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Navarro Winemaker Dinner at Venezia (report)

TheDive | Apr 27, 2006 12:33 PM

Went to the Navarro Winemaker dinner last night at Venezia in Berkeley. We love Navarro and always try to go to any event featuring their wonderful off-dry whites and rich reds.

The first course was hama hama oysters with mignonette paired with the 2004 Estate Gewürztraminer. The oysters were fresh, if not particularly excited. While the wine was very good, I’m not sure it was an off-dry is the best pairing with oysters. I would have gone with something more minerally. But it was fine.

Next was a rabbit empanada with currants and pinenuts, paired with the 2003 Pinot Noir Method a l’Ancienne. This was an excellent pairing – the wine was spot-on with the currants and the rabbit. Probably my favorite course.

The pasta course was arugula gnocchi with wild mushrooms, served with the 1999 Pinot Noir Method a l’Ancienne. The gnocchi were well-made, very light and not gummy. But, I think it might have been too delicate to be paired with the 1999 Pinot (which was great, although I think I actually liked the 2003 better). If there were more mushrooms, then the dish could have stood up to the wine. In any event, it was tasty (although I had to add a little salt and pepper).

Next was bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin with “apple compote” – aka applesauce. This was paired with the 2003 Pinot Noir, Deep End Blend, a wonderful wine. The pork needed seasoning and the applesauce wasn’t right with the wine. It was fine but not great.

Dessert was a plum tart with goat cheese mascarpone and walnut oil, paired with the wonderful 2004 Late Harvest Riesling. I love Navarro’s dessert wines, especially paired with applies and stone fruit. I couldn’t say I tasted plums, but the dessert was nice—crisp crust, the mascarpone excellently tart. I enjoyed the course.

Altogether, not a bad night. We are huge fans of Navarro wines and have belonged to the wine club for several years, so I never complain about having a meal with lots of Navarro wines. I wasn’t expecting spectacular food from Venezia, so I wasn’t disappointed (indeed it did seem to be a step-up from the last visit, which was probably six years ago). That being said, can't imagine going back any time soon (the decor still kind of bugs me -- like Vegas).

Navarro held a winemaking dinner a couple years back at Downtown, which was a better and more nuanced event; the wait staff definitely knew the wines at that event and provided information and extra pours. I would say I missed that, as well as being greeted by the winemakers, as they did at Downtown.

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