Rob Moshein - The Austin Wine Guy

Dinner with Pahlmeyer !!

October 20, 2008

So, couple of weeks back, yr mst hmble & obt srvt here gets an email asking if "I might be able to come to dinner with Pahlmeyer, at local Austin new hot Restaurant Jezebel as the trial run for the Chef's dinner at James Beard House in New York in November.?"   Hmmm, let me see, Sunday Oct. 19th? well, it 'is' Pahlmeyer, let me check the calendar, new episode of Simpsons, baseball game on TV...
Of COURSE I jumped at the chance.

Folks, I chose wisely.

Steve Lawrence (no not Edie's husband) national sales manager for Pahlmeyer was here in Austin and wandered into Jezebel and became fascinated with Chef Parind's vision of food. So, Pahlmeyer is teaming up with him to present a dinner at James Beard House on Nov. 25.  New hot local Austin Texas Chef cooking at Beard House. How cool is that?

A charming Englishman, Steve greeted me warmly at the door, making this local "wine guy" feel most welcomed as he suggested I sit at his table.

Little did I expect what was to come, even though I had read the menu in advance.

First up, they pour the 2005 Jayson Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast.  Pleasant nose, Berry, cherry tones on both palate and nose. Supple, soft, but nice complexity and hints of white pepper.
So, am thinking, nice enough. Looking down, I notice the first course says:
"Tempura" of foie gras stuffed Medjool dates with red Thai curry mousseline" hmmm. red Thai curry. Spicy...with Pinot??
They bring the ladies their HUGE plates first, with like a dozen of the "chicken fried" dates (as Parind explained). The ladies are looking to take a couple and pass them along, the guys figure the same. THEN the servers simultaneously set down equally huge plates for the men. So, you get the rich sweetness of the dates, accented by the silky umami tones of the foie, picks up the Pinot flavors nicely. The sweet hot curry though just TRANSFORMED the Pinot. Suddenly, it becomes bright and lively, dancing on the tongue, and that white pepper flavor is enhanced by the food. One lady at our table called it a feminine Pinot.  I agreed but with one caveat: This Pinot is a BIG OLE GIRL. Complex and strong, but pretty and lithe and curvy.  OK, am already impressed. but wait...
I hear a snippet of conversation from Steve across the table. "blah blah hmmnh its our first release of Pinot...." Ummm, Steve, THIS is your FIRST release of the Pinot. Yes he explained, and the vines were just 7 years old.  The Wine Guy's jaded jaw dropped quietly.
I can only repeat here what I said to Steve: This is an amazing first effort. To achieve such balance of fruit and acidity, power and lightness and virtually zero off flavors of any kind from young vines and a first release is nothing short of amazing. Wow.

Second course:
Small salad of lump crabmeat, Gorgonzola dolce cheese and green peppercorns with Maine lobster oil vinaigrette  served with Pahlmeyer Chardonnay Sonoma coast 2006.
First sniff around the wine is steely, crisp, light warm tones on the nose and palate. Elegant.
Steve points out to me that "you are the first persons other than Parker and the Wine Spectator to try this wine, it was just FedExed from the winery for tonight". So, SCOOP for the Wine Guy! First review of a wine, and an important one! WooHOO!. Thanks Steve.
Yes, another first release success from Pahlmeyer. Liked it well enough alone, but holy cow, when the beautiful food came.. another major wonderful transformation. Chef Parind nailed the flavors in the wine with the food. He explained to me that anyone can pair the obvious flavors in wine and food, but it more interesting to pick up on the ancillary flavors and match them. Boy howdy was he right.  The Chard became huge and dense, but never heavy with the sweet crab flavor enchanced by the cottonseed oil steeped in fresh lobster shells, the green peppercorns were exactly mirrored in the wine.  But, in the style of the best white Burgs, the wine was intense but never heavy.  The flavors though were pure California through and through.  Now, I don't like California Chard much, but I hated to admit to the diner next to me that THIS one was great. A jaded Wine Guy was really getting impressed.

Now, you might be noticing a trend here if you paid attention. We started with Red, then White, next will be Red, then we finish with whites.  Eyebrows raised at Beard House when this was proposed, he told us.  But, he's right when he says that the traditional, lightest to heaviest food and wines routine leaves you feeling over full and hot.  Ending with whites lightens the palate and your mind after a heavy entree.  I can't argue. It works. viz:

next course: Harris Ranch "Osso Bucco" over white "polenta" with in house sandalwood smoked heirloom tomato-orange zest gremolata  served, naturally, with Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red 2004
The wine is dark,  Darth Vader dark, Cinema Noir dark. Tarry black fruits abound, but wow, the palate is not heavy or dense. The food comes. Picture a huge dinosaur bone with a lush braised hunk of meat so tender that the big ole Texas pigsticker knife they set down with the plate is left untouched as superflous to eating the food. A whiff of barbeque? hmmm, yep, from the sandalwood and tomato. Nice touch. The "polenta" or grits in these parts is the perfect foil for the meat and sauce, clean, soft and pure. The usual choice of potato or risotto would have been too heavy and destroyed Parind's  delicate dance of flavor on the plate. The wine went well with the food. I can't fault the Red at all.  Given the exuberance of the other wines, I was left feeling the Red was still locked up, flavor wise.  I said to Steve that it was like Han Solo encased in carbonite: you know whats in there, you can see it, but you just can't get to it.  Personally, I think it needs cellar time, as after four years, it may be in its dumb phase.

Are we stuffed yet? Yeppir. However two courses remain, and I share the pain of fellow diners next to me that we must "soldier on" and boy the soldier was rewarded with probably the best course of the night (meaning only that every course was amazing, but this one was the most astonishing flavors and wine pairing of the evening)
Espresso bean & roasted peanut crusted sashimi of marinated ahi (tuna for you non sushi eaters) over lychee granita paired with Pahlmeyer Chardonnay Napa 2006
The wine showed green apple, acid and lots of oak, a bit thick and too much warmth for me on its own. Your wine guy is thinking quietly, I can see why consumers like it, Clint the big old texan next to me is gushing on its praises. But, I can't get past the oak. But wait, the food comes. Silky soft meaty slices of beefy tuna goodness (yes, I'm stealing from Tony Bourdain here, but hey it works.) coffee nutty crunch adds interest to the tuna.  A nibble of lychee sorbet and sip of the Chard...Wow, another total transformation! All that oak is reduced to a warm nuance of flavor that picks up the coffee beans and nutty peanut flavor.  The lychee is EXACTLY what is in the wine.  Your stuffed wine guy feels compelled yet delighted to eat every last morsel of the tuna, its perfect, the Chardonnay is perfect.  I feel so transformed, that I actually apologized to Steve for not liking the Chard at first. Interestingly, Steve said all the Chardonnays undergo the same barrel program. I would never have known. I feel equally impressed that I had to compliment Chef Parind for the bold, daring choice he made. Any chef would have paired this dish with the Pinot Noir, that is the no brainer choice. He stepped out there and demonstrated that you can think outside the box and succeed if you simply match the ancillary flavors in the food and wine. I love this business. After some 30 vintages of wines under my belt, I am still learning something new. How cool is that?

Dessert: what you mean there's MORE food? Oy. Well, I am a polite guest.....
Brulee of warm saffron pistachio rice pudding with homemade white peppercorn brittle.
Served with Jayson Chardonnay 2006
Clean light bright, with light oak tones, clearly a family relationship to the two previous chards.  A delicate balance with the best rice pudding I have EVER had.  Steve and I had a good laugh about the wallpaper paste they call rice pud in England.  This was light years different.  The only slight mis step I found in the meal was the white peppercorn brittle.  It had a spice hot component that for me clashed with the elegance and warm, comfort flavors of the pud.  At this point, who cares? To carp on this would be like driving a new Ferrari and complaining that there wasn't a cup holder. 

To banter about the glory days of British car making, Formula One racing and a discussion of "Diana vs Camilla" we are invited to step outside by Chef Parind, who offers us cigars and wine writer Wes Marshall graciously offers to provide a round of old Pedro Ximenez, we settle in the balmy Austin evening, to just enjoy the company of new friends, good chat, a few laughs. This is what wine is about y'all.

To Parind: knock em dead at Beard House.
To Steve: my most gracious thanks to be included.  Friday the 24th is my birthday. Nobody could have given me a better gift, on so many levels. Mille fois merci, mon nouvelle ami.


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Raves, rants, musings, ponderings and wine whines... trends, tasting notes, the Austin Wine Guy Rob Moshein shares his world of wine and thoughts about it with you.

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