For the love of wine tasting

15 02 2009

Once a month we have a reservation at Checkers, a little bistro that promotes young adults in the work-place.  Checkers is a training facility for food service workers.  Checkers is also one of Butte County’s best kept dining secrets.  The food is slightly skewed to Italian bistro, and they’re only open a few nights a week (however, Tues. through Fri. for the best lunch and lunch value in town), and they hold a reservations-only wine tasting-pairing each month. We started attending 2 years ago, on Valentine’s Day…one of their better and more-attended occasions.

The theme for this month’s wine tasting was, “For the love of wine tasting.”   And since most folks seem to love the reds, we had a majority of reds.  Each wine is paired with a small plate course orchestrated to bring out either qualities of the wine or qualities of the food, or both.  To see full size images, please click on the thumbnail image.

roastedbeetsaladWe began with a Sonoma Brut from the Gloria Ferrer Vineyards, paired with a roasted beet salad.  By itself, the wine was nicely dry with notes of almond.  Although said to have citrusy notes as well, I didn’t catch that so much.  The salad was pairs of roasted beets, golden and red, chilled, adorned with micro-greens and an herb dressing with crumbled cheese, perhaps feta?  The amount was so small it was hard to place the taste.  The red beets were sweet, but didn’t have the roasting-intensified flavor I anticipated.  All in all though, a nice starter; very light and cheerful.  A table partner didn’t care for the golden beets.  They felt there was an earthiness in the golden beets that almost tasted dirty.  Interesting.

crabgratineeNext up was a Williamette Valley Pinot Noir (2006) from the Argyle Winery, paired with a crab gratinee.  The description of the wine on our program was full of alliteration, but the upshot was the wine was full of fruitiness and aroma.  At first taste, it was indeed fruity-plum and cherry, but a bit acid as well.  The wine paired very well with the crab gratinee, which I really wanted to like.  For the most part, I love crab.  And ’tis the season of Dungeness.  But I just couldn’t get past the nose of the dish…it smelled fishy, and I can’t eat fishy smelling anything.  So I had another deep sip of wine…and its flavor had changed!  The herbs and crabby taste rounded out the edges of the wine so it was more full, more fruity, almost like jam.  I managed to eat half of the crab fiasco, because it made the wine so wonderful!

halibutharissaOur next dish was grilled halibut with a grilled red pepper harissa, paired with a Nebbiolo (2004) from the Caparone Winery.  When I see the word “camphor” I don’t exactly think of wine.  You know? I think of, well, medicine…tinctures…smelly stuff I’d never think of drinking.  So, when the term “aromas of camphor” was used to describe the wine we were about to sample, let’s just say it didn’t warm me to the soles of my feet.  It did, however, chill my heart.  Toward the end of the tasting notes there was mention that this wine could easily age 25 years…does that mean they’re still waiting to see if it gets any better??  Needless to say, this was not my favorite of the evening.  Most of us at the table agreed.  We all agreed, as well, that it became tolerable paired with the spicy harissa sauce.  The halibut was without flavor. It was dry on the outside, but moist inside, yet had no flavor.  It got all it’s flavor from the harissa…coriander, caraway and fire!

chcknchrizo_rojo1On to our next dish…Basque chicken with chorizo and a Juan Rojo Toro (2004) .  This was sure to be a better combination than that which preceded it!  And it was.  The Rojo Toro was delightful by itself.  It was full-bodied and fruity without being sweet.  It paired nicely with the chicken and chorizo.  The chicken and chorizo was a little sad though.  The chicken tasted as though it had been cooked separate of the other components, so although properly done and moist, it was bereft of all the layers of flavor that should have been throughout the meat.   Peppers, onion, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, Spanish chorizo…basil, thyme…as you can see, the chorizo was cut into serving size hunks, so it wasn’t able to give of its spicy flavor while accepting the sweet tomato juices. The artichoke looks like an after-thought here, rather than a member of the cast.  A piece of chicken, stacked with a bit of chorizo, dredged through sauce, and this was quite good.  The Rojo stole the whole show though.

porktenderloinpolentaRounding out the savory dishes for this evening was sliced pork tenderloin with a cheesy polenta, paired with a 2006 Weingut Allram Blauer Zweigelt.  Described as a “fruity red” this wine was pressed from blue cold-weather grapes in combination.  It did have a rich berry aroma and flavor, and paired excellently with the lovely pork tenderloin, served simply au jus with chopped red pepper and a dollop of cheesy polenta.  Although I didn’t care for the polenta in the least, the pork tenderloin was roasted to perfection.  Toward the end of the glass, I was able to pick up some chocolate-cherry notes in the wine.  Priced at $11.99 this is a lovely little find.

chocrasp_portConcluding the evening, we have a Lodge Reserve Port from Smith Woodhouse, paired with a molten chocolate cake with sugar-coated raspberries.  Silly me…I was thinking molten as in thick, gooey, semi-liquid…and sugar, as in granulated, coated raspberries.  That would be a be a “no” on both counts.  The chocolate cakelet was very tasty, however.  It paired wonderfully with the port.  And I usually don’t care a lot for port.  This was yummy though.  Bruce decided it was too rich for him, so I shared his piece with another tablemate…his was semi-liquid, and just the way I’d imagined…and the port was still good!

Next month I believe we’re off to another region of Italy.  I didn’t quite catch it when it was announced.  I did get reservations for next month though.  *Ü*  And I have plans of partaking in a Greek cooking class…now doesn’t that just sound like fun??




4 responses

9 03 2009

What fun…this looks so great…am sending the link to Sara, The Winemaker’s Wife, as she will love reading about wine tastings!

25 02 2009


I have an award for you and you can pick it up any time. It’s in my Brown Bubble Frosting post.


18 02 2009

I love chocolate and port wine together…a perfect couple. Too bad though about the Halibut. I love halibut and have not had any this year yet but soon I hope.

I love wine tastings and we would have enjoyed this as well!

15 02 2009

Looks like a fun evening. I LOVE wine tastings paired with food. We don’t have a lot of that around here which is why I enjoy going out to California a LOT to the wine country.

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