Saturday, September 22 was a sunny Saturday in Rutherford. Not just any Saturday, however. This particular Saturday was the night of our annual Winemaker Dinner. For wine club members and Honig fans alike, the Winemaker Dinner was a relaxing evening held right here on the patio at Honig. Both Kristin and Brett, our winemaker and assistant winemaker, had the opportunity to take a break from the busy harvest, get out of the dirty jeans and t-shirts and join the festivities.
Twinkling lights were strung from tree to tree, adorning the patio which was set with one long, family-style table. The dazzling white tablecloths were fixed with lovely floral centerpieces and PLENTY of wine glasses. Each place setting had its own jar of honey (from our bee boxes at Honig) with a personalized nametag attached. Guitarist Michael Belair provided acoustic melodies to set the ambiance and captivate our guests. It was simply charming.
nue Catering provided the cuisine for the evening, which was a three course meal, with passed appetizers to start. To go with the passed apps, which included a baked gruyere pastry and tuna tartar, we poured our Napa SB and our Rutherford SB. I’d be lying if I said the tartar and our Napa SB wasn’t a match made in heaven. The first course was a delicious green salad accompanied by a fluffy souffle of goat cheese (yum) that the Rutherford SB paired perfectly with. The stars of the show, the entrees and the Cabernets, came next.
Oak Avenue Catering allowed our guests to choose their entrees before the night of the event. I chose the lamb, which had a pomegranate-balsamic glaze and came with a lamb jus, an herbed hasselbeck potato and frenched beans. There was also an Angus New York steak served with oven roasted potatoes, creamed spinach, baby carrots and a red wine thyme jus. The last of the three choices was a stuffed Portobello mushroom with sautéed leeks, fennel and spinach, on a bed of lemon pilaf and roasted asparagus. Hold on, it gets better.
Kristin and Brett paired each of these entrees with, wait for it, three different vintages of our single-vineyard Bartolucci Cabernets (’00, ’05, ’09) and our upcoming release of ’10 Napa Cabernet. Each of the Bartolucci vintages brought something different to the table but, surprisingly, went perfectly with all three entrees (although the ’05 was my personal favorite). The ’00 was the oldest vintage of the Bartolucci that I’ve tasted; not as fruit forward as the younger vintages usually are, but the earthiness and herbaceous qualities were shining and could not have complimented the lamb any better. The ’05 still had that jammy quality to it with a perfect balance of oak and tannin while the ’09 was a bit heavier on the tannins, but a great preview of how well it will drink after a few more months in the cellar. The new release of the ’10 Napa cab was fruity, smoky, and a good addition to the evening’s roster.
The grand finale of the evening was, of course, the dessert: a warm walnut crepe with butterscotch baked pears, crème fraiche and caramel sauce. Amazing. Naturally, the dessert was paired with the ’10 Honig late harvest SB. There was just the right touch of acid from the delectably sweet wine to cut through the richness of the caramel sauce and compliment the juicy pears.
The winemaker dinner was my favorite Honig event I’ve been to so far, but of course I’m eager to attend every Honig event, and have the opportunity to report my findings to you. Stay tuned…