When I was just out of college, one of my "fancy" go-to- wines to bring to dinner parties was a Beaujolais. It was a delicious medium-bodied red with a fancy French label that cost - gasp! - $15.
That's the thing about Beaujolais wines: they are lovely wines made by mostly small batch producers and family-owned vineyards at ridiculously affordable prices. Even at the Beaujolais Food Feast event in Portland, Oregon, my fellow attendees and I were looking at the retail prices, asking each other: "That can't be right. That must be wholesale. That can't be the retail price listing. Can't it?"
Ah, but it was and it is. Oh so right.
Beaujolais Food Feast
Inter Beaujolais, the official wine trade organization of the Beaujolais region, hosted a multi-course wine pairings meal at Salty's on the Columbia. I joined a small group of local wine experts, wine industry professionals, and food & wine writers to Discover Beaujolais at the Beaujolais Food Feast.
One quick look at the wine bottles and wine glasses awaiting us, and I knew we were in for an incredible night.
I'm not sure there are enough glasses on the table . . .
We began with a 2012 Cheateau Thivin Beaujolais Rose ($12).
This is a light, crisp, classic rose: deep salmon pink with bright cherry and tangerine notes. It paired well with a refreshing first course of chilled Pacific Northwest seafood: shrimp cocktail with a red chile pesto, panko mussels, and a delicate seafood roll.
While you may be more familiar with the roses and reds of the Beaujolais region, the wine terroir also lends itself well to production of Chardonnay grapes.
We enjoyed a 2012 Domaine Lucien Lardy, Beaujolais Villages Blanc ($12), with a creative trio of lobster appetizers: butter poached medallions with caviar, grilled medallions with black truffles, and housemade pasta filled with lobster, asiago and manchego cheese
The butter poached lobster medallions with caviar was my fave of the lobster trio:
Then we dove into the reds.
It is a myth that you should always pair white wines with seafood and red wines with poultry and beef. Like many light- to medium-bodied red wines, the red wines we tried from the Beaujolais region all complemented the main seafood courses quite well.
One of my favorite pairings was a 2011 Villa Ponciago, La Reserve, Fleurie ($20) with this gorgeous Bronzed Ahi Tuna with wasabi crisp. The Fleurie's brilliant berry and floral flavors paired so well with the meaty Ahi tuna, and also provided a nice balance to the light spices of the dish.
At this point, we were treated to a palate cleanser of house made sorbet before moving onto our fourth course: a Fricasee of Alaskan Halibut and Morels paired with a 2011 Christophe Pacalet, Chiroubles ($17).
Our fifth course (yes, it keeps going . . . and I ate all of it. Oh yes, I did.) was a delightful Columbia River Springers (Steelhead) with Spring Pea, Morels, and Bing Cherry.
Chef Josh Gibler personally came out to share information about the dishes between courses, and also to top off the fish. Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest and lived here most of my life, I am always surprised at how hard it is to find a good seafood restaurant in Portland. Salty's is definitely one of my favorites. I commend Chef Gibler on his innovative use of Pacific NW seafood in the dishes at Salty's. Each dish was an absolutely stunning work of art to admire, but more importantly, a delicious treat to eat. If you're looking for a stellar seafood restaurant in Portland with great river views, definitely check out Salty's on the Columbia. We'll be back again soon, I am sure.
70-year-old Winemaking Maven
If you follow this blog, you know that one of my favorite things about wine is truly the people behind the labels. The fifth course was paired with a 2011 Cote de Brouilly ($18) from the Nicole Chanrion vineyard. Nicole Chanrion is in her seventies, and works all 16 acres of this property by herself, from pruning the vineyards and driving the tractors, to winemaking and bottling. She became the president of the Cote de Brouilly appellation in 2000. She's amazing, and her wine is pretty fantastic. I would love to meet her someday!
Made with 100% Gamay grapes like the other red wines of the evening, the 2011 Cote de Brouilly from Nicole Chanrion is a deeper, medium- to -full-bodied red with hints of black tea and rich berries.
Throughout the evening, Anthony Collet, Marketing and Communications Director of Inter Beaujolais (pictured below, standing, far left), and his team shared information about the region, the wines, and the winemakers.
We learned about the 12 appellations, including the 10 crus, of the Beaujolais region. The presentation was highly interactive, as we passed around an iPad full of images that told the story of the winemakers behind the wines we sampled this evening, and a sample of the rocks that grow on each wine cru. It's incredible how diverse the wines can be within such a small area.
Did you think we were done with the food? Because there are still two more courses, my friends. . .
After the main meaty courses, we moved onto a cheese plate featuring a quintet of Oregon cheeses.
The cheese plate was paired with a 2011 Paul-Henri Thillardon, Les Carrieres, Chenas ($20). This was a silky organically certified red wine with a spicy finish.
Finally, we topped off the night with a beautiful chocolate mousse cup and espresso.
I learned so much about the Beaujolais region during this wine dinner. Learning about the wines, and winemakers, I gained a greater respect for these wines. Beaujolais is such a diverse region. This evening's selections proved that there is so much variety in the types of wines that can be produced from 100% Gamay grapes.
Don't let the lower price point fool you: I am positive you can find at least one Beaujolais wine below $20 that you will love! Any of the wines listed above from this meal would be a good starting point if you are new to Beaujolais. My personal favorites were the final two, but I also prefer medium- to full-bodied reds.
Many thanks to Inter Beaujolais for a wonderful evening. It was full of excellent wine education, delightful company, and fantastic food.