River Ranch near Tahoe City: Great Wine-Food Pairings and Personable Owner

One of the nicest things about enjoying wine in a Lake Tahoe area restaurant are owners that sit with you and chat.  Bric Haley of The River Ranch is well known for his friendliness, and tasting through his good wine list with pairings from Chef Julia Walter’s kitchen was an absolute delight.

The by-the-glass list at River Ranch are wines carefully selected from many California areas: Paso Robles, Monterey, Napa, Sierra Foothills, Mendocino, Livermore Valley. The diverse bottle list features California,  French, New Zealand, Italian, and German wines.

 Bric and his wine team change the list twice a year.  Beginning each June, lighter wines prevail.

 The Louis Mel Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Estate Grown in Livermore Valley, San Francisco Bay area is produced by winemaker Karl Wente.  Aroma of guava, melon, gooseberry, citrus and pineapple foreshadow this wine’s crisp acidity.  Flavors of honeydew and pineapple contribute to the creamy finish.  13 per cent alcohol. $8/glass or $35/bottle.  The pairing was butternut squash risotto.

I love the “Eroica” Riesling from Columbia Valley, and enjoyed it with the Ahi Poke chips appetizer.  This 2009 vintage (from Chateau Ste Michelle’s collaboration with Dr. Loosen of Germany) lives up to other vintages…maybe even a bit better.  It is young, fresh, and with flavor of lemon, orange, grapefruit with a hint of such fruits as papaya and mango.  12 per cent alcohol.  $35/bottle.

The Santa Cristina Sangiovese 2009, Toscana, has hints of red fruit like cherries and raspberries, a smoothness on the palate, and gentle tannins on the finish.  It is a blend of 85% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, imported by Ste Michelle Wine Estates.  Paired with a portobella mushroom napoleon.  12 per cent alcohol.  $7/glass, $24/bottle.

Known for its game dishes, River Ranch presented two with great pairings.  The wild game meatloaf was paired with 2008 Zinfandel  MontevinaWinery, Amador County, Sierra Foothills. This zinfandel has aroma of raspberries, strawberry and a hint of clove and cinnamon, with a juiciness we expect from Foothill zins.  13.5 per cent alcohol.  $6/glass, $21/bottle.

The 2009 Oberon Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, paired with pan-roasted Duncan Ranch elk.  Produced by the Michael Mondavi family, this finely tuned wine has cherry, blackberry, licorice and spice flavors, a rounded mouthfeel, and a toffee note on the finish.  It is a blend containing 86% Cabernet Sauvignon.  13.7 per cent alcohol.  $12/glass, $41/bottle.

River Ranch Lodge & Restaurant is located on Highway 89 at the intersection of Alpine Meadows Road overlooking the Truckee River.  Operating hours change seasonally but it’s open for dinner year-round. www.riverranchlodge.com   Toll Free: 866.991.9912 / Local: 530.583.4264