Josh Gana (that's me) from The Oregon Wine Blog (this very publication), described dinner at Picazo in a unique way:
...[a] grab on to the headboard and hang on for the ride type of culinary experience.
Come along for the ride! Oh, and I fully acknowledge that I may fall into that snobby, food and wine writer tone. Sorry if that's the case. We really aren't snooty, I promise.
After we had been seated, Trina and Frank approached our table and inquired as to whether there were any food dislikes or allergies, as they had "prepared a little bit of everything to put on the table." Luckily, we're an easy group in that respect and love a chef's surprise. They had prepared 7 courses, and hoped we didn't mind. No, indeed, we didn't mind at all.
The Wine: 2008 Alexandria Nicole Cellars Horse Heaven Hills Marsanne (pre-release)
The Food: Sweet onion and squash stuffed calimari on a bed of greens with a tarragon balsamic vinaigrette made from a chardonnay/vanilla pressed oil and a grilled pepper.
The Assessment: This course was our preview of greatness to come. We found that the puree literally melted in our mouths and the produce was fresh and vibrant. The tarragon added a wonderful complexity, and the simple unassuming pepper was to die for. On the wine, we found a hint of residual sugar and were lucky that Trina had shared the pre-release wine with us. It was simply an outstanding pairing, with the Marsanne perfectly complementing the calimari. As Gwynn put it,
Would it be in poor taste to lick the plate?
As Trina was pouring our second glass of wine for the evening, she nonchalantly pointed to a family two tables away, stating "oh, there's the winemaker of this wine." That kind of camaraderie part of the magic of Picazo.
The Wine: 2008 Cooper Pinot Gris
The Food: Firecracker prawns with red chili flakes and harissa (a North African hot chili sauce).
The Assessment: Umm, so you could remove the word "fire" and the "er" from the name of these prawns and you'd end up with their true nature: crack. They are amazing. The flavor complexity of the spice profile was transformative, and the pinot gris was a perfect wine to cut the heat of the harissa. It was a well-balanced pairing, and we used the bread to soak up the delicious sauce when the prawns were gone. Cooper wine is tasting-room only at this point, but watch out because their doing great things on Red Mountain. This was our favorite course.
Immediately prior to dinner, we had done a tasting at Airfield Estates a few blocks away. We knew Picazo was featuring some of their wines, so were excited to dig in to a glass. Oh, and yea, this is sort of a crappy photo. I was so excited that I started eating and then remembered to take the picture -- so the presentation was shot.
The Wine: 2008 Airfield Estates Thunderbolt (95% Sauvignon Blac, 5% Semillon)
The Food: Seafood pasta puttanesca with scallops, salmon, clams, and mussels laid on fresh squid ink noodles.
The Assessment: The delicateness of the seafood was complemented by the hearty noodles -- which our group described as amazing and interesting. In fact, Micheal commented that the noodles tasted like an ink pen, "in the best possible way." The wine was delicious and perfect with the seafood, but didn't stand up to the strength of the noodles. According to Clive:
This is the greatest pasta sauce to ever walk the face of the Earth.
At this point in the dinner, my notes started to become a bit illegible and I believe I was in the restroom when the wine was poured. Just another day's work for a wine blogger. Neil Cooper, the winemaker from Cooper Wine Company, also stopped by during this course and we had a great chat.
The Wine: 2008 Airfield Estates Dolcetto
The Food: Pork tenderloin encrusted with coffee and chili powder, paired with a romesco sauce, marconi almonds, and grilled green onions.
The Assessment: The wine was smoky and sweet, pairs well with any grilled meat. The biggest pleasant surprise was the coffee encrustation -- it was spicy and bold, but the nutty romesco sauce mellowed it out. Micheal had some trouble finding that balance, but the rest of us loved the combination of coffee flavor and sauce, and the dolcetto was amazing with the onion. Quote of the course:
I want to live in that sauce.
When the chef brought this course out, he acknowledged the quantity of wonderful food to grace our table thus far, and noted that they had tried to keep this course small. They broke down a whole tenderloin, though, so it small just wasn't in the cards. Darn.
The Wine: 2007 Cooper L'inizio (9 vineyard, 4 varietal Bordeaux blend)
The Food: Maple bacon wrapped beef tenderloin with a kumquat demi glaze bbq sauce reduction, laying on a pastini.
The Assessment: A communal "holy shit" emerged around the table upon tasting the tenderloin with the wine. The kumquat was all over the delicious sauce, and the knife cut the beef like hot butter. It was amazing. A perfect pairing, we noted that the bread under the beef had even been carefully prepared, even though one may never see the grill marks, signaling the sheer attention to detail on the meal. I'll be honest that there are a number of other comments I wrote down about this wonderful course; I just can't read the "5-glasses down" handwriting.
Honestly, we couldn't believe there was more amazing food coming. There was.
The Wine: 2007 Cooper Cabernet Sauvignon (decanted for 1.5 hours)
The Food: Dijon encrusted rack of lamb with a local chukar cherry peach salsa and an artichoke risotto cake stuffed with manchego cheese.
The Assessment: Micheal was clearly making googly eyes at the wine from the initial pour. He rated it as one of his top 10 cabs ever. He also noted that he wanted to buy Neil a bottle of wine, it was so good. We found the lamb to be wonderfully prepared, with the tart dijon balancing the wine. Clive summed this dish up by saying,
This is comfort food if your mom is Jesus.
Dessert, need I say more? I suppose I do, this is a blog after all. So with this course, both Frank and Trina joined us again and informed us that they couldn't agree on a wine pairing, so I'll be damned if they weren't going to have to serve us both selections.
The Wine: 2007 DavenLore Winery Syrah Forte (Port Style) & 2008 Alexandria Nicole Cellars Syrah Ice Wine
The Food: Strawberry creme brulee layered on chocolate ganache.
The Assessment: Rick immediately noted that this was the first ice wine that he has enjoyed. The ice wine paired perfectly with the creme brulee, and we found the forte a wonderful partner to the chocolate ganache. In a way, you could say the ice wine enhanced a delicious flavor, and the forte complemented the chocolate. We were left nearly speechless with the fresh strawberry essence.
Thanks for sticking with us through this journey. Hands down, it was a wonderful dinner with perfectly paired wines. On the drive back to Yakima, we were debating as to what the most favorite / least favorite dishes were - and we just couldn't decide. They were all amazing and the wines were spectacular. The entire experience was really special. Please, check out Picazo...and Cooper Wine Company, Alexandria Nicole Cellars, Airfield Estates, and Daven Lore Winery...it will be the best decision you ever made.