Posted by Clive on Monday, October 11, 2010
One of the sweetest people I’ve met in Seattle is Annie Hong, General Manager for the Black Pearl restaurants. Annie had arranged a wine dinner at the Black Pearl and invited Gwynne and I to come and check it out. Also invited were several twitterati, and Lars Ryssdal from Tranche Cellars provided the wine.
I had heard of Tranche Cellars, as they’re popping up on the radar around Washington as a new wine worth checking out. Still, I wasn’t sure what to expect, particularly since Black Pearl is a Chinese restaurant - not a cuisine renown for its wine parings. I thought that perhaps Tranche Cellars specialized in off dry white wines, like Riesling, Gerwurtztraminer and Pinot Gris. I was fascinated by the idea to pair wine with Chinese food, and really looked forward to trying out the food at Annie's restaurant.
We arrived and mingled with several of Seattle's social media savvy crowd. Annie didn't mess around and soon our first course was out of the kitchen: shrimp cake with ginger, accompanied by cucumber salad and plum sauce. Lars paired the shrimp cake with the 2007 Tranche Rousanne and Viognier blend. This Rousanne and Viognier in this wine come from the Milbrandt vineyard. This blend is being used by a lot of Washington winemakers because it gives the white wine a depth and character that is often thought to be the exclusive realm of red wine. Lars talked about the challenge of pairing wine with the flavors of Chinese food, but mentioned that given the conversations he and Annie had, he was confident in what we were going to sample that evening.
Our next course was a sweet and sour Basa Fish with the 2005 Tranche Cellars Slice of Pape. The Slice of Pape is the Tranche take on the classic Rhone blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault. The wine,also from the Milbrandt vineyards, had substantial tannins and significant pepper notes, and was an intriguing pairing.
The conversation centered around social media and how it had connected all of us. It was an interesting collection of guests: there was Sean Sullivan from The Washington Wine report, myself and Taryn Miller from the wine blog crowd, romance writer Laurie London, co-owner of Bin 41 Jon, and Mollie of the lifestyle blog Mollie in Seattle. Not only was the conversation lively and entertaining, it was an interesting approach to a wine dinner. Annie brought people together from a variety of arenas - people who would use Twitter to get the word out to a broader audience than what wine bloggers alone can reach.
The 2004 Syrah from Stillwater Creek vineyard was paired with a Ginger Beef Tenderloin with green beans and red bell peppers. We thought this was the most spot on pairing of the evening. The peppery Syrah complimented the seasoning used on the beef tenderloin very nicely.
Annie and Lars then switched it up on us, pairing a 2005 Barbera with Lo Mein noodles, tofu and fresh veggies. This was a real shocker but it worked, and the Lo Mein noodles (made in house) and fresh vegetables were amazing. It had been some time since I'd had Chinese food, but Black Pearl certainly is worth a visit back, wine or no wine. We wrapped up the dinner with a Pinot Gris from 2005. No, that vintage is not a typo. It was incredible wine that was paired with a Szechuan eggplant dish with tofu. This was incredible, and the kind of pairing I was expecting to find with Chinese food.
The Black Pearl Chinese restaurant is modern Chinese food with two locations in North Seattle. The house-made noodles are amazing and are more than worth the trip. Their food goes well with wine and Tranche Cellars is now a mainstay on their wine list.