Y ou should consider yourself fortunate when you experience the product of a genius. But when you can sample the work of two geniuses and be in the room with them as well, then you have a special occasion.
A wine dinner at Calvert’s Restaurant was just that Saturday night as Craig Calvert prepared a menu to match the incredible wines of Steve Sherwin. Each pairing brought out oohs and aahs as the pairings climbed to new heights.
Once again Craig’s many connections to the California wine industry and his wizardry in the kitchen created a special evening. There was a lot of laughter and fun, and a little bit of something for everyone, even Krispy Kreme donuts.
It all started with Domaine Chandon sparkling wine with appetizers. Sparkling wine is the perfect start to any gathering, and the Domaine Chandon was excellent. It was dry and fresh, and it paired well with the nibbles.
After everyone was seated the main event began. Steve Sherwin, owner of Sherwin Family Vineyards, welcomed everyone and told them what he liked about the wine industry.
“The funnest thing about the industry is sharing your wines with your friends,” he said. There were a lot of friends at the dinner, many of whom have visited his exquisite property on Spring Mountain in Napa Valley. By the time the dinner was over he had many more friends.
One of the old friends was Gary Swiggett, the unofficial mayor of Napa Valley, who knows just about everyone worth knowing in the California wine industry. Gary explained there was a connection to the Domaine Chandon wine.
His brother-in-law was hired by Dom Perignon and went to France. When he came back he brought French rootstock for the vines at Domaine Chandon. Gary also entertained the diners with descriptions of the wines and stories that had people in tears.
Steve brought along his son Matt, who seems as excited about wine as his dad.
“We moved to the property when I was five and helped around the winery ever since,” said Matt. “I wasn’t much help then, but I learned a lot.”
Steve and wife Linda bought the property on Spring Mountain in 1996 after he had spent 30 years as a builder and developer in the San Francisco Bay area. They were looking for a place to raise their three children and for something less intense than the building industry.
He said he got some help from his mentor, whose family has had five generations of grape growers.
They released their first wine in 1999, and have been getting praise from all sides ever since.
Grilled scallops with hot creamy pepper & garlic vinaigrette with toasted breadcrumbs and maque choux paired with Sherwin Family Vineyards Chardonnay Carneros 2015.
We knew we were in for a special treat immediately. The wine was a gorgeous pale gold in the glass with a lush aroma. On the palate were crisp citrus flavors. There is just a hint of oak to balance the rich fruit flavors.
The grapes come from the cool Carneros region, which is perfect for growing chardonnay grapes. Half of the grapes are fermented in stainless steel tanks, and half goes into neutral French oak.
“We try to make it crisp and clean,” said Steve. “We don’t make a buttery chardonnay, because for one thing, my wife doesn’t like them.”
Vidalia Onion soup paired with Sherwin Family Rosé Spring Mountain District 2016.
The soup was smooth, creamy, hearty and filled with the sweet Vidalia onion flavor. It was incredible, but it was matched by the bright pink wine.
The wine had a pleasant aroma and plenty of fruit flavor, especially strawberry. It is the kind of wine you could drink all night, sitting on the porch. But paired with the onion soup, the flavors exploded in my mouth.
The label even has an interesting story. It features a chic woman looking out over hillside vineyards. Steve said the image was on the poster for the Napa Valley Wine Auction in 1999, the first year he and his wife attended the auction.
He asked his secretary to track down the artist and bought the rights to the image. Steve even put a moving tribute to Linda on the back label.
Tuna New Orleans with creamy mashed potatoes paired with Cellar Scraps, Platinum Reserve Unfiltered, Napa Valley.
The tuna was fabulous, with a creamy sauce filled with seafood and a tasty crawfish perched on top. There was a little heat in the sauce and the tail from the crawfish was wonderful. I think there were crawfish tails in the sauce, too.
The wine was warm, mellow, smooth with no sharp corners. I tasted blackberry and cherry on the palate, which was a great accompaniment to the tuna dish.
Craig said he put this dish on the Masters Menu and called it “The Gary,” after Gary Swiggett and everyone kept asking if he was Gary. I’ll bet they sold a lot of this.
The Cellar Scraps is an incredible wine, my favorite of the evening. I’ve had Cellar Scraps in my cellar because some good friends and I visited there six years ago and fell in love with the place and the wine. The estate sits on top of a nice hill on Spring Mountain, complete with a patio that overlooks the vines and a lake, a bocce ball court and a tasting room filled with interesting memorabilia. You feel like you have walked into the family home when you enter.
Matt explained that Cellar Scraps came from actual cellar scraps.
“It’s made from the leftovers from the estate cab,” he said. “Dad kept pushing the leftovers to the back of the cellar and said ‘We’ll deal with them later.’
“Finally we said we should make a blend with what we had, so every year it’s a multi-vintage wine.”
There is no year on the bottle; this year it is blend number 9. The wine is aged in 100% French oak and usually is at least 70% cab.
Steve says he gets the funniest emails about Cellar Scraps because people will blind taste it with their friends and be surprised how well it stands up to top brands.
Southern style beef short ribs with mushroom marrow cabernet reduction and cheesy grits paired with Sherwin Family Vineyards Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2013.
This was a blockbuster pairing. It seem as if each dish and each wine outdid the one before. The meat fell right off the bones and the grits and mushroom/cab reduction were sublime.
The wine is the flagship of the winery, made from Sherwin’s 16-acre estate at the top of Spring Mountain. The intense, lush fruit is balanced by powerful tannins. It is a powerhouse wine without being harsh. It drinks wonderfully now but will continue to develop for many years. Sherwin makes about 750 cases a year.
Steve explained that blended wines are popular now because with a blend you can fill in holes in a particular wine.
“But when you make a wine from one vineyard, you have to own it, farm it,” he said. “On Spring Mountain the handcuffs get even tighter.”
Weather conditions on Spring Mountain can create difficulties for the vines, but the intense mountain fruit makes the tense moments worth it. Whatever the weather in a particular season, the winemaker is stuck with the result.
“It’s our artwork–creating a nice wine to put on the table,” said Steve.
Mocha Roulade paired with Sherwin Family Vineyards Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2013.
This was another incredible pairing. (I think I’m using that word too much, but I’ve run out of superlatives. These really were amazing wines matched by memorable food.)
The wine was powerful, but rich and full of ripe fruit. I enjoyed the wine, but think it will continue to get better with several years of bottle aging. The wine kept getting better in my glass as it opened up.
This extra course was provided by Michael and Lee Ash, who brought Krispy Kreme donuts. Everyone laughed, but they knew the secret: that Krispy Kremes are fantastic when paired with a big cab.
Michael called it “an out of body experience,” and he was right. Don’t laugh until you have tried them. Everyone seemed convinced Saturday night.
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