Wonderful Wines and Cuisine Unique: Wolfdale’s in Tahoe City Combines Both

Wolfdale’s in Tahoe City is legendary. Started in 1978, it’s gained a loyal clientele due to the talents of Chef Douglas Dale. Since 1986, it’s been located at 640 North Lake Blvd in the oldest building in Tahoe City; this charming restaurant has created a wonderful ambience in the logger’s home that was built in 1889 on Lake Tahoe's South shore, floated to the North shore in 1901, and housed a succession of constables over the years. The old jail on the bottom floor provides perfect temperature control for Wolfdale’s extensive wine cellar. Creating an expansive wine list is the responsibility of wine buyer J.B. Budny, who has selected wines that match the food and provide value at all price points.

An event worth putting on your calendar for the future is Wolfdale’s innovative Farmer’s Market Cooking Courses, which take place throughout the summer. Students shop at the Tahoe City farmer’s market and then are guided in the kitchen by Chef Dale to use the fresh ingredients creatively. J.B. pairs wines with each of the four courses as students enjoy the food they’ve prepared. The next class in September is part of the Lake Tahoe Autumn Food & Wine Festival.

J.B. has a great selection of wines to offer. “I try to match the taste and expectations of the guests,” J.B. said. “Once I know the palate of a frequent guest, I’ll try to find a few wines that I think the guest will enjoy, and keep them on hand.”

This attention to detail is rare, and accounts for the loyal clientele of the restaurant. Wolfdale’s pays attention to the newest trends in the wine and food business too. “People are drinking more Rosé and Gewürztraminer now, and getting away from the big oakey chardonnays. Regardless, it is a big challenge to find a well priced wine that is also well made – but we’ve done this repeatedly,” J.B. says. “In fact, today’s trend toward value in wines can actually help people expand their palates.”

The luncheon prepared by participants started with a squash blossom appetizer, filled with a Pedrich’s cheese rubbed with olive oil, butter, paprika. The filled blossom was fried, and served on a platter of grilled summer squashes.

The wine pairing was a sparkling white from Italy, Sorelle Bronca Prosecco di Valdobbiadene. Bubbles, noted J.B., love fried foods. This pale and bright wine has refreshing citrus and lemon overtones, with a clean and minerally taste, and low in alcohol (11%).

A salad of French-cut fresh green beans was served with red-orange-yellow cherry tomatoes, basil and chives, then drizzled with a nut sauce of pinenuts, garlic, olive oil, capers, and topped with thinly-sliced goat gouda .

The wine pairing was Teruzzi & Puthold’s 2007 Terre di Tufi, a white wine from Tuscany. On the nose, a bit floral but not too much; on the palate, a hint of almond. 13% alcohol. J.B. also suggested pairing this kind of summer salad with a cold dry sherry.

The corn chowder was started by Chef Dale before the class due to its many preparation steps. The class created a roux that derived its intense flavor from corncob stalks, and brandy, thyme and soy sauce were components. Crowning the thick chowder was grilled Columbia River king salmon.

The wine pairing was a 2006 Pessagno Chardonnay, Lucia Highlands Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands, Salinas. This chardonnay is one of J.B’s personal favorites. The minerality of this chardonnay, with flavors of apple and pear, was a perfect match. 14.2% alcohol. J.B. also suggested that a Washington State unoaked chardonnay would have done well with this course.

The Farmer’s Market luncheon finished, appropriately enough, with a fresh fruit crisp featuring triple-crown blackberries sourced from California’s Central Valley.

Wolfdale’s is open 7 days a week for dinner during the summer and Christmas week; Wednesday-Monday otherwise.. Facilities include Dining Room, Full Bar, Outdoor Deck and Garden, and a bocce ball court. Reservations strongly suggested: 530 583 5700.

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 September 2009.

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