It’s always a pleasure to have the opportunity to visit the Tasting Table test kitchen in SoHo, but the visit is especially welcome when they wine, food, ambience, and Joie de vivre is as exuberant as it was last night when Chris Hall , owner of Long Meadow Ranch (owning vineyards in Mayacamas, Rutherford, and Anderson Valley) came to visit. Joining him were Anderson Valley winemaker Stéphane Vivier and Long Meadow Ranch chef Stephen Barber.
The entire evening was fabulous, beginning with the welcome hour of passed hors d’oeuvres, and Long Meadow Ranch rosé wine made from Pinot Noir. In case you haven’t noticed, this is quite the trend! People are beginning to “drink pink” all year.
It’s always fun to attend these events because there are always so many interesting people to meet. I was able to chat with the winemaker, Stéphane Vivier. He was born in Burgundy, France and is hilariously funny. During the cocktail hour, he explained that his winemaking school announced that the California winery was looking for an assistant winemaker for six weeks. Virtually everyone in the school applied for the position, but only Stéphane got the offer. He was able to parlay the position into six months, and save enough money to go to New Zealand to take another apprenticeship.
During dinner, had the honor of being seated next to Chris Hall, who is a really dynamic individual. Very unassuming, as well, for having so many responsibilities. If you visit the Long Meadow Ranch website you will see that there are many activities here: organic and sustainable farming, chicken raising, a very fashionable farm to table restaurant called The Farmstead, philanthropic endeavors, wedding events, a thriving wine club, and corporate events as well. This is in addition to winemaking, what the evening is all about.
So Long Meadow Ranch makes a variety of different wines of excellent quality. Chef Barber and Chris Hall took a lot of care to make sure that the cuisine and wine were excellently paired. The dinner began with the 2015 Pinot Gris from Anderson Valley. It’s interesting that they called it Pinot Gris and not Pinot Grigio – I didn’t have time to ask Chris the reason, but maybe I didn’t need to. It was a very French approach to this great varietal. Pinot Grigio is a very popular great all around the world – it is associated with Italy, is associated with refreshing acidity, but in many minds it is associated with high volume, inexpensive, mass-produced wine. The Long Meadow Ranch Pinot Gris was very concentrated in ripe fruit with an expressive flavor and long length with a touch of French oak. It was paired with seared yellowfin tuna – delicious.
That second course, Sonoma Fois Gras, was well paired with the 2015 Chardonnay from the Anderson Valley. You might know that the Anderson Valley is synonymous with California sparkling wine. The soil and climate are somewhat similar to that of Champagne, France. The Chardonnay was also very elegant, with great balance and length.
We had a real treat for the third course of pan roasted Pacific halibut, as it was paired with something you don’t see very often: Pinot Noir Blanc. Chris explained that in a few years time the winery plans to make a sparkler from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay – and why not? Sparkling wine, like rosé wine, is the new trend. The wine was just wonderful, a white wine with that hint of red fruit.
Believe it or not, there was actually a fourth course after all this -roasted squab. It was served with a delicious 2015 Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley and one of the best pairings of the evening. The squab was served with spiced prunes and celery root sauce that really captured some of the finer elements of this complex well-balanced very Burgundian style Pinot Noir. Dinner concluded with Pennyroyal Farmstead cheeses.
Dinner was such a great event, full of new discoveries about long Meadow Ranch and all their activities. I was so excited to meet Chris, a really vibrant individual who has big plans. Not just for himself, and not just for the ranch. He really struck me as someone who wants to make an impact on the world and take a step forward in terms of promoting food and wine with a sense of place. I can’t wait to visit the winery when I am in California, and maybe spend some time with Stephane in the vineyard and chef Barber in the restaurant. The food was really fabulous, and of excellent quality.
It might be interesting for you to know that in the 1800’s, Long Meadow Ranch property thrived with vineyards, apple orchards, olive groves, hay and a goat milk dairy. Then farming fell dormant during Prohibition. Over the following years, the property became swallowed by the encroaching forest until the Chris’s family, Halls bought the property in 1989.
The Hall family carefully breathed life back into the land, nurturing it back to its glory, and then some, by cutting back the abandoned olive trees and replanting the vineyards and apple orchards as you see them growing today. Home to the Mayacamas Estate, the rugged 650-acre landscape nestled in the foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains also gave way to a long, sweeping meadow, thus the name Long Meadow Ranch was born.