A fter a long drought without wine dinners, Calvert’s got back into action with a great dinner on Tuesday night, featuring some wines that are new to the Augusta market. After this exciting dinner there was a hint of another wine dinner to come later this summer. We all hope so.
We were led through the tasting by Bobby Flournoy, owner of B & L Brands in Atlanta, a marketing company for fine wine, beer and spirits, and Deserie Shockley, of Prime Wine and Spirits, one of the major distributors in Georgia. Each of five courses in the delicious meal was spectacular, with each course paired to a particular wine. I almost never say this, but there might have been too much food. Craig Calvert and his staff outdid themselves.
The two featured wineries were Korbin Kameron and Airfield Estates, two small wineries that look to make wines with a sense of place. Korbin Kameron sits on the ridge of Mt. Veeder in the Mayacamas Mountains, straddling the Napa/Sonoma border at 2,300 feet elevation.
Airfield Estates is in the heart of the Yakima Valley in eastern Washington.
“We wanted to work with small, family-owned wineries that owned their land,” said Flournoy. “Both of these wineries fit in perfectly with what we want to do.”
Korbin Kameron began when Mitchell Ming and his family started looking for property for a winery. They first looked at Napa and then Glen Ellen in Sonoma County. When Ming saw the property on Mt. Veeder, he knew this was the place he wanted.
Though the estate covers 180 acres, only 19 acres could be planted in vines because the the steep terrain. Most of the vineyard is on the Sonoma Side of the mountain. The family planted Bordeaux varietals in 2000 and a few years later had their first vintage.
The winery is named for Ming’s twins, Korbin and Kameron. All the wines are made from mountain fruit.
Phil Coturri, who is known as a wizard of sustainable winemaking came on board as viticulturalist. He started to farm the vineyard organically, biodynamically, and sustainably. These practices are integral to the growth of the vines and the nurturing of world-class fruit that expresses the uniqueness of the land.
Timothy Milos is the winemaker, and he has more than 20 years of experience with first-rate wines. I have tasted some of his work with other mountain grapes, and they have all been phenomenal.
Airfield Estates is being run by the fourth generation of the family that owns the property
near Yakima, Washington. H. Lloyd Miller started things off when he moved to the region in 1907. He bought and sold farm properties, acquiring the site of the estate winery in 1920.
The property did not have access to irrigation water, so nothing was planted. By 1941 Miller leased a portion of the land to a flight school for Army Air Corps pilots getting ready for World War II. Runways and several buildings were built.
The airbase closed in 1944 and two years later the buildings were auctioned off to Miller for $1 when no one else showed up to bid. Irrigation rights followed. Soon the Airport Ranch had an orchard, sugar beets, potatoes, onions, oats, hogs and cattle.
H. Lloyd’s son Don became interested in growing grapes and in 1968 planted riesling, gewurztraminer and cabernet sauvignon to see what would grow best. The next year he partnered with a local nursery to plant 20 different grape varietals in greenhouses, The first commercial planting occurred in 1971.
Today the ranch has 830 acres of wine grapes and 350 acres of Concord juice grapes. All the wine grapes were sold to other wineries until 2005 when Don’s son Mike founded Airfield Estates Winery. They still sell a large portion of their grapes to other wineries.
They have 18 different varietals planted and sell five of those wines in Georgia.
Before dinner the guests had hors d’oeuvres served with Pol Remy Sparkling Brut. It is a beautiful sparkling wine made in the Burgundy region of France. It was an off-dry wine with bakery and citrus aromas and mild grapefruit and lemon zest flavors. It was a great start to the evening.
Korbin Kameron Sauvignon Blanc Mountain District 2017 with fresh Northwest halibut prosciutto wrapped with Granville Island chowder.
This wine is 90 percent sauvignon blanc and 10 percent semillon, which makes it a little more rounded and less harsh that some sauvignon blancs. It also makes the wine better with food.
It opened with lemongrass aromas. On the palate I tasted Granny Smith apples, meyer lemon and a bit of honeydew. The wine is dry and tart, but not unpleasantly so. Only 135 cases were produced.
The full-bodied wine stood up well to the rich sauce and the salty prosciutto. The wine really made the taste of the halibut pop. It was an unusual dish that was outstanding. This course and the wine seemed to please most of the crowd.
Airfield Estates Chardonnay Yakima Valley, Washington State 2017 with fresh northwest sockeye salmon with shrimp scampi and grilled summer squash.
The wine had a slightly creamy mouthfeel, but was full of bright acidity to make it a great food wine. The wine was mostly fermented in stainless steel with 26 percent in French oak, 50 percent new. The wine in the oak went through malolactic fermentation to 40 percent completion. That kept the buttery notes out of the wine and emphasized the freshness of the fruit.
The wine was aged for eight months in tanks and barrels and then blended before bottling.
The oak aging gave the wine some weight and a little texture, but the wine is still primarily a stainless-steel fermented chardonnay, which I love. This was kind of the best of both types of chardonnay and a dynamite wine. Everything was in balance.
This dish was served on a thick wooden plank that made a great presentation. The salmon looked like it had been charred, but it didn’t have the blackened spices. The flavor was rich and wonderful, and the salmon was tender and flakey and not dried out. The shrimp were just as good. They tasted like they had been marinated because the flavor was so rich and the shrimp so moist.
This was another perfect pairing, as the fruit of the wine balanced out the rich flavors of the fish and shrimp. I could have made a meal with this dish alone.
Airfield Estates Dauntless Bordeaux-style red Yakima Valley 2016 with ultimate beef tenderloin Stroganoff-style with grilled asparagus over egg noodles.
Now we started to get into the heavy-hitter wine and food. It was hard to pick the best course because each pairing was so fantastic. But this pairing was over the top. The beef was melt-in-your-mouth, cut-it-with-a-fork tender and the Stroganoff sauce was lip-smacking good. I almost licked the plate the sauce was so good.
The wine is a Bordeaux-style blend named after a type of plane that was flown out of the airport that had been in the vineyards. It is a blend of 62% merlot, 20% cabernet sauvignon, 11% malbec, 5% cabernet franc and 2% petit verdot. The wine spent 10 months aging in oak.
It was a big, earthy dry wine. I tasted a lot of black cherry and blackberry flavors with an extremely long finish. For a wine that has a suggested retail price of $18 it was incredible.
Korbin Kameron Merlot Moon Mountain District 2014 with mixed grill of lamb, duck and sausage with basil mashed potatoes.
By now we were all getting filled and obviously happy as the noise level kept rising. This promised to be the best course, but I was getting so full I couldn’t eat it all. The sausage was sweet, spicy and juicy. The duck was sublime, with lots of rich flavor. The lamb chop was large, but to me a little bland. Maybe I had had too much meat by this time. The basil mashed potatoes had a wonderful flavor and consistency.
I was not too full leave any wine, however. Flournoy said the most interesting wines his company brings in are merlots from the Northwest. This certainly had to be one of the better ones.
This smooth, silky wine was filled with floral aromas and tastes of ripe cherries, which made it ideal for the duck and outstanding with the other two meats. It had enough weight to stand up to the onslaught of meat. Each bite of food made me want more wine and each sip made me want more of the tasty meat.
The grapes were grown on hillsides in the Moon Mountain District in Sonoma. After fermentation the wine spent 18 months on French oak, 50% new. It is a powerhouse wine. We drank the 2014 vintage and it will be good for several more years. Only 290 cases were made.
Korbin Kameron Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Moon Mountain District with chocolate Milky Way cake with toasted moonmallow and orbiting candy.
Just when I thought I couldn’t stuff in another bite out comes one of the best, most interesting desserts I have ever seen. It was made to look like the solar system, with a large wonderfully gooey cake made from Milky Ways dominating. I’m not sure if the cake was the sun or the earth, but there were all kinds of candies orbiting around it with a toasted marshmallow representing the moon and chocolate sauce drizzled all over.
I’m not a big fan of cabernet and dessert, but this one worked. The blackberry and chocolate tastes in the wine blended perfectly with the sweet dessert.
This wine spent 18 months in French oak, 50% new. It’s big and powerful, but with plenty of finesse. Only 300 cases were made.