The 2013 Around the World Summer Wine Dinner Series is prepared by the beautiful Palm Springs’ Escena Grill & Lounge who maintain their promise to cover some of the world’s most famous vineyards and wineries. Executive Chef Anthony Mejia takes the cue for culinary inspiration preparing indigenous fare to whisk us instantly to the featured destination and vineyard backdrops.
As mentioned in my review of the first wine dinner, “A French Soirée”, held here last month, Escena is known for its spectacular mountain-scenic surroundings, great array of nightlife entertainment and the fact that it sits in the middle of the famed Nicklaus Designed Golf Course and Club.
The second leg of the four dinner epicurean excursions, aptly titled “A Voyage Down Under”, was purely stylish gustatory choreography provided by food & beverage manager Jeremiah Heffernan. He and Chef Mejia designed and pulled together some great Australian and New Zealand fare that included Green Tipped Mussels, slow-roasted Emu Stew, and Australian Burramundi. Fair Dinkum ’Mate!
In enjoying Escena’s second summer wine-pairing dinner—besides the fantastic quality of the meals and wine, again I am struck how the entire evening comes off like an intimate dinner party. With such a limited gathering, the conversation becomes electric and the merriment of the evening is continually fueled by wonderful cuisine.
In the last two decades the Australian and New Zealand wine trade burst upon the world with breath-taking ambition and most of us have tried out a fair share of bottles. Because so much wine did come over, cheaper wines somewhat diluted the quality brand of the wines down-under, but with the vino back on course, good Australian/NZ wine is happily pouring in our surroundings. And then there are the great Australian wines such as Penfolds and d’Arenberg; what a treat it was to taste and experience world class Aussie & Kiwi vintages!
Our first course was a plate of large Green Lipped or Tipped Mussels prepared and served in a shallot and garlic Pinot Gris wine reduction. This set the atmosphere for the entire evening: Perfectly prepared mussels in a reduction made from the wine poured for this first course. The 2011 Greywacke Pinot Gris, from the Marlborough region of New Zealand, carries tasty ripe pear and stone fruit flavors along with notes of green apples, lime, and peach blossoms cradled around a pleasing cleansing acidity.
Greywacke [pron. Greywacky] is a fun name for sure and it refers to the variety of sandstone that the vineyards sit upon. Kevin Judd, at the helm here, was the longtime winemaker for Cloudy Bay and its famous Sauvignon Blanc.
One could easily prepare and pair a Sauvignon Blanc from the same region with the mussels—and it’s a good match, but teaming Chardonnay’s cousin, the Pinot Gris, was a bit more inventive bringing a rounder less sharper flavor to well complement the brine of the shellfish plate. The reduction sauce was absolutely tasty with the panoply of the Pinot aromas exhibiting from the plate and the glass.
We know Oregon is producing very good Pinot Gris, and Italy does as well with its Pinot Grigio, but this new player Greywacke in from Marlborough perfectly fits the gap between a Chard and the Sauv Blanc. Great pairing Jeremiah!
The next course was the very trendy Australian Barramundi atop dill crème fraiche and corn relish. And the perfect wine accompaniment was D’Arenberg’s 2011“hermit crab” Vionier-Marsanne [vee-oh-NYAY—mahr-SAHN] from the McLaren Vale.
For those of you familiar with the French and California versions of this wine duo may think that this choice would be a bit heavy for the fine white fish. However, remember we’re down under and this exquisitely fashioned wine came from a very cool vintage which produced wines of grace and finesse. The palate displayed light stone fruit with an exotic pistachio and green almond flavor leading to a long savory and mineral finish. Nothing flabby here. Keep this wine in mind if you wish to impress your friends when serving fish, shellfish, and all types of sea food.
The next wine absolutely shot it out of the park! Penley Estate’s 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. And it’s no wonder since winemaker Kym Tolley is directly related to two of Australia’s pioneer wine families – the Penfold’s and the Tolley’s.
The wine owns a beautiful bouquet of blackberry, boysenberry and oak that continues on the palate along with black cherry. It’s a full-bodied wine with a great balance of acidity and a dry prolonged finish.
Every Cabernet enthusiast should experience the complexities of this unique wine which is produced in Coonawarra on the famed terra rosa terrain. Shiraz fans will also love this wine.
Of course matching this memorable reserve Cabernet to a dish just as memorable, we enjoyed a Slow-Roasted Emu Stew of mirepoix and the Penley Estate wine reduction along with puff pastry. Anytime one cooks with a reserve Coonawarra Cab in the mix—well, you know you’re in the right place at the right time!
Dessert was the light and delicate meringue cake created and named for Russian ballerina Pavlova after her tour down under in the 1920s. A pirouette of white chocolate, strawberries, and kiwi toppings danced around the Chambers’ Muscadelle dessert wine’s contours of candied tangerines, orange liqueur, and honey. Everyone enjoyed the sweet finale!
Bon Voyage! As we continue on the next culinary pleasure trip this September 25th, to South America, where the locally inspired meals will pair with wonderful Chilean and Argentinian wines. Please make your Escena Wine Dinner reservations soon as the sitting is very limited. I’ll see you there!
Buen provecho! & Salute!
Escena Lounge & Grill, 1100 Clubhouse View Dr. Palm Springs, Ca. 760.992.0002
Rick Riozza is the desert’s sommelier-about-town conducting and entertaining at wine tastings and events. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org