Guest Blog from Owner, Nadia Zilkha: Pinot Noir Sensation

Last Friday, we were at the James Beard House in New York’s West Village where Karen MacNeil, the eminent author of The Wine Bible, assembled a tasting of seven different Pinot Noirs for a dinner aptly named “Pinot Noir Sensation.” The dinner featured wines from small producers of young, cool climate Pinot Noir from California.

NadiaJBD2It was a truly sensational line up and I was proud to taste the 2012 Laetitia Whole Cluster Pinot Noir alongside the likes of Kosta Browne’s 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot, the Flowers 2011 Sea View Ridge Estate. If I had to choose one wine as my favorite I would say the Williams Selyem Block 10 Estate Pinot Noir 2010 was it, although the consensus in the room was that the Laetitia Whole Cluster Pinot led the group, which I’m delighted to report. I also enjoyed the 2011 Domaine Carneros La Terre Promis and the Siduri 2012 John Sebastiano Vineyard Pinot. Each wine was elegant, well balanced and frankly unique showing how the unique combination of terroir, clone and winemaker successfully creates subtle differences within the same grape varietal.

Our wine savvy chef Ken Frank from La Toque restaurant in Napa, California had carefully tasted each Pinot measuring its balance of fruit, tannins and texture in order to pair them perfectly with each dish. Chef Ken, assisted by Chef Daniel Gomez Sanchez and his team, worked miracles in the kitchen especially as some of the food preparations they’d sent from California had been held up in transit in the Midwest. Obviously nothing throws off pros like these because they spent all day in the city procuring new ingredients and started from scratch. Talk about expertise and working fast on your feet! We were in awe.

“Surf and Turf,” is how executive Chef Ken image1Frank referred to our creative starter of seared foie gras with freshwater eel, forbidden rice and sweet soy. “Delicious, intriguing, balanced and perfect,” is what we called it at my table. As a prelude to several more courses, which included salmon, pork, venison, duck and a chocolate soufflé, we felt like we’d died and gone to heaven.

Karen MacNeil in her signature red eyeglasses was funny and relaxed. She compared the elegance of these wines to Grace Kelly entering a room. When asked which wine she liked best she simply replied the one closest to her. I may have to borrow that line. She quoted Robert Mondavi’s reference to Pinot Noir, “It does not knock your socks off, it slips them off slowly,” and we would have to agree as each Pinot finished long and smooth on our palates and left us wanting more.

The James Beard House was full that evening with regulars as well as new comers. All were wowed by the hospitality, the decor (I happen to love the original wallpaper in the entrance hall) and the overall service. Silvi Forrest our delightful host for the evening was generous in her praise of all the wines and the foods.

Yes it was a truly Sensational Evening. Thank you Pinot Noir, James Beard House, Karen McNeil, and Chef Ken Frank for a truly fabulous experience.

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