G oing to a wine dinner at Calvert’s Restaurant is like having a meal with family and friends. You see many of the same friendly people, and everyone always has a good time. The food is outstanding and the pairings generally can’t be beat.
That was the case this week when Craig Calvert put together another fabulous five course meal to match wines from Chase Cellars that featured old vine zinfandel from a famous vineyard.
I especially enjoyed the meal because we able to sit with some friends I hadn’t seen in quite some time. One of those friends, Dr. John Smith, supplied wild game that was part of our meals.
The winery was one with which I was not familiar, but the wines were so good I hope to get more familiar with them in the future.
Chase Cellars wines have only recently become available in Georgia. Their production is so small distribution is limited to Las Vegas, a little in Houston and now Georgia.
Tuesday’s tasting was lead by Chase’s sales & club director, Alise Merritt, a former Augustan. She said she and Craig have been working for months to pull the dinner together because they both thought Augustans would love the wines.
“Some of these vines on the Hayne Vineyard in St. Helena were planted in 1903,” said Merritt. “Even the youngest vines are 28 years old, so they are producing incredible fruit.”
The evening started with a Enzo Prosecco DOC, a pleasant sparkler from Italy, with hors d’oeuvres that included delicious venison sausage and elk sausage provided by Dr. SMith. Then we had three zinfandels, a petite sirah and a dessert zinfandel. Everyone seemed to love the food, the wine and the atmosphere. It was quite a night.
First Course: Chase Bourne Zinfandel 2012 with fennel-garlic smoked pork with sorghum chipotle glaze, wild mushroom ravioli and pineapple red onion relish. The pork chop was huge and tasty. We worried that if the portion for each portion was that large we would never make it to the end of the meal. Luckily, the portions got smaller.
The wine came from grapes on the youngest vines, planted in 1988. They tasted like younger vines–even 28 years old is not really young. It was a powerful wine, still a bit acidic, but very nice fruit. Our table thought it could use some aging. But the wine was perfect with the touch of smoke we got from the pork.
Second Course: Chase Zinfandel Hayne Vineyard 2012 with pepper crusted duck breast, with spiced apple chutney and wild rice, roasted gala apples with cinnamon. This wine was a mix of grapes from the old vines and the younger vines.
I thought this pairing was better than the first, with the smooth, mellow wine matching the flavors from the duck and apples. The flavors were more subtle than the first wine, with well-integrated tannins and a smooth finish.
Third Course: Chase Zinfandel Reserve 2012 with lamb belly roulade stuffed with sausage and figs, smoked Gouda, creamy Yukon potatoes and pomegranate glazed carrots. Wow! This wine was almost overpowering. The strong taste of the lamb needed a big wine. The only slip-up of the night that I saw, was this wine should have been opened early and decanted. We tried some of this wine later in the evening, and it was much better. It had opened up and really had some great fruit. This wine will continue to improve with some bottle aging.
We also tried the Hayne Vineyard made of old and young vine grapes and it was a great pairing for the lamb belly.
Fourth Course: Chase Barberis Vineyard Petite Sirah with elk tenderloin, black grape sauce, sweet potato hash browns and roasted forest and sea mushrooms. This was another wonderful pairing. I’m not a big fan of mushrooms, but these were incredible. And the elk tenderloin was tender and tasty.
The wine was full of fresh plum, blackberry and raspberry, with approachable tannins and a lingering finish. It is a very easy-drinking wine.
Fifth Course: Chase Hayne Vineyard Dessert Zinfandel with red velvet cake, cream cheese ice cream and blueberry spiced compote. This was a perfect way to end the dinner. The cake, ice cream and blueberries couldn’t have been better and the dessert zin tasting like a port, very rich and layered, with just the right amount of sweetness.
Every time I attend a Calvert’s dinner I think it couldn’t possibly get any better, yet every time seems better than the last. I never leave disappointed.
Some notes about Chase Vineyards:
The winery is in the heart of St. Helena in the legendary Hayne Vineyard. The property is 45 acres divided among three branches of the family that bought the land in 1872. Chase is the only winery taking the Hayne grapes and making wine on the premises. The other grapes are sold to other wineries who also make fabulous wines from the Hayne Vineyard.
Merritt said Chase’s winemaker Russell Bevan is a rock star, know for getting many 90+ scores from prominent wine critics, and producing at least four 100 point wines. He has made wine for Showket Vineyards, Wren Hop, Chateau Boswell, and his own Bevan Cellars.
He blended the 2013 vintage for Chase and starting with the 2014 vintage he has taken control from harvest to blending.
“When he got the job he practically jumped up on the table,” said Merritt, describing Bevan’s enthusiasm for Chase.
“The enthusiasm is mutual. Here’s what the winery says about Bevan on its website:
High energy and passionate are some of the words people often use to describe Russell, but we’re not sure those adjectives do him justice. Pure artist, Russell is assiduously creative and generally over the top when it comes to just about everything having to do with making great wine. But he’s also a hell of a lot of fun. He speaks in terms of good karma in his wines, and his energy is infectious. Best of all, as someone who’s spent a formidable career seeking out the most iconic vineyards in California he is, without a doubt, head over heels in love with our old vines; and you know that love is something you can actually taste.”
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