Spent a delightful two hours last Saturday afternoon at the Upstairs/Downtown restaurant, perhaps one of the least known gems of the local dining scene.
The "Wine Pros" (see link below) brought in eight winemakers from the "westside" Paso Robles area and in collaboration with Deanna Bailey (Bailey-Cannon Wines in Fig Garden Village) and Sharon Alexander (owner/chef) and Graham Pearson (exec. chef) of Upstairs/Downtown, put on a sit down wine tasting with foods designed to match the wines, and commentary from the owners and/or winemakers, a truly unique venue, at least for this region. Seating was limited to 40 and the event sold out.
I've put in a request to the rep from Wine Pros to see if they are planning other similar events in central CA or around the state, will post back when I hear.
Upstairs/Downtown: Westside Grand Crew "The Luxury Cuvees" - the wines and the cuisine:
1. Tablas Creec "Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc" 2002
Citrus cured Escolar on Peppery Organic Greens, local Red Chief Mountain Apples, Champagne-Pumpkin Seed Oil Vinaigrette, Pomegranite seeds
The escolar was sublime, with a hint of citrus, delicate texture, but overpowered with one of the greens (arugula?). NOTE: I've been a fan of Tablas' Rhone styles for the past couple of years, while their white offering was quite nice one of their reds would have been welcome (but then, where would you find a white to accompany this dish?).
2. Windward Monopole Pinot Noir 2000
Bravo Farms 2 Year aged Reserve White Cheddar Fondue, toasted Pugliesse with wedges of Fuyu Persimmon
This one wowed the whole crowd. Complaints were that there should have been more bread to sop up the delicious cheese. The Fuyu slices were a nice addition.
Second Dislcaimer: I have been a member of Windward's wine club for a couple of years.
3. Dunning Estate Cabernet 2001 and Justin Isosceles 2001
Graham's juniper berry scented venison sausage baked in a puff pastry, served with cranberry mustard and brandied Liberty Farms duck liver pate, toasted crostini with slice of cornichon and Fleur de Sel.
Another stellar pairing of two great wines, I wasn't familiar with Dunning but the cross pairing between the two was wonderful, the duck sausage appeared as a sliced gourmet style "corn dog", pardon the bad comparison, the pate was creamy and delicious.
4. Opolo Rhapsody 2002 and Peachy Canyon Zinfandel 2002 "Especial"
Herb marinated roasted leg of lamb served family style with Mojo Roja sauce.
This pairing brought out two distinct matches. The Opolo had a spicy, peppery taste that complemented the spicy flavoring of the Mojo Roja. The PC Zin exhibited a more mellowing fruity accent. The great thing about this event was that we were able to quiz not only the winemakers but the kitchen crew as well. One of our party who was smitten with this dish asked Graham, "What is the secret to your "Mo-Joe" sauce, he politely replied that it is a "Mo-Ho" sauce and he was trying to capture the essence of a Mexican Mole sauce without having to spend three days in preparing such. He explained that after experimenting using such traditional ingredients such as chocolate and orange juice, both of which he found "rounded out" the sauce too much, he settled on the spicy combination of the various chiles he used to create a quick version of red mole and get the "spike" of heat. Personally, some of the lamb was on the fatty side, but the sauce was impecible.
5. L'Aventure Cuvee 2002 and Adelaida Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 "Viking" Estate
These two spectacular wines were served with a flourless bittersweet chocolate cake with raspberry sauce. For my taste, the cab was the perfect complement, but the L'Aventure was a seductive pleasure all on its own.
A quick assessment of the eight wines in the program was that the Isocoles and L'Aventure were far and above the rest. The Opolo ran a close second for its pairing with the spicy lamb. BTW, Opolo has a variety of other nice syrahs in their stable.
In summary, this was one of the finest wine tasting events that we here in the central valley have been privy to. May they continue.
Dave in Fresno