This is the fourth post in the series titled Weekend in Sonoma + Napa. Other posts in this series include Cafe La Haye, Exploring Sonoma Plaza, and Sonoma Canopy Tours – Ziplining Among the Redwood Trees
Autumn is one of the busiest seasons for wine country partly because there are so many autumn harvest parties, wine release events, and other things going on. The weather is typically very pleasant in this area during September and October, and many wineries announce or release new vintages of wines.
We had the wonderful opportunity to attend Chateau St. Jean’s Cinq Cepages release party this fall. Cinq Cepages is Chateau St. Jean’s flagship wine and consists of a blend of five Bordeaux varietals whose make up vary year by year. This year, the blend was 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 3% Malbec and 3% Petit Verdot). The wine was aged in 100% French oak barrels (51% new oak) for 23 months.
This particular release party was a more intimate event (compared to past years) because of the new format they were trying.
Instead of just letting the guests taste a flight of new release wines, they invited Michelin-starred chef Bruno Tison from Sonoma’s own Sante Restasurant to cook four dishes to pair with the wines.
It was a really fun event because we had a chance to try two different wines with each course. Chef Tison had the challenge of trying to create four courses that would each pair well with two different wines.
After tasting both pairings, audience members voted on their favorites. Margo Van Staaveren, a very talented and personable winemaker who has been with Chateau St. Jean for years, also shared the stage with Chef Tison and gave us her perspective on the wines and the pairings.
It was really cool hearing her thoughts behind the different wines, including their grape clones, their flavor profiles, and their growing conditions.
It was interesting because overall, the audience had relatively consistent opinions about which pairing worked the best, sometimes to the surprise of the organizers.
Here are the wines we tasted, and the courses with which they were paired.
The first course was Hamachi and Avocado Tartare topped with California Sierra caviar, a farm raised caviar out of California. This was paired with a 2014 LeSeul Chardonnay from the Petaluma Gap and a 2014 Estate Vineyard Viognier.
The second course was a Hen Chicken, Foie Gras “Chaud-Froid”.Chef Tison specifically created this dish to pair with young wines. This version is a traditional French preparation. The chicken is poached for 2.5 hours, chilled, and then marinated in chicken stock overnight. The stock is then reduced for an additional 2 hours and mixed with foie gras to make the creamy foie gras sauce covering the chicken. It was excellent.
This dish was paired with a 2014 LeSeul Pinot Noir and a 2013 Durell Vineyard Syrah.
The third course was a Grimaud Duck Breast served with a Sebastopol organic mushroom fricasee. This was paired with a 2002 Reserve Sonoma County Merlot and a 2012 Reserve Sonoma County Malbec.
Finally, the last course was Seared Lamb Rack served with stewed Yukon gold thyme potatoes with caramelized onion and black truffle. This final dish was paired with a 2004 Cinq Cepages and the newly released 2013 Cinq Cepages.
After the tasting, we explored the beautifully property while munching on cheese, bread, and more wine (!). They were pouring the 2014 LeSeul Chardonnay, 2014 Estate Vineyard Viognier, 2004 Cinq Cepages, and of course, the 2013 Cinq Cepages.
All event-goers could order any wines for a 35% discount, so many people put in orders during this time.
We could also explore the vineyard and even taste some grapes right off the vine, which was really fun!
At the end of the event, they had a raffle where they gave away three prizes: ones worth $300, $600, and $1200 (!). Lo and behold,Bryan won the $600 value prize, which included an awesome coupon for a “library” tasting of their flagship Cinq Cepages wine for four guests (woo hoo!) as well as a bunch of other fun little wine-themed paraphernalia.
It was really fun trying all of their wines paired with excellent food. The Cinq Cepages is a beautiful wine and I can’t wait to go back, redeem our coupon, and try the library tasting!
Disclaimer – I partnered with Sonoma Valley Visitor’s Bureau for this series. They helped me set up several of these visits and I did not pay for the experiences that were part of the itinerary, including attendance to this release party. All opinions are my own, and I was not paid to write any of these blog posts.