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Deerfield Ranch Wines, Dinner and Pairings

Last Saturday night I attended and participated in one of the most fun dinners ever!  A couple of months ago, my friends DW and MG contacted me to ask if I’d like to join them and a few others in a wine-pairing dinner.  They are very tied in with a California vintner, Deerfield Ranch Winery.  Their idea was to select eight wines from Deerfield Ranch, assign a wine and a dinner course to each person attending the dinner and then it was each person’s responsibility to come up with something to pair with their assigned wine. Well, as you might guess this whole idea appealed to me! 
And, I have to say the people/wine/pairings were done with great skill, I thought.  DW and MG did a great job at looking at people’s interests, talents and experiences to match up who got what and when.  I think that had a lot to do with the success of the party. 
We started the dinner early – as you can imagine it takes a little time to relax and enjoy eight dinner courses.  Saturday was beautiful here in Seattle!  At 5:30, our start time, the temperature was in the low 70s and DW and MG’s yard was shaded. Their yard is always beautiful and welcoming, and for this night they’d set up a dining area outside, complete with dining canopy and graceful tied back panels.  But I’m ahead of myself…
Upon entering their home and specifically the dining room, we were greeted with the array of wines, glasses and the night’s wine menu. They were artfully arranged on the dining room table – but that only gave a hint of what was to come.  Outside on the deck the outdoor seating area beckoned, as did a table prepped for the appetizer course.  And then, down the deck steps in the center of the yard stood the dining area, complete with appropriate linens, dinnerware and more glasses.  Each place was marked with a placecard and the list of wines.  The napkin rings were individual vases holding petite flower arrangements! 
Each guest arrived with their offering tucked away in Tupperware or on a prep tray or already prepared on a serving platter.  They found a little corner of the kitchen to tuck away the treasure until it was their turn to show what they had prepared. 
Although the meal was based on Deerfield Ranch wines, several "bonus" wines were brought out throughout the evening.  The first of these came just prior to the appetizers.  MG brought out a wine made by his brother’s winery in Oregon, Grochau Cellars Sauvignon Blanc.  This winery is still in its infancy but is doing some really great things – so watch for the characteristic label.  While I’m not going to go into detailed notes on each wine, since this was the first of the night I can tell you it has a gorgeous grapefruit taste upfront and then finishes with a nice, clean mineral taste.  I really liked it.
While we were enjoying that wine and the all-ready free-flowing conversation, JJ brought out the appetizer. Actually not just one appetizer but two, although they were assembled in a bright mosaic pattern that looked as if they had always been paired that way.  And for those who were ready, the "first" wine of the night was poured, the Deerfield Ranch Peterson Vineyard 2004 Sauvignon Blanc.  (Note:  The "counting" of the wines will be very confusing what with the "regular" wines and all the bonus bottles so don’t worry if you lose track!)  This wine had quite a different character than the GC Sauvignon.  It was much more subdued and softer.  It actually seemed a bit like a "light" Chardonnay.
The appetizers were wonderful!  One was a grilled shrimp with a great slightly spicy flavor.  The other was a Gruyère Artichoke Tartlet – perfect little bite-size morsels of creamy goodness with a bit of a tang from the Gruyère.  We were off to a great start. 
While we were chatting, comparing the two Sauvignon Blancs and nibbling our way through the appetizers, MG snuck off to assemble course number two.  There was a little blender noise, a little slicing and the sound of another cork being pulled from a bottle.  Then we were all called to move to the table for the next course. 
The wine for this pairing was the Deerfield Ranch Château Labbé Vineyard 2002 Chardonnay.  It was so buttery that we almost didn’t need the sauces for this course – freshly cooked and cracked Dungeness crab – almost.  The crab was served with a spicy cocktail sauce made with (my favorite!) lots of horseradish; a wonderfully tasty and fragrant tarragon butter – which was probably the table favorite; and ghee.  We did our best to make a dent in the heaping platter of crab – believe me freshly cooked Dungeness can’t be beat – but we were also mindful that we still had two courses left before the entrée and more after that! 
I was up next with the third course.  My assigned wine was the 2002 Jemrose Vineyard Pinot Noir.  I love Pinot Noir.  Love it.  My first inclination was to do something with salmon but I do that all of the time.  Instead I put on my thinking cap and cherry popped into my head, since Pinot often has a cherry element.  What do I like with cherries?  How about duck?  After a bit of research a plan was pulled together!  Smoked Duck with Cherry Chutney on Crostini.  (In another post I’ll tell you more about this recipe including the elements I based it on.) 
While the folks were finishing up "just one more bite" of crab I headed for the kitchen to do my assembly.  I chose to do individual servings of three crostini each and then decorated each plate with a couple of fresh cherries from the morning’s Farmers’ Market run.  The cherry in the appetizer echoed the cherry tastes in the wine – or vice versa.  I was very happy with the pairing.  Although, by this point, probably two crostini per person would have been enough – although nearly everyone managed to consume all three pieces!
Are you stuffed yet?  Amazingly we were doing a great job of pacing ourselves and although we were now prepared to start our fourth course, I think everyone was doing okay.  Our fourth course was also the signal that another bonus bottle of wine would be shared!  LE who was assigned this course is a big Syrah fan and he just happened to get the Syrah pairing – interesting how that worked out…  So, in addition to the Deerfield Ranch 2001 Ladi’s Vineyard Syrah that was on our night’s menu, he brought along a Washington wine for comparison, the 2002 Cayuse Vineyards Coccinelle Vineyard Walla Walla Valley Syrah.  (Try saying that a few times!).  The Cayuse was a big, hearty Syrah, that had been decanted for a couple of hours by this point and still benefited from air in the glass to help it completely open.  The Deerfield Ranch was no wallflower either and both went well with what appeared to be an "interesting" accompanying dish that was a perfect flavor pairing with these Syrahs. 
LE’s food offering was a version of Vietnamese Bahn Mi.  He’d made spicy little pork meatballs, a red chili sauce and pickled carrots.  We were offered tiny little poorboy rolls to assemble our own sandwiches with the already mentioned elements and fresh cilantro.  These slightly spicy flavors met and mingled with the black pepper elements in the Syrahs for a very happy marriage. 
At this point there was a little break in the eating action while the grilling, baking and sautéing needed to finish the entrée was taken care of.   We all got a chance to move around a bit before settling back at the table for the next few rounds.  It was just what we all needed before continuing on. 
TJ and C had the entrée course which consisted of three elements.  As a side note TJ and C are actually part owners of Deerfield Ranch and were able to fill in lots of interesting detail about the winery and it’s history throughout the dinner.  But back to the entree… While TJ handled the grill, C had kitchen duty.  On the grill he had thick-cut, rosemary encrusted lamp chops.  Oh, my!  Heavenly fragrances drifted from that grill.  In the kitchen, C was warming beautifully molded (as in formed not "moldy"!) polenta made with lots of milk, butter, Gorgonzola and Parmesan cheeses and she was also sautéing Haricots Vertes with tarragon. 
Once on the plate the tastes, colors and textures of these elements all came together in a tasty ensemble and one that paired perfectly with our wines.  Yes, I said wines as we had another bonus bottle for this course.  This time though, instead of being from another winery it was another vintage.  Our scheduled wine was the Deerfield Ranch 2000 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon.  Our bonus was was the 2001 North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon.  I was never quite clear on which glass held which wine but I can tell you that I enjoyed them both! And the strong flavors of the rosemary and lamb were great with the Cabernets.  We spent a nice leisurely time on this course and with the wines. 
TS had been assigned the cheese course to accompany the next wine, Deerfield Ranch 2001 Roumiguiere Vineyard Sangiovese.  He’d actually done all of his preparation and even setup ahead of time, allowing the cheese to sit at room temperature for a while prior to serving.  Since Sangiovese is an Italian grape he chose mostly Italian cheeses to go with their Italian cousin. On the platter was Fulvi Pecorino Romano, a sheep’s milk cheese; Vacche Rosse Parmigiano Reggiano, a raw milk cheese that comes from the Red Cow breed that almost became extinct but was granted protection in the 1980s – after tasting this cheese, we’re certainly glad that happened; an aged Asagio; and to round out the offering an Appenzeller Swiss. 
As I was nibbling on this cheese and sipping the Sangiovese, it occurred to me that any one of the courses and their wines would have provided a completely satisfying experience.  I would have been happy just sipping Sangiovese and breaking off bits of cheese and sprinkling in bits of conversation along the way.  And that could have been true of any of the courses we’d had throughout the evening.  But lucky us – we got the whole series of experiences!  And we weren’t done yet.
It was now somewhere around 10:00 pm; time to move inside to keep the neighbors happy, to warm up a bit and to enjoy dessert.  It was DWs turn to provide this final course.  And for his wine there was 1997 Sonoma Mountain Late Harvest Gold, made with Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling grapes.  Earlier in the evening I’d had a conversation with a couple other guests about our preference or lack there-of for dessert wines.  So many of them are rather sickeningly sweet.  But this wine deserves its name – it is pure, liquid gold, full of a rich, honey flavored essence that satisfies your sweet tooth but knows how to move on without superfluous lingering. 
To pair with this golden treasure DW concocted a mixed berry crisp full of summer sunshine.  He used blueberries, blackberries and raspberries, just lightly sweetened, topped with a crunchy layer and finished off with whip cream and more berries.  It was the perfect ending to this many-coursed meal.  A hint of sweetness, flavorful but light.  Ahhhhh…
And just when you thought we were done – one more bonus wine made its way to the table.  Deerfield Ranch Zinfandel.  We sat around the table sipping our last little sips.  Although at this point we’d been eating and drinking for five and a half hours, I think we were all a little hesitant to go for then the spell of this wonderful evening would be broken. 
Eventually we had to move away from the table, pack up our various containers, leftovers and whatever else, and each make our way (along with bottles of water from our hosts!) back to our respective homes.  As I mentioned at the start, this was really one of the most fun dinners I have ever been party to – I am so happy to have been included! 
  1. 17-Aug-2006 10:55 pm

    Wow B~
    What a great evening. 
    So, I have to ask you, do you do event type consulting or catering?  With the kitchen project, my wife and I are VERY behind on planning for a certain individual\’s upcoming birthday.  We\’d like to have a fun event in our backyard versus a venue.  I don\’t know where to begin.  Aahhhhhhhhhhh!!!!  Any insight or adivce?  You\’d get an Honorary Invitation accompanied by tons of love and accolades!  ;-)

  2. Culinary permalink
    18-Aug-2006 9:54 am

    BH:  Check your email.  ~ B

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