By Jessica Yadegaran
Friday, July 25th, 2008 at 11:46 am in Uncategorized.
Grand time at Taste of Terroir last night. Those of you who showed up — it was sold out at 400 people — are probably still dreaming of the Palm Event Center’s duck bratwurst with homemade caraway bun and house made mustard. They brought it last year with those wild boar sliders and they did it again. Kudos. Consistently surprising and top-notch cuisine from an event center.
I was one of the event judges and the dish so impressed and satisfied us that we created a new category on the spot — Best Dish. We also created a Best Wine category and awarded it to the White Meritage from Murrieta’s Well. In a sea of flabby, oak-covered whites, this Bordeaux blend of Semillion and Sauvignon Blanc stood out with its vibrant nose, playful palate and crisp acidity.
The on-the-spot categories was our way of recognizing award-worthy wines and dishes from among the 16 entries that simply did not work as pairings. We were surprised and disappointed to see basic pairing rules — matching or complementary textures, flavors and aromas — ignored, and chances taken that shouldn’t have been. Mango with Merlot? We didn’t understand.
I will say, however, that when they tried, it showed. Executive Chef Arthur Wall of the Restaurant at Wente Vineyards scored our Judges Best for his rustic play on the elegant braised lamb and green beans. An eternally comforting dish with a summer spin, it had crunch, savory flavors and aromas. The 11 percent Cabernet in Karl Wente’s Nth Degree Merlot — with its lovely Earl Gray tea aroma and Karl’s signature Hungarian oak finish– provided the tannin and acidity necessary to round out the often difficult-to-pair Merlot. Everything worked. They improved each other. We desperately wanted seconds.
When I wasn’t sequestered in the Judges’ chambers, I took a peek at the event layout. Always a pleasurable set up. The lush patio opens into the event center, where each winery-restaurant team had a station. The dessert room delivered again, though it was not as grand and chocolate-laden as last year. Perhaps they tossed too many brownies in 2007. Who knows. I noted more party fouls — that’s broken stemware — this year. I was only outside the Judges’ room for 10-15 minutes but I heard about three glasses drop in that time. No, none of them were mine.