It all started with a dinner party. You know, the kind our parents used to have. The six of us sat under the shade of our giant tree. Each couple brought a bottle of wine, and a discussion about the amazing attributes of wine ensued. It was so enjoyable we immediately made plans for our next gathering. Years later we still meet once a month for a friendly wine competition. It has evolved . . . now we create gourmet meals and pair it with some of the most incredible wine I've ever tasted.
We were nervous, but it was our turn to produce the feast. My Step-Mom, Kathy, inspired me with another French dish; tourtiere (meat pie). We followed what is becoming tradition and invited the Wine Tribe to the cabin in Calaveras. We were a little worried about snow, but it stayed clear for us. Snow to look at, but not to slosh through. Plenty of firewood, food, and wine.
We found a French wine to serve with the hors d'oeuvres. I decided to be serious about the cheese and chose only French creations (Grand Affinage Compte Herie Mons Affinage, Explorateur Triple Crème Brie, and Young Mimolette Isagny St. Mere). I set out salami rolled in herbs de province and another in crushed pepper. Imported mustard from DijonFrance for dipping (Trader Joes).
Goat cheese layered with beets
Joe and I were at a winery in Sutter Creek and I found a recipe on a postcard for beets layered with goat cheese. I don’t know if that is a French dish, but it sure was fun to make as a sort of salad.
I made a practice run with the tourtiere and fell in love with the softer flavors of allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon. After much trial and error I decided on carrots glazed with whiskey and brown sugar, and toasted Brussels sprouts tossed with balsamic reduction and craisens (dried cranberries).
Dessert is NOT my forte, so I bought little French tarts and a late harvest Zin from Villa Toscana which never got opened. Even we have our limit.
Ah, the wine you ask . . . We chose Merlot for our tasting. When I first started tasting wineback in the 80's Merlot was a “transition” wine from rosé to red. It was light and fruity. Now it is returning to its ancient roots as a big bold varietal with almost no tannins. It was hard to find a truly traditional merlot, but HourGlass in Napa created a great bottle, so we bought it. Mark and Melissa brought Twomey, Dan and Denise chose Ehlers Estate.
Of course it was a close race, as always, but we won. The gold medal is hanging in my kitchen until the next gathering.
When we go to the cabin we extend the festivities to Saturday night, and I cook my spaghetti. This time Denise made her homemade crackers (amazingly delicious) and Mark made this chocolaty cake with a chocolate sauce drizzled over it. We put out the challenge to come up with the best wine to pair with the spaghetti. This may sound easy, but its not. My spaghetti is spicy. It wasn’t easy, but we had 3 spicy, firm wines to choose from. Believe it or not Michael David’s Seven Deadly Zins won over some pretty expensive wine. It just goes to show that American spaghetti is a truly peasant meal!