Manzanita at Ritz Carlton Northstar- top of the Wine Adventure List!

The wine experience at Manzanita, the fine dining restaurant at Ritz-Carlton in Northstar, is one of the highlights of wine adventures in the Lake Tahoe area. The enthusiasm of sommelier Gail Oversteg is contagious, and the expertise of chef Joseph Ramos in preparing dishes that enhance the wine experience is almost unbeatable.

At a recent tasting hosted by Steven Holt, market director-public relations for the Ritz Carlton Hotels of Northern California, I was simply in awe of the expertise of both Gail and Joseph. I think that you will be too.

We began with a toast of champagne, specifically the Laurent-Perrier Brut, Tours-Sur-Marne. Champagne is always a great way to begin any celebration, and its relatively low alcohol content (in this case, 12 percent) leaves room for more sipping and dining without that overly buzzed feeling. This champagne offers a fresh and delicate nose, hints of citrus and white fruit. Chardonnay is the predominant grape. Based in the picturesque village of Tours-sur-Marne, this champagne house is ideally located at the intersection between Champagne’s three foremost sub-regions: Montagne de Reims, Vallée de la Marne and Côte des Blancs. $24/glass, $95/bottle. Go ahead and celebrate! Oh by the way, it WAS my birthday.

A Portuguese Vinho Verde, Grinalda, is a white wine that paired perfectly with chef’s Dungeness Crab stuffed in squash blossoms topping a golden tomato gazpacho. Refreshing and light, this wine features taste of white peaches and pears, and is rich and crisp.11.5 percent alcohol, $9/glass, $36/bottle.

Hats off to the 2009 Penner-Ash Riesling from the Willamette Valley of Oregon. I loved its gentle acidity, aroma of tropical fruit, spicy and all about green apple tartness. A perfect pairing with scallop cerviche. 11.5 alcohol, $10/glass, $40/bottle.

For the vegetarians among you, I don’t think you can beat the 2009 Erste & Neue St. Magdalener "Grobnerhof" Sudtirol Alto Adige. It has a lot of spice, very peppery in fact and yet a light tannic structure. Grape varieties used to produce this dark ruby red wine are Vernatsch and Lagrein. notes that the St. Magdalener 'Gröbnerhof' goes very well with light Mediterranean dishes and also with spicy Asian dishes. 13 percent alcohol, $9/glass, $26/bottle.

For you lovers of BIG California Chardonnay, try the 2009 Four Hearts, Hartford Court Chardonnay , Russian River Valley. “It has an opulent Burgundian style,” explained Gail as she poured it, “with layers of flavor, and a balancee acidity.” This winery sources grapes from four vineyards, thus the “Four Hearts” designation, and it is rich, weighty and mineral-driven.14.4 percent alcohol, $18/glass, $70/bottle.

Tasting this chardonnay engendered a discussion with Gail about the pendulum-swing of style preference in wine. She believes, and so do I, that the French style of wine-making, often referred to as Old World, is coming back in consumer preference. Less and less as I sit at various wine bars for an evening with friends do I see people ordering those big oakey showy California/New World style whites. Bravo!

But enough about dinner and appetizer wines; let’s go directly to desserts. After all, it was my birthday! Thank you Gail for pouring the 2009 Brachetto d’Acqui, Piemonte. At 5.5 percent alcohol, I could have the whole bottle! It was so tasty with the housemade coconut ice cream, that I was tempted. $14/glass, $32/375-ml bottle.

To finish, bread pudding, my personal favorite, was served with a glass of Porto, Niepoort Colheita 1995. Didn’t even ask about the alcohol. Birthday. $22/glass.

Manzanita is located in the Ritz Carlton Northstar, 13031 Ritz-Carlton Highlands Court, Truckee, California 96161 USA Phone (530) 562-3000 for reservations or reserve on

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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 August/September 2011.

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

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