Lots of laughter, great food and great wine at Calvert’s,

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[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;”]Another in a long string of unforgettable wine dinners at Calvert’s Restaurant Thursday night left patrons grasping for superlatives to describe the food and wine. The wines from Justin Vineyards and Landmark Vineyards were outstanding, building from a bright refreshing Sauvignon Blanc to a huge Bordeaux style blend.

The food pairings again proved why a dinner is the best place to learn about wines. Each course brought out the best in the wine paired with it. And each wine made the food taste even better.

Sparkling wine had smiles on everyone’s faces.

John Ford, Georgia on premise manager for Fiji Water, which owns Justin and Landmark, led the sell-out crowd through the wines while giving some history and background of both wineries. As each succeeding wine was poured, the noise level increased in the room. Ford said that showed him the evening was going well, because wine is a “social lubricant.”

Justin was founded in 1981 by Justin Baldwin when he planted the 160 acre property in Paso Robles, California, to the major Bordeaux varietals and created their Estate vineyard. At the time there were eight wineries in Paso Robles; now there are 211 and it is gaining a reputation as one of the best places in the world to make wine. Baldwin sold the winery to Fiji in 2010, but continues on as a consultant. The wines have been popular and have raked in a pile of awards over the years. They also have a beautiful tasting room, restaurant and inn.

Landmark was founded in 1974 in Windsor, CA., and moved to the base of Sugarloaf Mountain in the Sonoma Valley in 1979. Helen Turley, a legendary winemaker who grew up in Augusta, was hired in 1993 to work with the resident winemaker. Together they created many spectacular wines, including the Overlook Chardonnay, which has appeared on The Wine Spectator Top 100 list 7 times since 1997.

John Ford toasted the crowd.

Donna from Ninth Street Wine Market said “Not only will you enjoy some great wines from Justin and Landmark, but some of us will be able to reconnect with our great friend, John Ford.  Many of you will remember that John was the best bar tender in Augusta for many years at French Market, until Atlanta stole him from us.  He left for a position at Chops in Atlanta, and quickly was snatched up by Empire Distributors and became their ‘fine wine’ expert.  He has recently become the representative for Justin and  Landmark wines.” 
The prime focus of Justin wines is on a “left bank” Bordeaux style of Cabernet, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, but they also produce limited amounts of Tempranillo, Zinfandel, Malbec, Petite Verdot, Obtuse Port, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Viognier. They work with many vineyards in Paso Robles.  

Craig and Beverly Calvert.

The pairings:

Light hors d’oeuvres
Wine: Roederer Estate Brut Sparkling, Anderson Valley
Tasting notes: Crisp and elegant, but not as dry as some sparkling wines. It had pleasant tastes of pear and spice, fresh and lightly fruity.

First Course
New England Clam Chowder
Wine: Justin Sauvignon Blanc 2011.
Tasting notes: The wine had a big aroma that hit you as soon as you picked up the glass. It was crisp and clean, with a big citrus flavor, a little tart in the finish. Ford called it a nice wine to sip on a fall evening. It also paired nicely with the heavenly clam chowder. Even those who don’t love chowder were licking their lips.

Cedar planked salmon.

Second Course
Cedar Planked Salmon with a sweet & spice Chardonnay sauce and grilled peppers
Wine: Landmark Overlook Chardonnay 2010
Tasting notes: This might have been the best pairing of the night, although they all were nearly flawless. The salmon was cooked to perfection and the sauce was wonderful. Once the wine warmed up, it brought out a lot of oohs and aahs around the room. It was buttery, with a hint of oak, smooth, with a full, rich mouthfeel. Even non-Chardonnay fans, and those who like unoaked Chardonnay were raving about the Overlook.

Grilled quail.

Third Course
Grilled Quail & wilted spinach salad with a warm pork belly balsamic dressing
Wine: Justin Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
Tasting notes: This is a lighter cab, which made it an excellent pairing with the shredded quail. The wine had good, mellow fruit, with a firm structure. It had a moderate finish.

Beef Wellington.

Fourth Course
Beef Wellington with red wine portobello mushroom sauce and roasted potatoes.
Wine: Justin Isosceles 2009
Tasting notes: This clearly was the favorite of the night. All over the room you could hear people trying to talk spouses and friends out of the last few drops of wine in their glasses. This is a sexy wine, rich, warm, deep and complex. It continued to evolve in the glass. The nose was a rich mix of ripe black currants and berries with hints of vanilla and cinnamon. The layers of flavor that unfolded included dark fruit, cherries, chocolate and coffee. The long finish was rich and mellow. The winery says it will cellar for at least a decade. “This is what we founded the winery to do,” said Ford. The wine is 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc and 3% Merlot.

Queen of Sheba cake.

The Last Bite Queen of Sheba Cake with Raspberry Sauce Wine: Justin Obtuse Port 2010 Tasting notes:This had a very nice, understated taste. It was not as raisiny as some ports can get. It was another perfect pairing with the cake. It is a deep ruby in the glass, with beautiful tastes of plum and raspberry jam. The wine is a Cabernet Sauvignon made in a port style. The winemaker stops fermentation midway through to keep the residual sugar high. It was a fine ending to a great meal.

Where: Calvert’s Restaurant, 475 Highland Ave., Augusta, GA 30909 (706) 738-4514
When: Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012. Greeting is at 6:30 PM.
Cost: $65 per person including tax and tip. Reservations are required at 706-724-1442


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