Shafer Hillside Select Dinner
Manresa Restaurant, Los Gatos, California USA
Tasted March 13, 2005 by PaulH with 3,772 views
Nine wine lovers from the San Francisco Bay area got together for an evening of memorable wine and food at Manresa in Los Gatos. The tasting was devoted to sampling Shafer wines, especially the fabulous Hillside Selects. Since the wines were so special, we wanted to have food and company that would be worthy of the wine. Chef David Kinch was kind enough to put together a special seventeen-course tasting menu tied to the wines. Additionally, we were extremely fortunate in having Elias Fernandez, winemaker extraordinary from Shafer accept our invitation to join us.
Paul Homchick, Randy Wigginton, Sam Lai, Randy Cunningham, David Niederauer, Richard Leland, Ken Emery, David Sankaran, Al Osterheld and Elias Fernandez were all at the restaurant by 5:30 p.m. and the festivities started.
Flight 1 - Champagne and a bevy of Amuse Bouches (1 note)
We all sat down and introduced ourselves, while the Champagne was poured. Four appetizers were served:
First was a "Pea shell bouillon with spot prawn gelee" It was a cold fresh tasting pea emulsion that was thick and mouth coating. It had a swatch of fresh-sea flavor running through it. The saltiness balanced the acid in the peas. It was a great start. Next was a Martini glas filled with chunks of citrus with a jasmine tea dressing. It was refreshing and a fun collection of flavors. Then a salt cod and potato croquette with a bit of bacon (really good). Finally the famous Arpege egg which is a soft boiled egg served in an egg shell with the top cut off and layered with maple syrup, chives and creme fraiche.
Flight 2 - First Courses with Sweet Wines (2 notes)
The chef had asked for some sauterne to serve with two special dishes. These were extraordinary and were a perfect match for the Sauternes.
First was a foie gras and cumin caramel with fresh ground pepper and fleur de sel which is simply an AMAZING dish. Next was Maine lobster warmed in hydromel (fermented honey) and ginger which was just exquisite. This may have been the best dish of the evening for me.
Flight 3 - Second set of Courses with White Wine (2 notes)
We then cleared our palates, and poured the Chardonnays. The next course was and oyster and sea urchin with sea water gelee. It was excellent, with very fresh uni and oyster, slightly crunchy and tasting and smelling of the seashore. Then we had a soup: "slow egg with onion and cheese" which was a Vidalia Onion puree served on top of a poached egg and a slice of salty manchego cheese.
Flight 4 - Relentless and Veal Tounge (2 notes)
This next course was the least successful pairing, a veal tongue with oyster and a leek terrine. In addition to being completely overpowered by the Syrah, I didn't think it was a particularly successful dish.
Flight 5 - Early 90's Hillside Selects (5 notes)
The next course was an incredible suckling pig confit with boudins “black and white” all made in the restaurant. They brought out the roasting pan to show us the pigs and sausages. It was really rich and delicious. A true treat. We next got a 36-hour braised lamb shoulder served with a chestnut and ginger puree. Wow! The combination of the ginger and chestnut really got your attention and served as a good contrast to the slightly salty and rich lamb. This was probably my second favorite dish of the evening.
Flight 6 - Hillside Select wrap up (5 notes)
While we were being served the lamb, they poured the next flight of Cabs & we now had 10 glasses of Hillside Select in front of our places. The final savory course was a roast beef filet with braised little gem lettuces. We also tried a bottle of the 2002 Shafer Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, which I didn't take notes on.
As we were sitting with 10 to 12 glasses in front of us and talking about the different vintages of HSS, Elias commented how fortunate he was to be a winemaker in California. If we had been sitting in front of a vertical of 1990s Bordeaux wine, we would be talking about how only one or two were any good, instead of one or two that weren't quite up to snuff!
Flight 7 - Port and FIVE Desserts (1 note)
The Shafer Port accompanied four perfect desserts... Lychee sorbet with pineapple and passionrruit; Saffron panna cotta with fig and pistachio; Strawberry beignet with bergamot sauce; a Kiefer lime milkshake, and a Bittersweet chocolate soufflé. WHAT A GREAT MEAL. It was 11:40 as the last of the coffee was being sipped and we reluctantly started to go our separate ways. It was hard to believe we had spent six hours.
The things that make for a great wine and food experience are wine, food and good company. It is hard to imagine a better collection of wines, better food, or a greater bunch of guys to eat and drink with. Also, the generosity and insight provided by Elias Fernandez really made the night special. As things were winding down, Chef Kinch came in to see how we were doing. Elias took that opportunity to present him with an autographed bottle of the 2001 Hillside Select, so I think that means he enjoyed the meal!
Thanks to everyone for coming to the dinner, donating their wine and helping to make it a truly memorable event that we will all remember for a long time.