WINE FOOD & FRIENDS Page 301 San Francisco International Wine
We had the pleasure of orchestrating a dinner for some friends
who come from a fair distance to judge wines at the annual
San Francisco International Wine Competition.
It's always an honor to be invited to judge at this amazing event. Some
years ago we floated the idea of a wine-centric dinner just a day or two prior
to the wine-judging and we had a blast!
We created a nice dining program and set the table, awating the arrival of our
Flying in from Deutschland was Rowald Hepp, winemaker and
manager of the famous Rheingau winery of Schloss Vollrads. He had a number
of obligations at the winery during the week and was unsure of his being able to
"escape" Friday morning and catch a flight to San Francisco.
Throwing a curveball his way was Lufthansa airlines, as there was a labor strike
the day before and the day of his flight.
They were able to put Herr Hepp on a plane to Los Angeles though and then get
him a connecting flight to SFO.
He arrived in San Francisco just in a nick of time!
Flying from Australia was famous wine educator and wine critic/judge, Jim
McMahon. Jim has participated regularly in judgings in far flung locales such as
Singapore, France, China, New Zealand, the UK and the United States.
From New Zealand we were delighted to host Jim Harré. Jim has been
affiliated with New Zealand Airlines and judges at competitions around the
The former Director of Judges at the San Francisco International Wine
Competition, Tim McDonald, joined us from the Napa Valley along with his lovely
And the esteemed Dr. Valery Uhl, who's a medical doc by day and wine judge in
her spare time, evaluating wines in various California wine competitions as well
as others in various states.
Valery offered to chauffeur those attendees who required a passport to clear US
Customs, while Tim and Lisa motored on their own from Napa.
And so, as we were putting the finishing touches on food preparations for
dinner, the doorbell rang.
Dr. Valery Uhl, Chauffeur with Jim Harré, Jim McMahon and Herr Rowald
We immediately put these guys to "work."
Nibbles included some Foie Gras, Marcona Almonds, Rosemary Crostini and
Asparagus Wrapped with Prosciutto di Parma.
Laurent Perrier Rosé in Magnum...
Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, the Mushroom Risotto was
coming together nicely.
As has become customary, we had an apron for all the guests.
We plated the Risotto...
We had two bottlings of Brokenwood's Hunter Valley Semillon.
Both were from the 2011 vintage.
The Oakey Creek 2011 displayed the crisp, zesty acidity typical of top Hunter
Valley Semillon. No oak and no malolactic fermentation, as usual.
These wines can live a long time and we caught this just as it's starting to
More intense and slightly more complex is the ILR Reserve bottling of Hunter
There's a waxy note to both wines, with lemongrass and some lime notes.
The ILR Semillon is deep and intense.
These are a mere 11% alcohol and the fruit is picked with high acidity levels,
allowing the wines to develop over the long haul.
They were really good with the mushroom risotto which had been embellished with
some Porcini cream enhanced by Alba truffles.
Next up we had two Tyrrell's Hunter Valley Semillons.
We had the 2013 vintage and a more developed 2008.
I had expected these to be deeper and more complex than the Brokenwood
bottlings, but perhaps these are still a bit shy and developing?
The 2013 is clearly a young wine and in need of cellaring.
The 2008 was mildly toasty and deeper than the youthful 2013, but it was still a
We had these paired with Dungeness Crab Cakes a a sauce of roasted red peppers.
Jim McMahon brought a bottle of an older Semillon.
As you can see, this was brassy in color and showing its age...still,
interesting to taste and compare to those younger wines.
As a palate-cleanser we prepared an ice made of a 2018
Beaujolais-Villages from Domaine de Colette.
It was beautifully fruity and tasted of red fruits, through and through.
Rowald gave it the "thumbs up."
This year we choose to partner Lamb with California
We grilled a small Lamb "t-bone" with a Lamb Rich chop and a
locally-made Lamb sausage.
Also on the plate were some pan-roasted potatoes, over-roasted Brussels Sprouts
and some Okra.
The Louis Martini winery owns a famous site in the Sonoma Valley called the
Monte Rosso Vineyard. Zinfandel from that property can be special.
We had the 2014 vintage from the Louis Martini winery and it was a mildly spicy,
These days the winery is owned by the Gallo family and the retail price for this
wine is about $70.
Showing more Zinfandel fruit and spice was Nils Venge's 2016 Saddleback Cellars
from the Frediani Vineyard in northern Napa Valley.
It showed beautiful fruit and spice along with some sweetly, woodsy notes.
And it retailed for $40.
Homemade Pistachio Gelato served alongside a Honey-Gingerbread slice and topped
with shaved chocolate.
The Colorful Tim McDonald.
We served dessert with an Australian "sticky,"
Pfeiffer's Rutherglen "Topaque."
This is a magnificent sweet wine made of the Muscadelle grape.
It's said to be matured for approximately ten years and shows notes reminiscent
of tea, honey and toffee.
It was, indeed, a good match for the Pistachio gelato.
And with that we concluded our splendid soirée.
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