Over the years, Zinfandel gained the nickname of “America’s grape”. Yes, it has been around a very long time AND its evolution has been quite remarkable to say the least. Recently, I had been reminded by long time, noted wine journalist Randy Caparoso, the merits of the Zinfandel grape variety—not only at how tasty and interesting it can be and how very different it can be when grown in a different terroir and microclimate, but mainly how wonderfully food friendly it can also be. Although all of his points were well founded, I found the food friendly reminder the most intriguing. That is what really inspired us to do this dinner.
The challenge with Zin is finding the “good” ones, as not all Zins are created equal. We will feature three very tasty, interesting and unique renditions for this evening. We have worked hard to get these wines because they are so different and each provides a glimpse of their respective region and their VERY different style of winemaking. Chef Keith Endo created dishes for each and we hope the wines and the pairings will not only taste good, but will shed light on what can be.
WINE: Scherrer Zinfandoodle “Alexander Valley”–One of my true aha moments with Californian wine was the tasting the 1991 Scherrer Zinfandel, it truly was that good and memorable. In a day, where BIG, black, opulent, heart, robust renditions were in fashion, the Scherrer was instead quite elegant, suave, wonderfully transparent, textured and finely balanced. It took us somewhere between seven to nine years to finally get some of his Zin to Hawaii. In the past few years, Fred Scherrer then released a Zinfandoodle—a fanciful name coined by his grandfather—which a much more playful, delicious, wonderfully food friendly blend of two or three vintages of fruit also from his father’s vineyard in the Alexander Valley. (I later discovered part of the core is from a small patch of vines which produce seedless grapes). We love how unpretentious and welcoming it truly is and on this night we want to show how special it can be at the dinner table.
Oxtail Uovo—crimini mushrooms, crispy polenta “fries”, worcestershire jus, baby arugula & truffle oil
WINE: Edmeades Zinfandel “Mendocino”–My love affair with Edmeades began starting with the 1994 vintage. Then winemaker Van Williamson fashion such brooding, burly, hearty, wild and wooly old vine, single vineyard Zinfandels that were masculine, full of mojo and soulfulness. The most fascinating bottling, however, proved to the “Mendocino” Zinfandel. I learned it was fashioned after the homemade wines of old. In the old days, European migrants didn’t have the luxury of producing a white wine for fish AND a red wine for meat. So, the one wine they made had to work with both fish AND meat. This was that style of wine—much more tame, civil, well textured and balanced. The current Edmeades winemaker, Ben Salazar has since fine tuned the winemaking—freshening it up and taking out the funk-centric idiosyncrasies AND without comprising the mojo, virility and soulfulness whatsoever.
House-Made Pork Sausage—pancetta-thyme-rosemary orzo, pork jus, roasted peppers & pickled red cabbage
WINE: Ancient Peaks Zinfandel “Paso Robles”–Ancient Peaks is a winery owned by three families down in southern Paso Robles. Their estate vineyard, Santa Margarita Ranch is located at roughly 1,000 feet in the very remote hills of the appellations coolest sweet spot. There are at least five different and unique soil types, of which are used to produce this wine. I chased and lobbied to get some of this wine to Hawaii for years. I love its blue collar, down to earth personality and how delicious, food friendly and gulpable it really is.
Hudson Valley Duck Confit—homemade cavatelli, Swiss chard & port wine reduction
This was quite an interesting dinner!
featuring a very different slant on what wine & food pairing could be.