Last month I attended an exceptional wine dinner, the first in the new Chef’s Wine Series at the Grand America.I had the pleasure of meeting Utah’s most well known woman of wine: Juelle Fisher.
Juelle Fisher serves as an ambassador at large for her family’s business: Fisher Vineyards of Napa Valley and Sonoma. But prior to marrying Fred Fisher and emigrating to California, Juelle Fisher was born and raised here in Holladay. She maintains strong ties to family and friends in the Salt Lake Valley and speaks fondly of the mountains that loom just to the east of where she grew up.
Juelle travels the country to help educate wine lovers and dealers about the Fisher wines. At the wine dinner, she answered technical winemaking questions but mostly seduced the crowd with stories of her family and her genuine love for well-made wines.
Grand America’s executive chef Jeffrey Russell developed a menu that really made those fine wines shine. The food and wine pairings were impeccable, both the food and the wine outstanding. For starters, Clearwater Farms lobster-and-corn ravioli was paired with the elegant but firmly acidic 2003 Sonoma County Whitney’s Vineyard Chardonnay ($45.75)'named for Juelle and Fred Fisher’s first daughter, Whitney, who was born shortly after the vineyard was planted in 1975. It’s a relatively high-alcohol Chardonnay (15.1 percent) which undergoes partial malolactic fermentation and is aged for 16 months in 50-percent new French oak barrels. The peach and lemon flavors in the Whitney Chardonnay mingled beautifully with Chef Russell’s wonderful lobster ravioli. We’re lucky to be able to find this wine in Utah'only 150 cases were produced.
An absolute smash of a dish'pancetta-wrapped monkfish “Osso Buccoâ€'for the second course was paired with Fisher’s 2002 Napa Valley RCF Merlot ($39.50). Remember, this is a family affair, so “RCF” is named for Robert Charles Fisher, who handles some of the business affairs at Fisher Vineyards. This rich blend of 95-percent Merlot and 5-percent Cabernet Franc is brimming with chocolate and cherry flavors and aromas, along with a hint of mint and lingering tannins. I’m hoping that perhaps Chef Russell will consider putting his pancetta-wrapped monkfish'served with chorizo and chanterelle risotto and smoked-tomato beurre blanc'on the regular Grand America Garden CafÃ© dinner menu so I can indulge in this gorgeous pairing again!
Next came a stunning, black truffle-crusted Virginia lamb loin married with 2001 Napa Valley Coach Insignia Cabernet Sauvignon ($53.95). The name of the wine comes from the coach insignia stamped into automobiles of past century with “Body by Fisher.” Yes, Fred and Juelle Fisher’s family is that Fisher family. I used to own a Chevy Nova with a body by Fisher. Anyway, the blend of 86-percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 14-percent Cabernet Franc, aged mostly in new French oak, tastes of ripe black fruits with rich tannins and sweet caramel and chocolate undertones. As well as the wine mated with the truffle-crusted lamb loin, I also enjoyed it with the dessert Grand Chocolate Overdose course.
The chocolate overdose was paired with Fisher’s 2002 Napa Valley Cameron Red Wine ($41.55). It’s a classic Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec and yes, named for the youngest member of the Fisher clan, Cameron. Can I just say, “Yum?”
Stay tuned to the Grapevine for information on upcoming dinners in the Grand America Chef’s Wine Series.