Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wining at Noir...

Dining room at Noir
JD and I were lucky enough to be able to get tickets to a special winemaker dinner at Noir Food and Wine in Pasadena. By special, I mean special. Richard Sanford, the man behind the Sanford & Benedict vineyard, the original Sanford Winery, the current award-winning Alma Rosa Winery, and the inspiration for a generation of winemakers, was bringing his lovely wines to be paired with dishes created by Pasadena's most celebrated chef, Claud Beltran.

We arrived a bit early - strangely not much traffic heading east on the freeway - but the folks at Noir were ready. The tables were set, the glasses were out, and Mike Farwell and team were pouring the 2009 Alma Rosa Pinot Gris as an aperitif. We chatted briefly with Linda Padillo of Wine Warehouse, whom we've met at other wine events. Friend Jolie Winestain (with whom we've tasted at the California Wine & Cheese Company in Monrovia), arrived and proved to be a trove of information about the Pasadena food and wine scene.

Richard Sanford
Richard spoke eloquently about his great need to connect with the Earth after serving in the Vietnam conflict. He planted the first Pinot Noir vines in what is now the Santa Rita Hills AVA in 1970. The climate allows for a long, cool growing season which results in high acid grapes at harvest – perfect conditions for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

In 1983 the Sanfords planted their first 100% organic vineyard at Rancho El Jabalí. The La Rinconada and La Encantada vineyards followed, and in the year 2000 all Sanford estate vineyards were the first in Santa Barbara County to be certified organic by the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). Differences in business philosophy led to a separation from their namesake winery in 2005. The Sanfords started in a new direction, leaving Sanford Winery to found Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards, a new venture dedicated to organic farming and sustainable agriculture. Together with current winemaker, Christian Roguenant, Richard and Thekla are making wonderful wines.

Ahi Salad
First Course - Ahi Tuna Poke Salad - Tot Soi greens with lemon curry vinaigrette. Paired with a side-by-side sample of the 2008 Alma Rosa Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County, and the 2007 Alma Rosa Chardonnay, El Jabalí, Santa Rita Hills. The El Jabalí Chard was rich with tropical fruit having gone thru full malolactic conversion. The 2008 was crisp with bright acid, very Chablis-like. The 2008 was actually the better pairing with the food, but we liked both.

Second Course - Shitake Mushroom Strudel - Caramelized onions and Parmesan cheese with frisee lettuce and tarragon goat cheese vinaigrette. Paired with the 2007 and 2008 Alma Rosa Pinot Noir, Sta Rita Hills. The 2007 was deep ruby, surprisingly dark for a Pinot, with a raspberry nose and a long finish. The 2008 was lighter in color with cherries and mushrooms and was the better pairing with the strudel.

Third Course - Grilled Marinated Skirt Steak with Grilled Potato and Smoked Tomato Sauce - Paired with the 2007 Alma Rosa, La Encantada, Sta Rita Hills Pinot Noir, and the 2008 Alma Rosa, La Encantada Clone 115, Sta Rita Hills. OMG. The steak was PERFECT. Again, the 2007 was more deeply extracted in color with a cherry chocolate nose, a blend of Swan and 667 clones. There was something green in the nose as well; sage, maybe? I wasn't sure. The 2008 was 100% the 115 clone - more feminine, lighter, brighter. Both wines paired with the steak. Just heaven!


Fourth Course - Chef's Selection of Cheeses with fig and honey and hazelnuts. Paired with 2009 Alma Rosa Pinot Noir Rose, Vin Gris, Sta Rita Hills. Richard calls his Rose 'Vin Gris' in honor of those French Roses that were dubbed 'gray' wines because they weren't red and they weren't white. It's dry as a bone, not a dessert wine at all, but was a delicious pairing with three artisan cheeses and assorted other tastes.

Just a truly lovely dinner. Great dinner companions, wonderful wines and food, and the opportunity to hear a noted winemaker and grower talk about wine, philosophy and the joy of working at something you love.

Thanks to all at Noir for a great evening. We'll be back soon!

1 comment:

Jolie Elman (aka Winestain) said...

I love being a 'trove!' It was fun visiting with you both.