By Judy Lebel | Thursday, August 12, 2010
The last time Thomas Houseman, winemaker for Oregon’s Anne Amie Vineyards, was in Boston, he ran the marathon on Patriot’s Day, 2004.
This time around, Houseman tackled Grill 23, not Heartbreak Hill. This time, on Wednesday, April 14, Houseman was more concerned with his pinot noirs than his mile splits.
The wine dinner at Grill 23 last week was no less intense an effort, however, because it’s the intensity of Anne Amie’s wines that make them work. It’s the intensity that enables Anne Amie’s pinot blanc and pinot noirs to stand up to Grill 23’s award-winning steakhouse cuisine. That’s right, pinot noir – not a cab, not malbec, not sangiovese – with steak.
These are not just any pinot noirs. Most of Anne Amie’s grapes come from two estate vineyards, which are both certified by Salmon Safe and LIVE (Low Input Viticulture and Enology). These organic practices along with intentionally reduced yields give the remaining fruit extraordinary depth and complexity.
Within an hour’s drive of Portland, you find yourself in the Yamhill-Carlton area of Oregon’s famed Willamette Valley. The mission of this winery, named after owner Dr. Robert Pamplin’s two daughters, is to make memorable wines with a sense of elegance. Grill 23’s wine director, Alex DeWinter, and chef Jay Murray set the table to match that mission.
Dinner began with the 2008 Cuvee A “Amrita,” a jasmine-scented, white-wine blend of six grapes, offering just enough spice on the palate to complement Murray’s fresh California maki rolls and grilled scallop sushi. It’s the perfect fruit-forward quaffer to have at the ready for spring and summer.
For the next course, the lightly grilled, smoked salmon atop a velvety cauliflower puree and ricotta blini would have been tasty enough. But it was the flair of lemon mascarpone that brought out the Meyer lemon and crisp apple nuances of Houseman’s award-winning 2008 pinot gris.
Next up was a warm Rawson Brook chèvre cheesecake with pistou and a robust olive tapenade. With it, Anne Amie’s 2006 pinot noir, bringing berry and mushroom elements that embraced the rich, full flavors of the cheesecake.
Pinot noir is a tempting choice to serve with slow-roasted beef cheeks, especially when they’re served with bacon-wrapped salsify on a bed of forest mushrooms. Anne Amie’s 2004 “La Colina,” from the red volcanic soils of Oregon’s Dundee Hills, worked exceptionally well.
The dinner finished with three local cheeses from New Hampshire and Vermont paired with the elegant 2006 “L’Iris” Pinot Noir, followed by an assortment of mignardises, but I kept coming back to those beef cheeks. If you decide to roast your own beef cheeks, Beacon Hill’s Savenor’s Market will gladly special-order them for you.
Judy Lebel is the guest author for today’s Foodie Blog. Read new WGBH Foodie posts every weekday, where we explore myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.
By Cathy Huyghe | Thursday, August 12, 2010
At first glance, Dr. Su Hua Newton seems an unlikely winery owner. She is a scientist by training. She wears a red blazer and black tights that just might be leather. She and her husband, Peter Newton, came to Napa way back in the day, when the valley’s landscape was more likely to be growing walnuts than grapes.
But then Newton begins to speak — as she did Friday night at the Newton Vineyard wine dinner at BOKX 109 Restaurant in Newton — and you realize the roles of winery owner, winemaker, and marketer suit her to a T.
That’s because she is intelligent and pragmatic (useful for one of the first-comers to the Napa wine scene). And because she is vivacious and charming (you’d have to be, to pull off some of the achievements Newton Vineyard has accomplished).
Plus, she is self-effacing and funny, and definitely not taking herself too seriously.
That last — an energy of self-deprecation and humor — helped open the door to the lively, even boisterous crowd that gathered in BOKX 109′s private dining room recently. Newton Vineyard’s reputation typically inspires a hushed reverence, thanks to wine critic Robert Parker’s 96-point rating of Newton’s wines, its inclusion in Parker’s ranking of the world’s 100 greatest wine estates, and premium price points per bottle. Newton Vineyard’s history, in other words, evokes an expectation of stuffiness.
Until Su Hua Newton is in the room.
That was the case on Friday. Maybe some of the guests came to the dinner anticipating a certain level of seriousness. What they got instead was communal seating around just a few tables in the room, exciting food (and I do not say that lightly), and the edge and the flair of BOKX 109, packaged with the unusual — even daring — flight of unfiltered wines from Su Hua Newton’s vineyards.
Maybe the next time these guests see Newton Vineyard on the wine store shelf, they’ll remember Dr. Newton’s sense of humor more than the unfiltered character of most of the wines. Maybe they’ll remember their conversation with fellow guests more distinctly than how well the Red Label Chardonnay paired with the oysters (outstanding though the food at BOKX 109 is).
Or maybe what they will remember is that Napa is full of personalities like Dr. Newton’s — personalities that flavor more than the wines.
Cathy Huyghe writes the WGBH Foodie blog. Read new WGBH Foodie posts every weekday, in which Cathy explores myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.