It was Sunday, November 13, 2016 and the Cork Dorks were at it again with a dinner party planned at Rachel’s place in Lakewood. Although the entirety of the menu was not revealed until we arrived, we did know there was going to be homemade blood sausage and a handful of other dishes that we have never tasted before. Oh how I love new experiences!
Clint, Rachel’s boyfriend, is a Chef and he was thrilled to prepare several special dishes for us to pair with some killer wines that night (he actually planned/prepped this menu for well over two weeks). The only thing they asked of us was to bring something to accompany a abundance of food they were already making.
Jake and I waited until the dinner was about two days out to figure out what we were going to contribute, we surely could not show up empty handed. Dana and her husband were already planning to bring a few cheeses and accouterments like nuts and olives which left Jake and I at a bit of a loss as to what to bring. I was cleaning the kitchen cabinets later that afternoon and came across a bottle of 1976 Quinta do Noval, Colheita Tawny Port that was gifted to me a few years ago-it was the perfect thing to bring to a wine dinner with friends!
The next step was to find something that would pair with this formidable 29 year old bottle of wine (I will explain the math on this later) of which I have never tasted anything like it before. I turned to my chef at work, Chef Jakubiec, and his response was simple-chocolate. Ok, perfect I thought, I can bake some turtle brownies, plate them nicely and call it good.
It was suddenly the morning of the party and had I procrastinated too long; I did not have time to bake brownies after work…now what? So on my walk home from work that afternoon I decided to take a different route in hopes that I could find something that could save the day, then I saw Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory on the 16th Street Mall
phew. I hustled inside and chose an assortment of light/dark chocolates, toffees and truffles and went home to get Jake and head to Lakewood for dinner.
As we walked into Rachel’s loft the smell of wine and food filled the room. We were immediately greeted with hugs, plates and glassware so we could start tasting all the deliciousness that was happening right before us. To be honest, I was a little overwhelmed with everything we had to choose from. Clint went all out-salt blocks to cook thin slices of scallops and NY strip steaks, olive tapenade, elephant garlic dip with fresh baked bread, dates stuffed with asiago cheese and wrapped in crispy pancetta, elk merguez, homemade charcuterie and the list continues…
As if that was not enough, they were also gracious enough to open their wine cellar and pull out some impressive wines to pair with all the food! Dana and Mike brought a homemade pumpkin bourbon to share with everyone too.
We only had one white wine for the night so I started with that, a 2014 Mischief and Mayhem Bourgogne (100% Chardonnay); paired that with the scallops garnished in a herbed olive oil and a pinch of black pepper, it was memorable to say the least. That wine also paired with the olive tapenade containing anchovies and capers (lots of brininess going on here). I would not say it was the best pairing because the wine lost some of its delicacies in the saltiness of the dish; perhaps a demi-sec Vouvray would have done better. But with the scallops it was fantastic!
Next I went for a glass of the 2005 Chateau Plaisance Cuvée Alix (a right-bank Bordeaux blend) and a piece of New York strip steak, hot off the salt block. I then tasted the same wine with Clint’s blood sausage (made from pigs blood, apple, garlic, clove, cinnamon and several other spices) and I enjoyed that pairing even more. From there I decided to taste the 2008 Maiden, a Napa Valley wine that tasted like a Bordeaux blend to me. It was definitely a full bodied red wine that probably needed a little more decanting to open up and show its true greatness. It was good but not my favorite of the night.
Then I tasted the 2007 Meliora Syrah from Walla Walla, Washington and my night was made. It was bursting with baked plums, roasted meats and fresh herbal undertones that came together as a masterpiece of dark, inky purplish-red wine in my glass. The tears stained the glass like I have never seen before; to top it off I tasted it with the asiago stuffed dates wrapped in crispy pancetta-O.M.G. it was heavenly! I could easily have that as my last meal, such a great pairing. This wine also worked well with the elk merguez (elk sausage basically) that Clint made, again not as good of a pairing with the dates but still pretty good.
Just as we all thought we could not take another bite or sip of anything else, I busted out the 1976 Colheita Tawny Port and the chocolates. I’ve never opened such an old bottle of wine before and I was a little too aggressive with it; the cork broke and fell down into the bottle so we had to filter it before enjoying it, luckily Rachel had all the necessities to make the that happen.
Before we get into what the wine tasted like, I want to explain a little as to what makes this wine so special. It is a Tawny Port that was made with grapes only grown in 1976 from a single vineyard in Portugal. The wine had everything the producer wanted (sugar content, acid levels, tannins, and it showed its individual terrior) in order to ‘declare a vintage’. After this wine went through fermentation, it had to age in oak barrels until someone ordered it, then and ONLY then did it come out of those oak barrels, get bottled and shipped to the buyer. This wine in particular was bottled in 2005 making it a 29 year old bottle and not a 40 year old bottle; you only count the years it spent in barrel aging because that is where it develops into a mature wine and once it is removed from the barrel the wine generally stops developing (does not get any more complex flavors or aromas to it).
As we were filtering it into the decanter, the aromas filled the room almost immediately! At first, it was baked cherries with lots of baking spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. Then after a few swirls around the glass it started to show more of a toasted cashew/almond character that eventually opened up to a butterscotch/toffee/caramel aroma. Every time I put my nose in the glass there were new aromas, so many complexities. The rim variation was pretty cool too, in the center of the glass it looked like apple cider and as it went out to the edge of the glass it turned to a golden straw like hue. And the tears in the glass fell so slowly you felt as though it was writing a poem on the way down, telling you about all the history in the bottle, it was simply amazing. I was lucky because this was the first tawny Port I have ever tasted before, everyone said I had been ruined now because no other tawny Port would ever taste this good. I guess I’m a Port snob now too *wink*
Random side note, I always wondered how people get to be so particular about any number of things as they get older, well I can say that I am beginning to understand it at 28 years old about a few things in my life: my career, my taste in food/wine, and the people in which I choose to spend my time with.
As good as the food and wine were, nothing beats being spending time with great friends. I can say with confidence that I would not be the same person I am today without having these wonderful ladies in my life always inspiring me to be better. So here is to you Rachel and Dana, cheers!
I would just like to say thank you for following me on my journey to become a Master Sommelier, it means so much to have your support. Please be sure to leave a comment and subscribe to my blog so you can stay up to date on all of my latest adventures!