We greatly enjoyed our first wine dinner at Highlands Bar & Grill last night, highlighting the wines of Viader Vineyards, a leading Napa Valley First growth wine estate on the slopes of Howell Mountain.
The first course was braised duck with spoonbread and mushrooms, with two of Viader's DARE wines -- a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Cabernet Franc. Because their flagship Viader wine blends Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, it was fascinating to compare and contrast the two varietals. Cabernet Franc is normally used more for blending, so it was a treat to have it stand on its own. In fact, we thought we might like the Franc even better than the Cab. We're not good with wine descriptions, so here's the tasting notes from their web site on the DARE Cabernet Franc: "... red plums, raspberry and bing cherry supported by secondary notes of east Indian spice and cardamom."
Next course was a lovely Viader Syrah paired with cured pork tenderloin, smoky bacon-sweet potato hash browns and tiny turnips.
For the final course, we again had the luxury of comparing and contrasting two wines -- two of the flagship Viader blend, one from 2004, the other from a 2000 magnum. These accompanied venison with farro "risotto," dandelion greens, radicchio and Muddy Pond sorghum. We decided with this particular food pairing, we actually preferred the younger wine; its more lively fruitiness seemed to provide a needed contrast with the earthy and bitter flavors of the grain and greens. Again, tasting notes from the Viader web site: "intense, upfront, floral bouquet laced with chocolate, coffee, anise, earth and leather. Lingering, complex tannins firm up in the finish which is rounded by the powerful aromas of blackberry, blueberry and mint."
After all that meat and red wine, the strawberry sorbet with strawberries and strawberry sauce was a perfect ending to the meal.
One of the very nice things about the wine dinner was it allowed us to try wines that aren't in our normal wine budget. Being journalists is a fun and satisfying career, but unless you're a media star like Katie Couric or Howard Stern, or a media mogul like Ted Turner, you're not going to get rich. (Before we bought our new Honda CR-V a couple years ago, the valets at Highlands never gave us a valet ticket -- who else was going to drive in behind the wheel of a 1996 Saturn or a 1992 Dodge Caravan? What can we say -- good meals are a higher priority for us than a snazzy ride.) We rarely spend more than $30 on a bottle of wine retail. The flagship Viader blend is about $90. The DARE wines are about $40, so we may well seek them out in the future. We had all but given up on California wines; so many of them, especially the Cabernet Sauvignons, that were in our price points are too acidic, too oaky, or too in-your-face. The occasional California wine we did buy was usually a Pinot Noir or a Zinfandel from the Russian River Valley. As Evan told Alan Viader (Delia's son), "You've restored my faith in California wines."
If you want to read more about Viader, here are a few links:
- Viader web site: www.viader.com
- Interesting blog entry on Delia Viader: www.wine-blog.org/?p=75
- Wine Spectator video on YouTube of Delia Viader talking about her wines: www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGRk1ygTf1A&feature=related