Plumpjack Café, where Wine is One of Life’s Great Pleasures

Plumpjack Café Squaw Valley began its wine program with the premise that “wine is one of life’s great pleasures and should be enjoyed as often as possible as part of a complete dining experience”.

Value is a cornerstone of their wine pricing policy, and the café carries that through to their excellent winemaker’s dinner series. Every day, Plumpjack Café offers a great selection of hard-to-find Californian wines, and collectible greats from Europe and the rest of the New World. They have an extensive wines-by- the- glass program.

The winemaker dinner featuring the wines of Flowers Winery, located in Cazadero, CA on the rugged Sonoma Coast, was perfection in both food and wine. Flowers wines are cool-climate wines that authentically express the unique character of the coolest areas of the Sonoma Coast appellation.

Flowers has a long standing reputation for its pinot noir, but we tasted some spectacular chardonnays also. They produce 15,000 cases of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

The winemaker dinner was beautifully crafted by Rick Edge, Executive Chef. It started with tartare of Angus tenderloin with capers, lime and fresh herbs. It was well paired with the Flowers 2007 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. In color, light straw to golden. Layers of aroma include lemon drop, pear, and apricot. A nice finish, light oak, with a roundness in the mouth. A bit of minerality also made it a perfect pairing for a vegetarian dish prepared for my vegetarian friend, a flavorful risotto. 14.1% alcohol. 3 oz glass $6, 6 oz glass $12

Next course was a sweet corn soup with a warm mushroom salad, summer truffle and house cured lardo. Plumpjack makes this last ingredient themselves; it’s a fatback cured in lemon zest for more than four months. The dish was paired with Flowers 2006 Andreen-Gale Chardonnay, which has a richness and acidity that leads to a long and complex finish. On the nose, lemon and floral, and on the palate, a minerality that’s integrated with vanilla tones. Tom Hinde, CEO of Flowers, poured the wine, and called it a “feisty chardonnay.” 14.1% alcohol. 3 oz glass, $8. 6 oz glass, $16.

The seared Ahi Tuna main course featured a spiced heirloom tomato compote, Beluga lentils, and a pinot noir reduction. Our vegetarian friend had a lovely mushroom ragout for this course. Both dishes were perfect with the Flowers 2007 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, with its crispness and fruit-forward acidity. Aroma of cherry, raspberry, and plum are followed by hints of violet, spice, mineral, and pepper. A lovely juicy pinot noir, with strawberry, raspberry, black fruits and even a bit of leather. Nicely tannic for a lingering finish. Flowers tasting notes state that “The full spectrum of Pinot Noir clones is represented in this wine. Older traditional California heirloom selections such as Martini, 2A, and Pommard are complemented by the more recently available Dijon clones (115, 828, 667, 777), as well as low vigor selections from the Swan and Calera vineyards. “ 13.4% alcohol. 3 oz glass, $7. 6 oz glass, $14

The final course, desert , was an espresso panna cotta, with fresh cherries, chocolate soil, and a French macaroon. Perfectly paired with Flowers 2007 Perennial “Pinot Noir, Syrah” Sonoma Coast. The wine greets the nose with fruit aromas of plums, strawberry, blackberry, and raspberry, and on the palate, there is a lovely jamminess with hints of coffee, mineral and chocolate. You’ll find some tones of cranberries and cherry in the taste too, and a smooth texture made it a perfect end-of-the-meal wine. It’s a blend of 74% Pinot Noir, 16% Syrah, 8% Pinot Meunier, and 2% Chardonnay . 13.8% alcohol. 3 oz glass $5, 6 oz glass $10.

PlumpJack Cafe Squaw Valley is located at 1920 Squaw Valley Road in Olympic Valley. Dinner Thursday through Sunday . Reservations recommended; 530-583-1578.

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© 2009 Barbara Keck

For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of
The Tahoe Weekly. This article appeared in my column "It's Grape" in the issue that bridges the end of August, beginning of September 2009.


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