As we emerge from the cloud of COVID many people are finally enjoying more or less getting back to normal. One of those activities many of us have missed is a wine dinner.
Calvert’s brought back one of its highly popular wine dinners last Thursday night, and you could tell many people were overjoyed to be there. Aside from sampling tasty wines paired with incredible food, it was great to see old friends. All over the room you could hear pleasant conversation and warm laughter.
The featured wines were from Ketcham Estate in Sonoma introduced by proprietor Allie Ketcham. She has been at Calvert’s wine dinners before and you could tell she was a crowd favorite.
“Sonoma makes wine, Napa makes auto parts,” said Allie, setting the tone for the evening. She was her usual lively self. In between describing the six wines we tasted, she moved from table to table, getting to know the guests.
She was here for a Calvert’s dinner about a year ago and repeated how much she loves Augusta. “I always feel like I’m home when I come to Augusta,” she said. At that time we all thought COVID was over, but then the omicron variant struck and most of us went back into our pandemic shells. Let’s hope the worst really is over now.
It was the usual fun evening at Calvert’s, with Craig Calvert introducing Allie and making the rounds with familiar faces in the crowd. These dinners are popular with Augusta wine drinkers because the food is paired so perfectly with each wine. This Ketcham wine dinner was no exception.
As usual, we had a lot of great food in six courses. Each course could make a meal in itself, but the portions are just right so you can sample a little of everything. Some of the courses were so good I had to eat every bite.
Starters: assorted appetizers
Paired with Ketcham Estate Savannah’s Rosé de Pinot Noir 2020
A classic assortment of finger foods was laid out for the opening reception. People mingled, talked to friends, nibbled on the food and enjoyed the lovey rosé. It was just the way I love rosé: dry, fruity and with a gorgeous color. I could sip this every night all summer long.
The wine is named after Allie’s daughter
Shrimp Chippewa with Spiced Jerky & Three Cheese Grits
Paired with Ketcham Estate Viognier 2019
Viognier is a beautiful white Rhone varietal that makes outstanding wine. Allie called it a perfect summer sipper. Often people aren’t sure how to pronounce it so she tells them, “V like a viola and yaaay!”
The shrimp and jerky was a lot like a gumbo and Allie said the Viognier was perfect with gumbo. The dish had a rich flavor with great spices. The jerky also was spicy. The whole course really paired well with the Viognier.
The wine was rich with a silky mouthfeel, laced with tastes of peach and citrus.
Fried Mahi with Capers over a Grilled Tomato & Cucumber Salad with Marinated Artichokes & Tomato Vinaigrette.
Paired with Ketcham Estate Russian River Pinot Noir 2019
Allie told us when she met Mark (her late husband) he served her the Estate Pinot Noir and she fell in love with it and with him.
This wine is easy to fall in love with. It’s approachable, smooth, full of fresh fruit and earthiness. One of the flavors I picked up in the wine was blueberries. I think it was my favorite wine of the night.
Allie said the wine is made from Pommard Clone 4 grapes. That clone is known for robust flavors and a deep, brooding character.
She also said it is perfect for drinking with fresh fish, and it was ideal with the pilsner battered Mahi. The fish was light and flaky and the wine brought out a rich flavor.
Stuffed Chicken with Spinach, Sundried Tomatoes & Potato Spiral topped with Wild Mushroom Truffle Sauce
Paired with 5 Clone Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2018
This was a beautiful wine that I thought had much more body than you find in a Pinot Noir. You wouldn’t mistake it for a Cabernet Sauvignon, but it had the heft of a Cab. The wine is made from a blend of five clones of Pinot Noir and is aged for 18 months.
It was more fruit forward than the first Pinot, full of jammy fruit. There also were some notes of strawberry and vanilla on this wonderful wine.
Allie called the wine “a great representation of Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley.” She also said the 2021 vintage is going to rock.
Garlic Dijon Crusted Tenderloin Over Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Dark Cherries & Smoked Peppers
Paired with Nick’s Cuvee Blend of Russian River Pinot Noir 2018
Allie explained that the wine is named after her son Nick, who likes carnival food such as cola, chocolate, cotton candy. “So this is our carnival wine,” she added.
Aged for 18 months in French oak, this wine should continue to improve for several years. Only four barrels of this wine were made.
It was a gorgeous wine, deep and complex. The winery describes it as playful, yet deep and sophisticated.
The tenderloin was superb, tender meat with rich, complex flavors covered in a cherry sauce. The garlic mashed potatoes also were delicious.
Fresh Blackberry & Georgia Peach Crisp Topped with Vanilla Almond Granola & Lemon Floral Infusion Cream
Paired with Allie’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2016
Allie said Mark made this wine after they had named wines for their children. After harvest and fermentation they have 80 barrels of wine, and Allie said, “They all taste different. The exceptional barrels go into Allie’s Reserve.
“I like to call it my pair of jeans that fit just right wine,” she added with a laugh. “I’m all about the texture.”
The wine did have incredible texture, filling your mouth with luscious flavors. I picked up chocolate, tropical fruit, blackberry and dark cherry. It had a great balance of flavors with good structure and a lingering aftertaste.
The dessert could be called a reserve, too, because it was a fantastic way to end a great meal. The fruit flavors, cream and granola all combined to put a smile on your face.
If you have questions about wine, send them to Dennis Sodomka at email@example.com.