Tag Archives: Winner

Dinner on a Bridge (#MWWC35)

The weather was perfect; sunny with temperatures in the low-80’s as the event started. We were fortunate to be there. This is one of the most anticipated events in Sacramento. It is so popular in fact, that tickets are sold by lottery. I’ve wanted to go in the past, but have not been able to attend. However, this year, for the Fifth Annual Farm-to-Fork Tower Bridge Dinner, I won tickets in a sweepstakes hosted by the Golden 1 Credit Union, one of the sponsors of the dinner.

If you read my previous post, you know that Sacramento, California, is the Farm-to-Fork Capital of America. As part of the annual festivities, the Tower Bridge Dinner brings together farmers, farm workers, renown chefs, local celebrities, politicians, and foodies of all stripes, for an epic and magical evening. Dinner on a bridge! The Tower Bridge is an iconic landmark in Sacramento, spanning the Sacramento river from Downtown to the city of West Sacramento. It is an active roadway and drawbridge, yet one evening each year, the bridge is closed to traffic and white-linen covered tables are stretched from end to end. The goal of the event is to be “a truly spectacular culinary event…” A meal that “showcases the incredible bounty being grown and raised by some of our region’s most prolific farmers and ranchers who are at the heart of the farm-to-fork movement.” Some of the region’s best chefs work their magic on the ingredients, and the resulting experience is spectacular!

Upon arrival, guests are welcome to grab a glass of local wine or beer, and wander the bridge while nibbling on a variety of amazing appetizers. We sampled oysters, caviar, carpaccio, and other delicacies. The wine was free-flowing, and throughout the evening we enjoyed glasses of Muddy Boot Clarksburg Chenin Blanc, Conduit Amador County Viognier, Turkovich Yolo County Tempranillo, Divergent Vine Amador County Barbera, and Rancho Victoria Amador County Petite Sirah. Each wine complemented the food and enhanced the magic.

The four-course meal started with Chile en Nogada, a roasted poblano chile with picadillo, and walnut crema, prepared by Chef Ernesto Delgado from the Mayajuel restaurant. The farms that provided the ingredients were were Rancho Llano Seco and Stephens Ranch. The poblano was a little hot for a few folks at our table, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and the Chenin Blanc paired nicely to cut the heat.

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Next up was Smoked Mount Lassen Steelhead Trout, with cucumber, crème fraiche, flowering herbs, and cured roe. This was prepared by Chef Kurt Spataro from the Paragary Restaurant Group. The trout was sourced by Passmore Ranch, from Mt. Lassen Trout Farm, and the vegetables came from Soil Born Farms. The trout was melt-in-your-mouth tender, and absolutely delicious!

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The third course was a Smoked Grassfed Ribeye, with curried turnip puree, pickled onions and sweet peppers, Easter Egg radish, cherry tomato, and chimi-churri sauce. Prepared by Taylor’s Kitchen Chef Casey Shideler, it was cooked to medium-rare perfection and fork-tender. The beef came from Richard’s Grassfed Beef, and the produce from Riverdog Farm and Aldon Leafy Greens. I went with the Petite Sirah with this and it was amazing!

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The fourth and final course was a two-parter. First was grilled lamb loin with bronze fennel yogurt, compressed cucmuber and tomato salad, and nasturtium. The farms providing this delectable delight were Azolla Farms, Emigh Lamb Co., and Laughing Duck Farms. The dish was prepared by Chef Chris Barnum-Dann from Localis restaurant. I lack the vocabulary to adequately describe this sensational dish. Exquisite. That’s the best I can do.

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Finally, we ended the meal with “Pork and Beans.” No, not your campfire can of Van Camp’s. This was sliced prochetta with a late harvest corn and bean medley, and stone fruit gastrique. This round was prepared by Chefs Michael Tuohy and Santana Diaz from Legends Hospitality at the Golden 1 Center, Sacramento’s new sports arena. The ingredients came from Rancho Llano Seco, Dwelley farms, and Twin Peaks Orchards. Another amazing dish that was immensely satisfying on all levels.

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Once dinner was over, guests were invited to stroll the promenade and indulge in small desserts and dessert wines. As if we needed more to eat and drink! Still, we’re not quitters, so we made our way over to enjoy the view of the river, and just a few more bites and sips. The Late Harvest Viognier from Legendre Cellars in Fiddletown was a real treat and a perfect way to end the evening. Completely satisfied, and full of great new memories, we summoned our Uber for the ride home.

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I cannot thank Golden 1 Credit Union enough for sponsoring the sweepstakes that allowed us to attend the Tower Bridge Dinner. It was a night we will never forget. The food, the wine, and the wonderful people of Sacramento created a dining experience that has eclipsed all others I’ve enjoyed.

Monthly Wine Writing Challenge

In addition to describing this heavenly event, this post is also my submission into Monthly Wine Writing Challenge (#MWWC35). Last month’s winner, Erik of Red, White & Cru, selected to topic “Eclipse” for this month’s theme. The Tower Bridge Dinner certainly accomplished an eclipse of astronomical proportion in my culinary experience.

Cheers!

 

Winning Wine: A Review of Sauska Tokaji Aszú 2003

Some days you lose.

Some days you win.

Some days you win wine!

Back in December, Sauska Wines US and the wine blog Wine Esquire sponsored an Instagram contest. The winner would receive a bottle of Sauska Tokaji Aszú 2003, 6 puttonyos.  Entry was simple: follow SauskaWineUS on Instagram. Boom. Done. Of course, I wouldn’t win. I never win contests.

On December 27, 2016, my luck changed. (It’s been continually improving since then, but that’s another story.) I received a private Instagram message from SauskaWinesUS informing me I was the winner of the Tokaji contest! A bottle of this golden nectar would soon be on its way to me. The bottle arrived at my office a few weeks later, with much fanfare (Well, in my head anyway. My coworkers couldn’t have cared much less. Silly coworkers.)

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This would be my first excursion into Hungarian wines. Ever since the winning bottle’s arrival, I’ve been waiting for just the right time to open it. Last night was that right time.

Before we get into my description of just how incredibly decadent this wine is, let’s explore the story behind the wine…

Tokaji is the most famous and popular Hungarian wine. It hails from the Tokaj region in northeastern Hungary. The primary grape varieties used in Tokaji wines are Furmint, Hárslevelű, and Muscat Blanc. Tokaji is known for its rich, nectar-like flavors and sweetness. This characteristic is the result of the use of botrytized grapes. Botrytis is a type of fungus that affects grapes. When controlled and allowed to develop, it is known as Noble Rot, and dries the grapes which concentrates the sugars and flavors. Not all Tokaji wines use botrytized grapes. Those that do are labeled as Aszú, and are further categorized by their residual sugar levels, indicated by the designation “puttonyos.” Aszú wines range from 3 puttonyos, with 25 grams of residual sugar per liter, to 6 puttonyos, with 150+ grams per liter. The bottle I received was at the top of that scale, with 6 puttonyos.

Sauska Wines is a family owned winery, with vineyards in Tokaj and Villany. Using indigenous and international varietals, they produce a varied portfolio of wines, including sparkling, whites, rosés, and reds. The Tokaji Aszú 2003 that I received was crafted from hand-picked Furmint and Hárslevelű grapes. Barrel fermented with only indigenous yeasts, it spent 36 months in new oak before bottling. At 222 grams of sugar per liter, it’s definitely sweet, but at only 10% ABV, you can sip and enjoy it all evening.

Tokaji wines have a royal history. Kings and noblemen throughout history, including King Louis XIV of France, Peter the Great, and Catherine the Great have coveted the golden elixir. With such an impressive following, I knew this must be a wine of elegance and distinction.

However, in the interest of full confession, neither my guest nor I are fans of super sweet wines. Although we were excited to experience such a majestic and noble wine, we were also a little apprehensive when opening the bottle. As soon as I pulled the cork and took my first sniff, all apprehension evaporated. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill sugar bomb. This wine has depth, character, and complexity beyond anything I’ve experienced in a dessert wine.

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Rich, golden color in the glass. Opened cold (+/- 40F) and allowed to open as it warmed. Initial aromas on ripe apricot and honey. While sweet, this is so much more. There is an incredible complexity on the nose that entices and invites one in. On the palate, the mouthfeel is rich and creamy, almost syrupy, with flavors of apricot nectar, honey, overripe peach and pineapple, and golden raisin. This wine is dessert unto itself. The finish is sweet and lingers for several minutes. Very impressive, indeed!

I’d once again like to thank Sauska Wines US for their generosity in offering this incredible wine prize, and Wine Esquire for sponsoring and promoting this contest. For those of you who haven’t experienced the magic of Tokaji Aszú, I encourage you to seek it out and give it a try. Even if you think you don’t like sweet dessert wines, I think you’ll like this!

Cheers!