycle into planting and harvesting. Its a bit more complicated than that, but that's basically it in a nutshell.
To start the evening, we were poured two kinds of easy-drinking wines: 2006 Bourgogne Aligote Domaine dela Saraziniere Clos des Bruyeres and a 2007 Cotes Marmandais Domaine Elian Da Ros (merlot, cabernet franc, abouriou).
Our first course was a Chilled Poached Salmon Couquille with Fine Macedione Salad and Raifort Mayonnaise , paired with a light a spritely rose from Provence, a 2007 Chateau de Roquefort Corail, which is a grenache and syrah blend. Less acidic than the Spanish roses that I'm used to, this wine had a bit more complexity and fruit but still is still a "fun" wine. I'd bring tons of this to the beach if only it was a bit cheaper.
My favorite dish of the night came next, which was the Veal and Chanterelles Ravioli with Watercress Sabayon. The filling of the ravioli was wonderfully meaty and aromatic, almost like a finer garlic sausage. It was delicious and tasty and left me wanting more. This dish was matched with a 2007 Crozes Hermitage from Domaine du Colombier, made from the marsanne grape. I was expecting a bit more weight with this wine, a bit more earthiness, but it fell a bit short, in my opinion. It was still an ok wine, but I would not pair it with the ravioli.
Matt and my dad were happy to see the next dish- Seared Beef Tenderloin Medallions with Chateaubriand Sauce and Turned Vegetables. The beef, although a bit overcooked for my taste, was just perfectly-done to my parents' preference, which is "not bloody". The sauce, in true JSG fashion, was lick-the-plate delicious. With this, they paired a 2007 Chateau Lagarette Tour Lagarette from Bordeaux, another red which was a bit too acidic for me.
The cheese course came in the form of the Honey Glazed Roquefort and Walnut Crepes. Being a slightly-sweetened dish, I was not surprised that they paired it with an off-dry wine- a 2006 Bott-Geyl "Les Elements" Pinot Gris from Alsace. I love this winemaker's whites and would buy cases of their Gewurztraminer if it was more affordable. Their Pinot Gris is equally beguiling, with rich honey notes complementing a fruity and herbal nose. This was a pretty good paring, but NFF Socky sent over a plate of Foie Gras which she said we should try with the Pinot Gris. She was right, it was a very good match, even bringing out more elements in the wine.
Before dessert, Matt and I had a blast chatting with Socky and her friend Cielo (Is that her name? I was beyond tipsy at this point.) about her recent trip to Germany and her new-found fondness for a certain Frankfurter beer. Socky, do not think we have forgotten your invitation to a beer tasting at your place!
Dessert was Mini Pears Poached in Wine Syrup with Pear William Ice Cream, paired with the same Pinot Gris. I just realized I forgot to take a picture of this dish. I love poached pears, and this one was quite the confection. Cookie Goddess loved the liqeur-spiked ice cream so much that she asked for more (and actually wanted to marry it). Chef Marc was kind enough to send her out two more scoops and promised to give her the recipe.
This was a lovely night spent with my parents, Ninong Mac, old friends and new ones. The white wines and the rose lorded it over the reds, in my opinion, and I promised Victor that I would order a few bottles from him (which reminds me, I should give him a call). Congratulations again to Jerome and to Chef Marc for a successful event (check out the other dinners at Sala, Cav, Lolo Dad's, etc. as well)! Aside from being a wonderful wine dinner, it was also quite educational on my part. I always thought that organic food products could not possibly be better than the traditonal ones, but I learned that- when it comes to wines, at least- it is fortunately not the case.
Sommelier Selection's France Food and Wine Festival 2009 is ongoing all throughout the month of October. Kindly check their web site (http://www.sommelierselection.info/) for details.