Christian Tietje with Craig Calvert
Christian Tietje with Craig Calvert

Event: It was nothing short of a rock star wine dinner at Calvert’s Tuesday night as winemaker Christian Tietje shared his passion for the wine he makes with a raucous crowd. The wine was spectacular, and the food pairings were incredible. Every course and every wine drew oohs and ahhs from the crowd.
The red blends from Paso Robles were the hit of the night, but Tietje also brought a fantastic Chardonnay from Four Vines, a completely unoaked wine, fermented in stainless steel. It has a wonderful, crisp, clean flavor that pops in your mouth with flavors of peach, pear and citrus. It’s a great seafood wine.
“Everyone in California was making these big, over-the-top Chardonnays and Zinfandels that didn’t really go with wine,” Tietje said. “I had training as a chef, so I set out to make this wine to pair with oysters. I love oysters. We used to call the Four Vines Naked Chardonnay the anti-Chardonnay, because anyone who thinks they don’t like Chardonnay will love this wine.”
Christian Tietje and Jeff Annis discuss the wines.

The dinner, with wine assistance from Ninth Street WIne Market and Ultimate Wines, was the usual…. sold out and great. This month’s  dinner featured winemaker and owner, Christian Tietje, former owner of Four Vines Wines, Paso Robles. He still helps the new owners produce the wine. Many of you are fans of the Biker (top 100 list last year), Maverick, and Old Vine Zins. You may also know him for his Freak Show wines. Christian is now with Cypher Vineyards, producing Anarchy, Heretic, Pheasant, and Phoenix. Christian is known for pushing the envelope.
He definitely pushed the envelope Tuesday night, much to the delight of the large crowd. The New Jersey native talked about moving to Boston and then to California in 1992 to do some surfing and check out the wine scene. Tietje spent some time in a 1980s rock band, so making rock star wine wasn’t too much of a stretch. Tietje and a friend started making the Four Vines wines from his garage, and the unusual wines quickly gained popularity.
“You need to follow the region and not the grape,” said Tietje, explaining some of his unusual blends. “Cabernet doesn’t grow great everywhere, so why try to plant it everywhere?”
So he looks for grapes that are suited to the region where they’re planted and then works with the vineyard owners to get the best fruit.
Tietje jumped on a chair to try to get the crowd's attention.

He is excited about the growing popularity of Paso Robles wines, where their climate and soil favor Rhone blends. Many Paso wineries are doing great things, including Cypher, run by Tietje and his business partner Susan Mahler. He’s not afraid to try new things. While everyone else is making the Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre blend typical of the Rhone region, he substituted Zinfandel for the Grenache.
“My Grenache vines still weren’t old enough to produce great wine so I substituted Zinfandel,” he explained. “Old vines are important and we had some great Zin on old vines. You know vines will produce 100 clusters (of grapes) if you let them, so we cut back to concentrate the flavor in fewer grapes. As vines get older, they’re like men, they produce less. But, like men, what they produce is better.”
The old vine Zin added to the Mourvedre and Syrah for the Anarchy blend is spectacular, smooth, spicy and complex, with a long, pleasant finish. Pairing it with the corn chowder was an inspired choice.
Tietje spent the evening prowling around the room answering questions and trying to get people quiet enough for him to talk. He had to yell a couple of times and jumped on a chair, so the evening became part rock concert, part elegant dinner. It was a perfect combination, with lots of smiles and hugs for Tietje. It was one of the liveliest tastings in a long time. It was especially nice to see a winemaker of his talent in Augusta, and one who has some fun with his wines, at that.
Talking about his beautiful Peasant blend, he described the Tannat grapes as the Hummer driving it. “Think of a night with Bridget Bardot wrapped in velvet,” said the man who describes himself as “winemaker, troublemaker, firestarter.”
Where: Calvert’s Restaurant, 475 Highland Ave., Augusta, GA 30909 (706) 738-4514
When: Tuesday, August 23, 2011.
Cost: $65pp INCLUDING tax and tip.

Here is the evening’s menu:
Light hors d’oeuvres
Paired with: Casteller Cava Brut NV (Spain)
Winery: Casteller
Course 1
Grilled black grouper w/ naked oyster & mandarin orange fennel emulsion
Paired with: Four Vines Naked Chardonnay 2009 (Santa Barbara County, California)
Course 2
Summer Corn Chowder BLT
Paired with: Anarchy Unconventional Rhone Blend 2008 (Paso Robles, California)
Grapes: Zindandel (36%) Mourvedre (35%) Syrah (29%)
Course 3
Salad of beets, blueberries, figs over fresh garden greens, drizzled w/ white balsamic vinaigrette & shaved white chocolate
Paired with: Monarchy Bordelaise Paso Robles 2007 (Paso Robles, California)
Grapes: Petite Verdot (51%) Malbec (46%) Tempranillo (3%)
Course 4
Grilled duck w/ bolognese sauce over pasta
Paired with: Peasant Traditional Rhone Blend (Paso Robles, California)
Grapes: Mourvedre (33%) Syrah (30%) Grenache (25%)Counoise (7%) Tannat (5%)
Course 5
Grilled sirloin w/ rosemary roasted potatoes & romesco sauce
Paired with: Heretic Petite Sirah 2008 (Paso Robles, California)
Grapes: Petite Sirah (100%)
The dessert may have been the best course.

The Last Bite: Strawberry Roulade & Coffee
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