Star power graces Wine Festival lunch

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First of all, my apologies for the tardiness of this blog post, which I'd have preferred to have completed much closer to the close of the 21st annual Wine Festival of Colorado Springs. (What can I say, busy week.)

You havent seen a lot of glasswear until youve seen a Wine Festival lunch at the FAC.
  • Matthew Schniper
  • You haven't seen a lot of glasswear until you've seen a Wine Festival lunch at the FAC.

This year, the only event from the weekend in which I took part was the popular Saturday lunch, in which a guest chef pairs courses with the visiting winemakers' products. Last year, Amuze Bistro's Bill Sherman paired molecular gastronomy with Spanish wines.

This year, former Beaver Creek-turned-New York celebrity chef Soa Davies worked closely with local culinarians — including Cravings chef Jenna Hines and head line cook Noah Siebenaller, MacKenzie's Chop House chef Pete Moreno and former La Petite Maison proprietor Jeff Mervis — to pair six courses with wines from three Napa Valley wineries.

Those wineries were Chateau Montelena, Robert Sinskey Vineyards and VGS Chateau Potelle.

Winemakers or representatives in attendance were Jean-Noël Fourmeaux du Sartel of VGS Chateau Potelle, Rob Sinskey of Robert Sinskey Winery and Dave Vella of Chateau Montelena.

Fun facts: The VGS in that last vineyards name stands for "very good shit" and Chateau Montelena was the subject of the 2008 film, Bottle Shock, which is based on the 1976 "Judgment of Paris" blind tasting that put California wines on the international map.

Before I tell you more about chef Davies and the day's wines and menu, check out this brief SLIDESHOW that spans the whole event.

As you'll read on the Fine Arts Center's promotional material, Davies "spent nine years as the chef de cuisine at Splendido at the Chateau, Beaver Creek’s premier gourmet eating establishment, before being tapped by celebrity chef Eric Ripert to join his culinary team at New York City’s three Michelin-starred restaurant, Le Bernardin. She is considered one of the food industry’s lauded tastemakers."

Chef Soa Davies, taking a break from cooking to explain her method behind pairing her food course with the respective Napa wine.
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Chef Soa Davies, taking a break from cooking to explain her method behind pairing her food course with the respective Napa wine.

Davies now serves as principal at Twothirtyone Group — an advisory and management consulting firm for hospitality companies. But much more exciting to those of us addicted to HBO's New Orleans-set Treme, Davies serves as the culinary adviser for the program (she told me that most of the food we've seen on camera was prepared by her).

She'd formerly produced Avec Eric, built around her boss Eric Ripert, who's regarded as one of the best chefs in the world, holding both Michelin stars and James Beard awards for Le Bernardin.

So to say it was an honor to have her in Colorado Springs, cooking alongside our local white coats, with regarded Napa wine producers, for guests of our Wine Festival, would be an understatement.

What a coup for the Wine Festival, I hope followed up in future years by other great guest chef appearances.

Coaltrain Wine & Spirits was also playing event host, by the way, and that's where you'll find all the day's wines available for purchase for between $31 and $54.

So onto some food and wine. Let's start with a broad generalization: it was all pretty damn spectacular.

To quote VGS' Jean-Noël Fourmeaux du Sartel, who was referring to one of his wines when he said this: "If you like it, I'm responsible for it. If you don't like it, you have bad tastes."

Pretty much sums up the day, too. Jean-Noël later explained how he coined VGS, essentially saying that he used to rate wines as "bad shit or good shit" ... always on the lookout for "very good shit."

Proving that not all wine events are stuffy, Jean-Noel Fourmeaux du Sartel makes another crude comment which gets the whole room laughing.
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Proving that not all wine events are stuffy, Jean-Noel Fourmeaux du Sartel makes another crude comment which gets the whole room laughing.

As you can see, this is a fairly laid-back affair with plenty of cussing, lots of drinking, but a true appreciation for food and drink. Simply put: good people, good times. (A shout out to former Indy food writer Monika Mitchell Randall, who helps organize the lunch and gained me entry to cover it.)

Here's a look at the menu, all of which can be viewed in the above slideshow as well:

• Citrus cured salmon, green apple and petite herb salad with jalapeño lime emulsion; 2010 Abraxas Scintilla Sonoma Vineyard, Robert Sinskey Vineyards

• Shrimp "a la plancha" with caramelized endive and bouillabaisse sauce; 2009 Napa Chardonnay, Chateau Montelena

• Salt baked root vegetables, shaved fennel and celery with black olive-truffle vierge; 2008 Pinot Noir, Three Amigos Vineyard, Robert Sinskey Vineyards

• Roasted chicken with mushroom and red wine-tarragon reduction; 2009 VGS Explorer Chateau Potelle Illegitimate Red

• Braised short rib "au poivre" with potato confit and pickled red onion; 2009 VGS Chateau Potelle Zinfandel

• Bittersweet chocolate cremeux, with smoked salt, caramel fluff and brandied cherries; 2009 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, Chateau Montelena

The coolest part about this dessert was the bourbon barrel smoked salt, a cool product that chef Davies brought with her.
  • Matthew Schniper
  • The coolest part about this dessert was the bourbon barrel smoked salt, a cool product that chef Davies brought with her.


I'm somewhat content to let the above images and descriptions as well as the notable players speak for the overall quality of the event, rather than ramble on further about how something specific tasted, paired with one of the wines.

I don't feel like picking favorites or nitpicking ingredients, etc. As I said before, it was all damn good, and I don't wish to spoil that with a lengthy autopsy.

I will, however, leave you with another quote from Jean-Noël Fourmeaux du Sartel, who as I understand it, was basically the official wine taster for the French government at some point, who has 400 years of wine growing in his family lineage.

When talking about his Illegitimate wine, he told an anecdote about someone rushing a wine tasting, essentially botching its purpose. As an appeal to taking one's time to savor wine, he said the following:
"When you take a woman to bed, do you look at her first? ... You need to understand your partner. You're entering into a new relationship each time you have a glass of wine ... Try it before your meal, with it, and afterwards ..."

Part of that point being, let it linger. Savor it. Much as I, and I assume most everyone present, savored this event.

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