Best Livermore Food & Wine Pairings:Taste Our Terroir

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ChefTracyWVealTaste Our Terroir is one of my favorite events of the year in the mostly delicious land of Food and Wine. It’s something Livermore does so well, they made a multi-day extravaganza of it for the first time this year. The Livermore food and wine events last until Sunday.

This signature event, held the 3rd Thursday of July, brings together 20 of the areas wineries, pairing them up with local chefs, giving each the chance to create what they think is the perfect pairing for a chosen wine. Every year, as the event has evolved, the food has gotten more creative, and the pairings increasingly reflect how much effort the chefs and winemakers put into creating that fabulous marriage of a good wine matched with just the right food.

MichelRetzlaffRoseThe Livermore Winegrowers changed venues this year to Casa Real, a gorgeous facility with lovely outdoor garden and courtyard space, better acoustics and more room for attendees to mingle and compare notes. I even overhead thoughtful conversations about which wine and food pairings to vote for. This is the first time I’ve heard people say things like, “I really like that winery, but I didn’t care for the pairing.”  “I’ve never been impressed by X winery, but I really enjoyed the way their wine worked with the food.” “I’m really torn between these two: I need to go re-taste before I vote!”

The three professional judges, David Glancy, Founder & CEO of San Francisco Wine School, Ethan Fletcher from Diablo Magazine and Jude Affronti, Chef at Sur La Table and Owner of Affronti Food & Wine Bar, all of whom had the opportunity to sample all the wares, came up with these awards:

Best White Wine Pairing

Page Mill Winery 2012 Chardonnay, Chandler Vineyard, Livermore Valley

WonTon Shell Topped with a lightly blackened Scallop with an Avocado Pico di Gallo and Chipotle Aioli

Winemaker: Dane Stark, Page Mill Winery

Chef: Jorge Magallon, Piccola Casa

Most Innovative Pairing

Cuda Ridge Wines 2010 Malbec, Livermore Valley

House-made Steamed Bun, Black Plum Char Siu, Spice-cured and Charred Pork Belly with pickled Root Vegetables, Cilantro and Green Onion

Winemaker: Larry Dino, Cuda Ridge Wines

Chef: Clay Brunton, Beets Hospitality Group

Best Classic Pairing

Rodrigue Molyneaux 2009 Estate Sangiovese, Livermore Valley

Lightly crusted Dutch Valley Veal Scallopini with Tomato Coulis and fresh Mozzarella on Citrus-infused Focaccia

Winemaker: Garry Rodrigue, Rodrigue Molyneaux

Chef: Tracy Flores, Castlewood Country Club

Judge’s Best Pairing

Concannon Vineyard 2011 Reserve Righteously Rosé, Livermore Valley

“Off the Hook” Seafood Sausage with a Rosé Cream Sauce

Winemaker: Julian Halasz, Concannon Vineyard

Chef: Eric Berg, Underdog Wine Bar

Dane12ChardPeople’s Choice: This is the big honor from the crowed, in which all the attendees of the event get to vote for their favorite pairing, by placing a cork in a bucket. It went to Page Mill Winery and Piccola Casa the Chardonnay and Scallop dish. This was the first time a white wine pairing was so honored by attendees.

All of these pairings really worked extremely well, and were highly thought out, and it showed. This was the second year in a row that Rodrigue Molyneaux and Chef Tracy from Castlewood nailed it for Classic Pairings, and with 6 completely different judges, so extra congratulations to them! They set a high bar.

Laura’s Personal Picks

Best Vegetarian Pairing

Thankfully, there were more vegetarian options this year, the best of which, in my book, was the 2011 Mitchell Katz Chardonnay paired with the utterly delicious fried green tomato topped with Handles Gastropub’s Green Heirloom Tomatoes from Terra Bella Farms yn Pleasanton, Fresh Mozzarella, Grilled Corn Salsa and Basil Aioli. A seasonal delight!

Best Rose Pairing

The nod here goes to Retzlaff for the 2011 Isabelle’s Blush, rose of Merlot, as it is slightly frizzante and paired nicely with the Watermelon Gazpacho from Tender Greens, that was decorated with a skewer of herring and edible flowers.

Best Red Pairing

Although I adored the Cuda Ridge Malbec and Pork Belly pairing for its smoky richness, I thought the Bent Creek 09 Cabernet with the Porter’s at Poppy Ridge Rabbit Confit with Blackberry Lime Habanero Compote was just lovely with the very berriness of that Cab, and it certainly was an unusual pairing that I didn’t expect to be as synchronized.

Best Textural Pairing

Occasio’s super-silky 2010 Del Arroyo Zin was a match made in heaven with the velvety texture of the Kobe Beef Lollipops With Capers, Wild Arugula, Mustard and Pecorino Cheese from Mangia Mia. A magical mouthful!

Best Seasonal Pairing

201 Nth Degree Wente Chardonnay, paired with a skewer of beets, nectarines, honeyed goat cheese and smoked hazelnuts from The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards. I loved this, but some thought it made the wine bitter.

Best Comfort Food Pairing

Eckert Estates smooth and dark cherry-fruited 2010 Petite Sirah was simply divine with the innovative Cherry Wood-Smoked Angus Short Rib with Mashed Sunchokes and Mascarpone Cheese, drizzled with Petite Sirah Demi and topped with an Italian Style Pickled Cherry, served in a Parmesan Cone. Some said this was the ultimate adult ice cream cone. I couldn’t agree more!

90 point wines under $20 at Wine.com. Shop Now!

BY: LAURA NESS, WINE JUDGE & WINE WRITER

Laura NessLaura Ness, aka “Her VineNess,” is an accomplished wine journalist and wine critic whose passion for wine was ignited by a visit to France, where she had the unmatched pleasure of tasting Sancerre in the medieval town of Sancerre – splendid!— and then a Saumur, after visiting the Chateau de Saumur in Chinon. The concept of terroir came alive in those incandescent moments. She regularly judges wine competitions and serves on the tasting panels of the Pinot, Cabernet and Chardonnay Shootouts. She was instrumental in helping define the unique sub-regions of the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA in concert with Appellation America. You can usually find her sipping and smiling in Mendocino, Livermore, the Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Cruz Mountains and Paso Robles. Laura writes extensively for many industry and consumer publications, and has weekly wine columns in several Bay Area newspapers. She blogs, irreverently and sporadically, at myvinespace.com.

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