Yesterday saw the first successful outcome of the first Spanish Wine Tasting Dinner hosted by Restaurante Memento, Catavino and the Madrid wine school Planetavino! It was an absolutely incredible five course meal complete with great food, fantastic wine and intriguing company, an event that we hope we can experience again in the near future.
In all honesty, we couldn’t have been more pleased with the results. Everyone put in a tremendous amount of hard work and effort to make this intimate dinner a great success, and I believe it resulted in a wonderful experience for all who attended. More than anything, Ryan and I were just happy to finally have an opportunity to share our knowledge and passion for Iberian wine with others. It has been a year and a half since we have moved to Madrid, and this was our very first experience to have a dinner with people who truly appreciated how wonderful Iberian wine is. Although we had some doubts as to whether the menu would pair with the wine – would Cava pair with sardines, which grape would be the most interesting pairing with cured ham, would people enjoy a potent and power blue cheese with a Monastrell, etc., but our fears and concerns were unfounded. The dinner not only went off without a hitch but ranks as one of my favorite dinners of all time.
In order to give this dinner the justice it deserves, allow me to go through each course one by one describing my impression from start to finish (although my tasting notes on the wines will be posted later today):
Lavender marinated sardines with red grapes, celery and almonds
Albet I Noya Barrica 21 (Penedes) – Brut 21 – NV Reserva – Chardonnay (78%), Parellada (22%) – organic wine
Absolutely incredible! Pairing a Cava with sardines is both a bold and gutsy move, creating several butterflies in all our stomachs as to whether this pairing would work. Happily, the 24 months this particular Cava sat on its lees in French oak added the ideal creaminess for the salty flavor of the sardines along with the nutty flavor of the almonds. Fantastic! Ryan was nervous before the dinner as to how this would play out and in the end it really was incredible how well the two matched.
Salad of Iberian cured ham, gala melon, basil sorbet and a fig reduction
Alan de Val 2005 (Valedoras) – Adega Alan -Godello varietal – ecological – no oak
Altavins Ilercavonia 2004 (Terra Alta) – old vine Garnacha Blanca – no oak
Intriguing pairing because for me since I found that Alan de Val is a delicious wine to sip with its flowery bouquet and sweet melon flavor on the palate, but a poor pairing with the salty flavor from the ham along with the tangy zip coming from the fig reduction. However, the Altavins Ilercavonia proved to be a stellar pairing with the creamy caramel flavor on the palate softening the flavor of both the ham and the fig, but holding a strange, almost acrid flavor when drank alone. As for the dish itself, divine! Ryan still thinks the Granacha Blanca is great on it’s own but felt that it really came alive with this dish.
Black currant braised Iberian pork cheeks with potato puree and chanterelle mushrooms
Paixar 2003 (Bierzo) – 100% old-vine Mencia – 16 months in French oak
It was of no surprise that the wine was stunning with the braised pork. The strong aromas of cassis melded perfectly with the blackcurrant sauce. Unbelievable. Additionally, the meat was incredible, a deep ruby red color – pork mind you – that just fell apart the minute you breathed on it. This in conjunction with the chanterelles, potato puree and the Paixar 2003 was an orgasmic experience that I am still tasting the day after the dinner. General consensus was that the wine could have been aged a bit more if enjoyed by itself, but with the rich food it was amazing.
Cheese Plate – Picos de Europa, Queso de Valdeon Cabrales and Ekia Grande, Queso Roncal
Olivares Dulce Monastrell (Jumilla) – 100% ungrafted old vine Monastrell that was ripened late on the vine; long maceration with skins, fortified – no oak
The Queso de Valdeon is a sharp pungent blue cheese that paired incredibly well with the Olivares, plus it’s just a tasty little wine. However, I wasn’t an enormous fan of the Queso Roncal. I found it to be bland with a strange gummy unappealing texture, while Ryan thought it has a rich and spicy flavors with a creamy under-belly that is best enjoyed on its own. It is quite possible that the pairing of both cheeses together didn’t show off the Roncal’s true potential and the Monastrell really did great with the spicy rich nature of the Cabrales.
So there you have it, a fabulous dinner that everyone seemed to enjoy immensely. While mingling afterwards, there wasn’t a dish that was disliked or a wine that wasn’t talked about. Overall, all sixteen of us seemed to agree that this was an incredibly successful dinner. We’d like to thank Mary at Planetavino for helping with the wine selection and handouts, and of course we want to thank Chef Karen whose imagination with ingredients and culinary expertise created foods that will be remembered for quiet some time.
As for all of you out there who had the opportunity to join us, please post your comments as to how you thought it went and any tasting notes that you may of taken. We would love to hear your perspective! Stay tuned as we look to future events who knows what might come next!
Ryan and Gabriella