A Tour of California/Market by Jean-Georges

Market by Jean-Georges hosted A Tour of California wine dinner last night to kick off the 35th Annual Vancouver International Wine Festival. The room was softly lit with several long tables, side-room seating, and round booths.

A Tour of California/Market by Jean-Georges A Tour of California/Market by Jean-Georges

We were greeted with a glass of 2011 Edna Valley Central Coast Sauvignon Blanc as waiters made their way around the bar area with Dungeness crab cakes served with ginger lime. This delicate appetizer was well paired to take advantage of the wine’s nice grassy taste, with aromas of grapefruit and lime. A short while later, we were guided to tables in the adjacent dining room.

At 68 guests, the five course food and wine pairing event was fully sold out.

Steelhead sashimi, trout caviar, pineapple vanilla emulsion
[Steelhead sashimi, trout caviar, pineapple vanilla emulsion]

As the sashimi course was brought out, two chardonnays were served: a 2010 Edna Valley San Luis Obispo, and a 2010 Bridlewood Santa Barbara County. I found the first wine (Edna Valley) very tropical with a nice minerality to it, perfect for the salty trout caviar that graced the plate. The Bridlewood Chardonnay is fermented in a steel egg, giving it the acidity needed to take on the saltiness of the fish as well. I also tasted subtle hints of vanilla and spice in the Bridlewood. And the fish was gorgeous. I could have eaten a lot more of Chef Wayne Harris’ marvelous creation.

Corned duck, preserved walnut, cherry purée, foie gras shavings
[Corned duck, preserved walnut, cherry purée, foie gras shavings]

The next three courses were paired with reds. While I am a fan of pinot noirs and cabernet sauvignons, by the third dish (braised lamb shank), I was secretly wishing for a roasted chicken with seasonal vegetables such as yellow beet and carrot, perfect to enjoy with a glass of 2009 Louis M. Martini Lot 1 Cab Sauv. I know that many chefs like to add the heavier meats to menus when pairing with reds, but I would have loved a marinated salmon served with that 2009 Bridlewood Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir. It’s such a rich, complex wine that derives its depth from Pacific breezes that produce warm summers and cool winters. The grapes are also harvested a month later than their typical Sonoma and Napa Valley cousins.

Shangri-La BBQ pork, grilled broccolini, puff rice, pork crackling
[Shangri-La BBQ pork, grilled broccolini, puff rice, pork crackling]

The Shangri-La BBQ pork was delectable, combined with its puffed rice and pork crackling accompaniment. Paired with Louis M. Martini’s Gnarly Vines Zinfandel, it was by far the nicest meat dish of the evening. Third-generation wine maker Michael Martini discussed the history of his family’s winery, started in 1909 when his grandfather returned to Italy to learn how to make wine.

Michael Martini, 3rd generation L. Martini winemaker
[Michael Martini, 3rd generation Louis M. Martini winemaker]

Some great stories were shared of how the family survived the prohibition, the Roosevelt years, and the 21st Amendment, effectively ending prohibition in 1933.

His father Louis P. Martini returned from service in 1946, taking over until 1977. Michael’s recently completed his 36th harvest with the winery.

A Tour of California-11

The main course, braised lamb shank with carrot and Meyer lemon marmalade, was paired with a 2009 Louis M Martini Lot 1 Napa Cabernet as mentioned earlier.

Braised lamb shank, carrot pavé, Meyer lemon marmalade
[Braised lamb shank, carrot pavé, Meyer lemon marmalade]

I enjoyed my Cabernet with a risotto, also well-seasoned to take advantage of the cabernet’s full-bodied, complex structure derived from the region’s soil for a supple, velvety taste in the mouth.

A Tour of California/Rebecca Yates-Campbell, Kevin LeFort, Gallo Wines
[Middle, Right: Rebecca Yates-Campbell, Kevin LeFort of Gallo Wines]

E&J Gallo has owned Louis M. Martini Winery for over a decade; according to Michael, this partnership has made Martini the #1 Cabernet Sauvignon distributor in the US. “We’re all about Cabernet”, he later added.

Warm chocolate cake, coffee soil, cassis sorbet

Dessert was definitely not an after-thought, as a beautiful warm chocolate cake was paired with Apothic’s Red Winemakers Blend. The wine’s slight sweetness makes for a great dessert pairing. Cassis sorbet complemented the black cherry and rhubarb, together with mild hints of vanilla and mocha.

A Tour of California/Market by Jean-Georges

The full-bodied red was a delightful cap to a fine evening of good food, wine, and conversation. The wine showed off California’s diverse growing regions, especially newer ones such as the Central and Santa Barbara Counties, two areas that weren’t on the radar while this ex-California girl called both Los Angeles and San Francisco home.

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