Curious how to impress friends with your wine knowledge without breaking the bank? If you are reading this column, you already realize that high-priced wine does not necessarily mean “better” wine. Instead, you will earn respect by choosing a delicious, well-structured wine from a respected producer and pairing that wine correctly with cuisine. Sharing the wine’s name and affordability with your friends after the tasting is guaranteed to win you even more accolades as an expert who knows both value and quality.
Today let’s make this food and wine pairing specific with the newly launched artisanal Geyser Peak Block Collection from Sonoma, California and Manhattan-based celebrity chef David Bouley.
Why Geyser Peak Block Collection?
As a wine aficionado, you know that terroir drives the flavor and quality of wine. What Geyser Peak has done in their new Block Collection is to empower their award-winning winemaker Mick Schroeter to create site-specific wines. Unlike vineyard-designate wines, the Block Collection is a blend of special blocks within multiple vineyards to balance, enhance, and show the specificity of the respective regions (Alexander and Russian River Valleys) in the finished wines. The Block Collection wines are under $25.
Why David Bouley?
If you are also a foodie, you know that Chef Bouley is one of the top chefs in the world and is very much about sourcing artisanal ingredients. As the philosophy between winemaker and world-class chef are so similar, it is a natural that Geyser Peak and David Bouley work together to debut the wines with flights of meals for a small number of Manhattan’s top food and wine journalists.
The Venue: Bouley’s Test Kitchen in trendy downtown Manhattan
In your mind’s eye, imagine an enormous white studio-sized kitchen, filled with a dozen sous chefs efficiently chopping and preparing nine dishes and complex sauces before your eyes. As the journalists file in, squeezing themselves between the various stoves and countertops en route to seats at long tables facing the kitchen, the chefs work calmly and quietly and almost seem relaxed, despite what must be — for them — tremendous pressure.
The Speakers: Winemaker Mick Schroeter and Chef David Bouley
With his lively Australian charm, Schroeter kicks off the tasting seminar and lunch with amusing anecdotes about his move to Sonoma, soon followed by a brief discussion of the unique terroir that represent the Block Collection wines.
As the first dishes come out, wines are poured, and journalists are encouraged to taste different Block wines with each of the nine flights of expertly prepared cuisine. First Food Flight
Please note that each tasting-sized dish comes out on its own plate.
Porcini Flan Dungeness Crab, Black Truffle Dashi
Oil Poached Shrimp & Diver Scallops Ocean Herbal Broth
Kumamoto Oyster Plum Wine
Geyser Peak Block Collection River Ranches Sauvignon Blanc 2008 Tasting Notes: This clean, refreshing Sauvignon Blanc with its grapefruit and lime blossom flavors paired excellently with the Kumamoto Oyster, a refreshing treat from the sea which was paired with a plum wine gelee. In wine and food pairing parlance, this would be a “complimentary” match as the flavors complimented one another. Now the Porcini Flan with Dungeness Crab and Black Truffle Dashi was a richer dish. In this case, the wine, with its lively refreshing acid, cut through the richness of the dish, cleansing the palate. This is a case of “contrasting flavors.”
I also liked the wine with the shrimp and scallops, a very light dish expertly prepared. The herbal notes of the light sauce nicely matched the herbal flavors of the wine.
Marisa’s pairing suggestions: The above-dishes represented great pairing choices for this wine. At home, you might want to try serving it in the following ways:
- Alone as an aperitif
- With a cheese like fresh chevre (goat cheese). The wine varietal Sauvignon Blanc was originally from the Loire Valley in France, and chevre was the local cheese.
- With all typical brunch dishes such as omelets and quiche.
- With white-fleshed fish, simply prepared (steamed, broiled) with a very light sauce.
- Composed luncheon salads. Technical Notes: While the wine was fresh and clean, winemaker Schroeter said that a small portion of the wine was barrel fermented to give a textured roundness to the mid-palate.
Vineyard Notes: Russian River’s cool climate produces intense, fruit forward, vibrant New World style of Sauvignon Blanc, the hallmark of Geyser Peak which dates from the nineteenth century. The backbone of this blend comes from the River Road Ranch Vineyard. Within the ranch, winemaker Schroeter and his team have divided the vineyard into distinct blocks, based on sun exposure and soil type.
True wine geeks might find it interesting to know that the ajority of the vineyard is planted to Clone 1 Sauvignon Blanc (a “clone” represents a specific genetic grape type). Winemaking Notes: At harvest, each vineyard block was picked during the cool morning hours to preserve the fruit’s intensity, and then gently pressed as whole berries. The majority of the wine was pressed in stainless steel (to preserve its aromatic fruit flavor). 15% of the blend was fermented in neutral French Oak. No malolactic fermentation was employed. The wine was matured for four months and bottled March 2008. Only 3,300 9L cases are made.
Second Flight Food
Black Sea Bass Vanilla Infused Saffron Sauce
Main Day Boat Lobster Celery Root, Peas, Blood Orange, & Pomegranate
Line-Caught Halibut with Popped Rice Wine Pairing
Geyser Peak Block Collection Water Bend Chardonnay 2007
Tasting Notes: This Chardonnay is an exceptionally well-balanced wine with subtle aromas of vanilla, butterscotch, and a hint of baked apple pie. In many ways, one could mistake it for its French cousin in Meursault. The wine gives the impression it had undergone many weeks of battonage (lees stirring) with its rich buttery taste.
I absolutely loved this wine with the black sea bass, especially (or perhaps, because of?) the vanilla infused saffron sauce that paired so well with the vanilla notes of this wine (complimentary flavors).
This Chardonnay also went well with the lobster, providing more of a “contrast” match to the sharper, slightly more acidic flavors of the sauce.
Line-Caught Halibut with Popped Rice was also excellent, very much a “compliment.” I should explain that the sauce was not popcorn the way most of us think of it – a hard, crunchy popped unit of corn. Instead, the popped corn had somehow been transformed to liquid form, so it tasted creamy.
Marisa’s Pairing Suggestions: Just thinking about the flavors in this wine makes me crave a glass right now, as an aperitif, without food! Here though, are some further suggestions: 1. Roast chicken. The texture of this wine, its subtle (wood) spice, makes me salivate even thinking about it. 2. Pasta or Risotto with a cheese-accented white sauce. 3. Composed luncheon salad 4. Caramelized scallops
Technical & Winemaking Notes
An important part of Geyser Peak Winery’s Chardonnay program is the use of American Oak barrels whose staves are soaked in hot water prior to shaping. The water leaches harsh components out of the wood and significantly increases the depth of toasting of the staves as they are shaped over fire.
This process yields barrels which impart a more delicate, subtle oak character to the wine along together with an elevated creaminess. Following fermentation in barrel, the wine was allowed to remain in contact with the yeast lees for the entire nine-month maturation period and stirred periodically in order to integrate the nutty, deep flavors of the lees into the wine. Approximately half of the blend underwent malolactic fermentation. Wine was matured for nine months, bottled in July of 2008, and 2,500 9L cases are produced.
Fruit for this wine came predominantly from a riverside block of vines at Geyser Peak Winery’s Ascentia Vineyard. The vineyard’s sandy soils, low yields, and cooling coastal fogs make it ideally suited to growing Chardonnay. To preserve fruit flavors, grapes were harvested in the early morning hours and gently pressed while, without crushing, to avoid any harsh extractions. After cold settling, the juice was racked directly to barrel.
Third Food Flight
Organic Colorado Rack of Lamb Rosemary Crust, Zucchini-Mint Puree
Long Island Duckling Balinese Pepper Crust, White Truffle Honey Verjus, Ginger Dressing
Rack of Veal Heart of Palm & Japanese Egg
Wine Pairing: Geyser Peak Block Collection Walking Tree Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Tasting Notes: This smooth Cabernet Sauvignon is rich and ripe with notes of blackberry, mocha, cassis, and sweet spice. I liked it best with the Long Island Duckling – the sweet oak notes of the wine really melded well (complimented) the Balinese Pepper Crust of the Duck.
This wine also went well with the Lamb, matching the lamb in terms of texture and weight (crucial for an effective pairing) and melding nicely with the herbal flavors of the rosemary and mint accents.
Many in our group found that the wine worked well with Veal, yet the above-two pairings are my favorite.
Marisa’s Pairing Suggestions: 1. Steak 2. Any other grilled meat 3. Non-meat eaters may find salmon or tuna a possible pairing, depending on the way it is cooked (roasted is best) and the vegetables served with it (roasted vegetables with texture and some char is best). 4. Cheese
Technical and Winemaker Notes:
Here’s an interesting fact: the wine is named after a remarkable oak treethat over the course of several months, “walked” down the steep grade of the vineyard directly behindthe winery – while standing completely upright. WalkingTruee Cabernet is a blend of blocks from this hillside vineyard and other sites around the valley.
The wine is matured for 18 months in 100% new French oak.
You can find Geyser Peak Block Collection Wines in many shops for under $25, including wine.com.