Exquisite Wines at Ability Bash: Charity Event for Disabled Sports USA

Heibel Ranch Vineyards pours
The Ability Bash benefit held at The Lodge at Alpine in March was a heart-warming culmination of a five-day event that highlighs the abilities of disabled persons. The principal fundraiser for Disabled Sports USA Far West, it honors wounded warriors from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The celebration of accomplishment included an auction of fine wines, and dinner included wine paired with an extravagant menu catered by Alpine Meadows’ Chris Patrick.

Contributors were Dalla Terra, Folio Fine Wine partners, Heibel Ranch Vineyards , Henry Winegroup , Justin Vineyards and Winery, Pennywise Wines, Saracco Adami, Skinner Vineyards, Steele Wines, Talbo, Thomas Coyne Winery, Thumbprint Cellars Winery, Truckee River Winery, and Uncorked at Squaw Valley. Jeff Boyer, a local wine expert, played an important role in sourcing many wines.

Steele Wines, located in Kelseyville (Lake County, CA) poured several of their wines that use grapes from Lake County. Owner/Winemaker Jed Steele honed his winemaking skills at Kendall Jackson; he has made wine in California for 42 years. The Writers Block Syrah primarily uses fruit from the estate Jacobsen vineyard, located on the Kelseyville Bench area of Lake County. The Syrah also contains fruit from four other Lake County Syrah vineyards. The Syrah has a chalky note to it mid-palette, taste of dark berry types of fruit, and has a hint of smoky and bacon-y flavor. 13.5% alcohol $13/bottle

Heibel Ranch Vineyards poured the 2007 Lappa’s Napa Valley Red. This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Petite Sirah harvested from the certified organic estate vineyard on the family ranch in Pope Valley. There is a touch of Cabernet Franc and Syrah, and the result is a taste of rich black fruit and a bit of white pepper, a bit of licorice and mocha. This is a juicy wine with soft tannins that you can drink now or enjoy for many years. Only 186 cases were produced. 14.5 % alcohol, $34/bottle.

Local winery Truckee River Winery poured two of its Library Wines, a 2006 Pinot Noir, Monterey County, and a 2006 Zinfandel, Lodi. There are only a few cases of the Pinot Noir left, so hurry to get them. This delicious Pinot Noir is made with fruit from the famous Gary’s Vineyard in Monterey County. It is an unfiltered wine that benefits from winemaker Russ Jones’ slow fermentation treatment. Aged in French oak, this is a very delicate Pinot with complexity, depth, and soft tannins. 13.8$ alcohol, $45/bottle.

Skinner Vineyards and Winery, Fair Play AVA, El Dorado County, poured its 2007 Grenache and its 2007 Syrah, Stoney Creek Vineyard. I’ve tasted this Syrah many times, and it is a really yummy example of a great Rhone wine from the Sierra Foothills. Winemaker notes tell the story:”This Syrah is from the Skinner family’s Stoney Creek Vineyard, which is situated on a ridgetop that ranges from 2,610 to 2,740 feet in elevation. It offers aromas of blackberry and cherry pie, interlaced with hints of pepper, dried flowers, cinnamon, chocolate caramels, roasted coffee, and vanilla bean… medium-plus in body with a long, polished, and velvety finish.” 15.6% alcohol. $34/bottle.

Thomas Coyne Winery, Livermore, offers several Rhone varietals. Their 2005 Petite Sirah is sourced from the Quartz Hill Vineyard/Placerville of Bob and Margot Scharpf. Fruit is grown at 2700 feet elevation in the Sierra foothills of El Dorado County. After crush, the wine was fermented and aged in American oak barrels for eighteen months. The wine is full-bodied with blackberry and pepper, followed by a rich oak finish. 13.5% alcohol, $20/bottle.

Contributing Reporter for this event was Cathy Krauss, who braved the avalanches at Alpine to give us her tasting notes. She is inspired to go to future events of this group!

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© 2011 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 "Wine Adventures" in April 2011.
Book in Process: "Mountain High Wine: The Sierra and Its Foothills".


PlumpJack at Squaw Excels at Food & Wine Pairings

One of the best wine lists on the lake, paired with one of the best kitchens: that describes PlumpJack’s Café at Squaw Valley Inn. No matter how many times you treat you dine there, or attend one of their great winemaker dinners, you always walk out astounded at how good the wines are and how well they pair foods.

Mike Kirk, food and beverage manager, knows his way around the wine list, and working together with Tim Crockett, chef de cuisine, the food-wine pairings presented the evening I went to taste were incredible. Steve Lamb, Food and Beverage Director, is responsible in part for the great wine list, and the PlumpJack blog notes that long-time wine buyer Paul Birman, who has been with PlumpJack’s wine store in San Francisco for more than 15 years, scours the world for interesting wines and many of those end up on PlumpJack Café’s wine list. It really is an unbeatable team.

One of the nicer things too, is that great wines are on their wine-by-the-glass list. They pour a 6 ounce glass – quite generous – and you can order a half-glass too.

We started with a Werner Schweicher Annaberg Riesling “Kabinett” 2009 Mosel, from an old well-known German winery. It has a bit of sweetness that makes it perfect with spicy dishes. Tones of pineapple, citrus, and with a light minerality and a bit of fizz. Perfect with the Korean Spiced Seafood Cones, a dish that is like a little sushi delight, augmented by pickled cabbage (kimchi), ginger and Tobiko caviar. A mouthful of that, a taste of the Riesling…divine. The Riesling is $9/glass. 9.5% alcohol.

The Bouchard Pere & Fils 2008 Pouilly Fuisse was a great pairing with the Seared Diver Scallops. I’ve personally always been fond of Pouilly Fuisse, since it was my first “aha” wine experience when I was 21. This Burgundy is typical of the type, with aroma of fruit and flowers, perfumey, silky, elegant. I enjoyed the Wine Spectator description: "A white with a sense of place. Acacia, lemon blossom, apple and mineral aromas and flavors abound, all matched to an elegant frame. This is balanced, lingering on the long, mineral-tinged aftertaste.” Drink it now through 2016 to get the freshness you should enjoy with this wine. Only 250 cases imported! $10/glass. 13% alcohol.

And then, my favorite Grenache Blanc a 2009 Skinner Vineyards- Stoney Creek Vineyard, Fair Play, El Dorado County. This was paired with the chef’s special, a Seared New Zealand Queen Snapper with Santa Barbara mussels, Berkshire pork belly, horseradish crème fraiche and herb gelee. This recipe was created by Ben “Wyatt” Dufresne, Executive Chef. The Skinner Grenache Blanc is available only in restaurants, so make it a point to try it. “This wine has aromatics of lemon zest, granny smith apple, and grapefruit, with hints of straw and wet gravel. The mouth feel is racy, with a medium bodied mid-palate and an element of minerality on the finish. This wine is unfined and unfiltered to retain its purity,” notes Ryan Skinner, General Manager. Chris Mascias of the Sacramento Bee raved about this wine recently too. $11/glass.

To end, a Saracco Muscato D’Asti 2008, Piedmont. This was paired with a Tome des Recollets, a cheese that contains five herbs and spices, two milks and a Sauternes wash. The wine has a crispness with a nice acidity, a pear-like sweetness, and a bit of frizziness. $19 for a 375 ml bottle. 6% alcohol.

PlumpJack Café at Squaw Valley is located at 1920 Squaw Valley Road, Olympic Valley, CA. Call 530 583 1576 for reservations. Evening dining starts at 5:30.

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© 2011 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 "Wine Adventures" in April 2011.

Book in Process: "Mountain High Wine: The Sierra and Its Foothills".