Tuesday evening, the rain fell, but it could not dampen my spirits as I entered The Flying Pig Restaurant in Yaletown to taste the wines from Ravenswood Winery, listen to winemaker Joel Peterson, and enjoy the entrees prepared to pair with the wines. Ravenswood’s motto is “No Wimpy Wines” and I may add that this could also apply to the food prepared by the Flying Pig for this evening.
Ravenswood is located in the Sonoma Valley in California, where they are known for producing full-bodied Zinfandels. But they do also produce full-bodied Chardonnays. I tried both this evening. Joel talked about each wine before we sipped them; letting us know possibly about the history of a vineyard, or how he managed to secure grapes from a vineyard manager. It was quite interesting. Joel was also available through the evening, stopping at each table, letting us ask him questions. I was able to query him about his thoughts on biodynamic wines, natural wines, and blended vs single-vineyard wines. He was very generous with his time and his wine. Joel founded Ravenswood in 1976, and started to produce Zinfandel at that time. He is also a founding Board member and former two-time President of Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (Z.A.P.).
Our Reception Wines
Our reception wines were the Vintners Blend Chardonnay 2011 ($17.99 only available at the winery) and the Vintners Blend Old Vine Zinfandel 2010 (17.99 general listing in BC). The Chardonnay had nice ripe peach aromas and flavours on the palate, along with a big dollop of cinnamon and toasted oak. Soft mouthfeel with medium acidity. The oak and cinnamon may be strong for some, but after a sip or two, these flavours seem to fade a bit in the background. The Old Vine Zinfandel had juicy fruit and light oak aromas, which led to light vanilla and dark berries, and spice on the palate. Light in body and very tasty.
The Main Courses and Wines of the Evening
Our food and wine pairings were:
- Sangiacomo Chardonnay with Quadra Island honey mussels. Tomato, corn, and speck broth. Matchstick frites.
- Lodi Zinfandel 2009 &
Sonoma Zinfandel County Series 2008 with Brome Lake duck duo. Braised leg, sweet pea garganelli. Crispy duck breast cases. Red wine reduction.
- Barricia Zinfandel 2009 &
- Old Hill Zinfandel 2008 with Duo of vension, bacon-wrapped venison striploin. Skillet roasted chop. Parsnip puree. Wild cherries.
- Teldeschi Zinfandel 2009 with Braised organic beef short rib. Aged Canadian cheddar mashed potatoes. Bone marrow jus.
- Late Harvest Gewurztraminer with Chevrot cheese brulee. Candied pecans and fresh fruit.
The Sangiacomo Chardonnay is barrel fermented and imparted a very light, integrated oak flavour to the wine. Pear and vanilla on the nose. Soft mouth feel, round, with pears, red delicious apple and light oak flavour. Quite elegant. The wine paired very nicely with the Quadra Island honey mussels, not overpowering them. The kernels of corn adding some sweetness and pop of flavour. One of my table mates, loved this wine so much, they kept getting their glass refilled and tasted through all the entrees with it.
Our next course featured the Lodi Zinfandel 2009 ($22.99) and the Sonoma Zinfandel County Series 2008 ($24.99). These Zins, and the rest were all deep ruby in colour, giving hints as to the full body you would feel on your palate. The Lodi vines are around 85 years young, while the Sonoma vines are around 90 years. but were not the oldest vines to produce wine for Ravenswood. The Lodi Zinfandel had a light berry nose. Dry, medium body but with a light mouthfeel. Juicy ripe raspberrys with high acidity. I quite enjoyed this wine on it’s own and with the Brome Lake Duck. The Sonoma Zinfandel County Series had quite a different nose to it. I notes some dusty earthiness along with the ripe berries you would expect from Zinfandel. I was to find hints of this nose an another of the wines this evening, and to know that both wines source grapes from Sonoma, so there is to me some Sonoma terroir showing itself. Medium plus body, high acidity with ripe, juicy black berry flavour, and a dark tarriness on the finish. Dry. Very nice. The Brome duck was very succulent, thanks to the thin layer of fat and skin attached to the meat, and I think these Zinfandels with their full fruit flavour and high acidity meshed nicely, cutting through the fat and complementing the flavours in the duck and the red wine reduction.
A step up in quality and price are the Barricia Zinfandel 2009 ($45.99 SPEC) and the Old Hill Zinfandel 2008 ($45.99 SPEC). The Barricia vines were planted in 1858 and the Old Hill vines planted in 1860. It is quite amazing that they are still producing grapes in commercial quantities. The Barricia Zinfandel is approximately 76% Zinfandel with the rest consisting of Petite Sirah. This wine had a similar nose to the Sonoma Old Vines Zin. There was the same dustiness along with the berries on the nose for me just to a lesser degree, and as I found out, also came from Sonoma Valley grapes. Very juicy red and black berries on the palate with restrained spice. A quality wine. The Old Hill Zinfandel comes from a field blend that has around 30 different grape varieties, although most (75%) of the grapes for this particular wine are Zinfandel. This wine was even deeper in colour than the previous wines. Fully body, dry, really spicy with lots of dark jammy berries. Long length and also very tasty. Our food pairing was a bacon wrapped venison striploin and a venison chop. Both were cooked medium, keeping them very juicy. The flavour of venison is fairly strong, and I think these 2 Zinfandels, which are both bigger, bolder wines, paired well with the venison. Lots of big flavours from both the entree and wine for this course.
Our last Zinfandel for the evening was the Teldeschi Zinfandel 2009 ($45.99 SPEC). This is a single vineyard wine but as with the other old vineyards has a field blend planting. This vineyard is made of Zinfandel, Carignan, and Petite Sirah. The three varieties aer fermented separately then blended to taste. The fermentation is done with native yeast and aged in small French oak barrels. The Teldeschi vineyard is located in the Dry Creek Valley, which is in the north end of the Sonoma Valley. Opaque ruby in the glass with nice flowery and dark juicy berry nose. Full body, fine tannins, vanilla and supery juicy berry fruit flavours. Dry with a long length. This is quite a sophisticated wine. My favourite of the evening. Our food pairing was braised organic beef short rib, aged Canadian cheddar mashed potatoes and bone marrow jus. The beef short rib just fell apart when touched by the fork. No knife needed here. Again very full flavoured and again needing a juicy big red to balance it out. Another wonderful pairing.
I unfortunately did not have time to try the Late Harvest Gewurztraminer with the Chevrot cheese brulee, but I heard that it was heaven.
I really enjoyed this Media dinner, and learning more about the wines from Joel Peterson. I find that I better understand a wine when you get to talk to the wine maker and find out about their wine making philosophy and some of the background of the vineyards and the region. I highly recommend anyone to attend a wine maker dinner. It is well worth the investment. Thank you to again to Joel Peterson for making these wines and sharing them with us, and to The Flying Pig for making such mouth watering entrees for us. Enjoy!