Everything’s Coming up Roses! (Wine & Roses)
After a full day of exploring some of Lodi’s diverse wines and terroir, we settled in at our host hotel, Wine & Roses. This resort style hotel has a beautifully relaxing interior courtyard, and situated on one side is the hotel’s restaurant, the Towne House.
Chef John Hitchcock, a Lark Creek Group alumnus, masterfully prepared a 7 course menu to go with the intriguing wines that Sue Tipton, owner of Acquiesce Winery & Vineyards had brought to share with us.
I had personally become acquainted with the wines of Acquiesce several years ago, and had always enjoyed the light, elegant style of Rhône style wines that owner and winemaker Sue Tipton produces. As we were meandering through Lodi exploring “everything but Zin” I was excited to get the opportunity to taste these wines again.
The deck of the restaurant overlooks the interior courtyard of the hotel, and as the sun went down, the temperature had cooled off enough to be comfortable outside in the relaxing environment. Chef John was about to amaze us with the beautiful pairings, and while I wan’t quite hungry yet due to the amazing and large lunch at Pietro’s earlier, the menu looked amazing.
First up, we kicked things off with these gorgeous Blue Point Oysters, served with Yuzu pearls. Blue Points are particularly large and meaty oysters, so I wasn’t sure how they would pair with the delicate Picpoul Blanc, but they were perfect. The salinity and minerality of the shuckers played delightfully off the wet river rocks, crushed shells, and freshly zested citrus in the wine. With just a hint of floral notes on the edge of this wine, it was a natural and delicious pairing. The true test of an oyster pairing to me is if I can actually use the wine as a mignonette – pour a touch of the
wine in to the oyster and slurp it down. In this case, it was a palate sensation, and just confirmed my earlier delight.
Next, Pan Seared Foie Gras (thank you California for bringing back the Foie! Feel free to judge me now) with poached pears, pear geleè, and house made brioche – paired with the 2014 Roussanne. With juicy pears and apricots, drenched in fresh cream dancing across my tongue, the richness of the Roussanne worked well with the creamy richness of foie. One of my favorite things about Roussanne in particular is the acidity that sneaks up behind the juicy and rich mouthfeel. This is no exception, and the Acquiesce was perfect with the classic foie pairing.
The third course was intended to be tuna tartare, but Chef John was able to sub out salmon on the fly due to an allergy. This was no little ask, as the pairings were tested and created well in advance, but he did a masterful job at thinking of a pairing and creating it on the fly with perfect timing. Paired with the 2015 Grenache Blanc, and served with avocado, wakame, wasabi vinaigrette, wasabi foam and a lotus chip, one would never know that the brilliant copper of the salmon was not intended for this dish. The Grenache Blanc is a fresh and playful white wine with bright green apple notes and the minerality of a beach that has been freshly washed with shells and stones. The coolness of the wine cut through the wasabi and creaminess of the salmon brilliantly.
As an intermezzo, Blli Bi, a saffron infused cream soup brimming with muscles was paired with the 2015 Viognier. While we were starting to get full, we couldn’t pass up on the savory richness of this cream soup that had more mussels than a gym on New Year’s. The Viognier has a richness of honey soaked apricot, ripe satsumas and summer peaches with classic floral notes that played off of the saffron.
Finally, as we tried to find even a tiny spare slot in our very full stomachs, grilled quail with King Trumpet risotto, and porcini mushroom broth was paired with Grenache Rosé. While you would think the richness of the game animal and mushrooms would overpower the rosé, the pairing was elegant and restrained.
All of Sue’s wines are priced at under $25, which makes them even more enjoyable, and affordable. The next time you are looking for a refreshing white for summer, look over to Lodi’s Rhône renegade!
Thank you to Wine & Roses, Towne Hall and Chef John for creating these wonderful dishes that paired so well with the wines of Acquiesce. Fresh seafood, fruit, and vegetables are perfect for these light and fresh wines.