Filed under: Events | Tags: Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival 2010, Arnaud Weyrich, Cowgirl Creamery, Handley Cellars, Holmes Ranch, James MacPhail, MacPhail Family Wines, Milla Handley, Pinot Noir, Roederer Estate, Toulouse Vineyard, Wightman House
After a day of pouring pinot noir for the thirsty masses at the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival, you’d think that all we’d want to do is collapse, but the pull of the winemaker dinners on Saturday night is too strong. It’s an opportunity for us to go back to the other side of the table and have someone pour great wine for us. But at the same time, it can be a little daunting for us fledgling winemakers to be sitting next to some of greats of this industry.
The first year we attended the festival in 2002, we went to the winemaker dinner at Handley Cellars. Pouring wine in addition to Handley that year were Claudia Springs and Raye’s Hill, and the thing that struck us about this dinner was its intimacy.
The winemaker dinners at this festival are designed to have one winemaker at each small table (usually an 8-top), so you really get a chance to hear from and talk to the people behind the great wines of Anderson Valley. At our first winemaker dinner we were thrilled to get the chance to talk to so many friendly and down-to-earth winemakers and that experience also got us thinking and dreaming about making wine some day.
This year, we returned to Handley (this is the third winemaker dinner that we’ve been to at Handley Cellars) for a dinner co-hosted by Roederer Estate and MacPhail. Brian’s sister Cece was in town for the festival, so she was able to join us as well. The dinner was small, with only about 40 people in attendance, and we were given seats at James MacPhail’s table.
We started in the courtyard of the winery by partaking in a magnum of Roederer Estate NV sparkling wine and fava bean crostini, as we basked in the dramatic views of the valley from owner Milla Handley’s property and made new friends. We then were summoned into the cellar for the sit-down dinner. The menu was as follows:
Braised Baby Roman Artichokes, with harissa, preserved lemon aioli & nasturtium oil
Roederer Estate Brut Rose NV
Handley Cellars 2009 Pinot Noir Rose, Anderson Valley Estate
Loin of Lamb on Polenta, with caramelized red onion sauce & gremolata
Handley Cellars 2006 Pinot Noir, Holmes Ranch
Handley Cellars 2007 Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley
MacPhail Family Wines 2007 Pinot Noir, Ferrington Vineyard
MacPhail Family Wines 2007 Pinot Noir, Toulouse Vineyard
Spring Greens & Flowers, with champagne vinaigrette and Jezebel Goat Camembert & Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam with artisan bread toasts
Roederer Estate L’Ermitage, Vintage 2002
Rhubarb Custard Tart with Dark Chocolate Crust
All of the wines were incredible. The Handley Holmes Ranch pinot had a hint of incense on the nose, which took Brian back to his altar boy days! And we were almost ready for breakfast after listening to Roederer winemaker Arnaud Weyrich’s vivid preamble about the 2002 vintage L’Ermitage, describing its yeasty and croissant aromas (he had Jennifer at “croissant”). We’re big fans of sparkling wine for breakfast here in the Waits-Mast household, so it was fun to be at a dinner that began and ended with such delicious sparkling wines.
The MacPhail pinot noirs showed a great purity of fruit and hinted at lushness while still showing restraint. The benefit of sitting at the table with the winemaker is that it takes little coaxing to get him to pull out more wine. James happened to have another Anderson Valley pinot noir with him, his Wightman House Pinot Noir from 2006. He generously shared this extra bottle just for our table. Its earthy and deep red cherry flavors were striking, even after a long day of pouring and drinking pinot noir. It was a perfect finish on the palate and for the day.
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