I can't imagine having dinner without a bottle of wine-good food paired with good wine brings out the best in both. One of the best ways to experience that wonderful combination is at a winery dinner. Typically, the chef pulls out all the stops, presenting a multi-course menu specially paired with the offerings from a single winery. The result can be an evening of culinary bliss. Boise seems to be hosting more and more of these events. I was lucky enough to enjoy two in the last week.
First, Alister Ashmead of Barossa's Elderton Winery came to town, and Idaho Wine Merchant teamed up with Brandon Bruins at The Red Feather Lounge for an intimate dinner showcasing one of Australia's finest. Elderton crafts big wines, and the chefs did a great job of offering dishes that matched. The highlight of the evening had to be a beautifully prepared buffalo filet wrapped in just crisp pancetta (made on the premises), accompanied by two vintages of Elderton's prestigious Command Shiraz. Served with an absolutely amazing potato gratin laced with blue cheese, it made for a synergistic taste sensation that was about as close to perfection as one can get.
With just a weekend to recover, the next stop was Andrae's, a restaurant that is garnering a lot of well-deserved attention. The wines were from Washington's McCrea Cellars specializing in Rhône varieties, an ideal match for Andrae's inspired upscale French cuisine. Great wine and a great menu made it hard to pick a favorite from this outstanding eight-course indulgence, but there were some standouts. A tender roast suckling pig served with sage and juniper-laced leeks wed beautifully with 2002 McCrea Cuveé Orleans Syrah, the meat's flavor playing off the bright berry fruit of the wine with its hints of spice, caramel and bacon. A wild mushroom ragout served along side gorgeously rare New Zealand Cervena Venison made an excellent match with the seamless, silky fruit of McCrea's red Rhône blend, the 2002 Sirocco.
But perhaps the best match of the evening was the simplest. As an intermezzo, Andrae paired the 2004 McCrea Rosé of Mouvedre with a sorbet based on the same wine. The sorbet seemed almost too sweet for this earthy, elegantly dry rosé, but a taste of the icy confection with a sip of the wine made for a heavenly flavor combo. Sometimes less is more.