Friday, October 8, 2010

North Florida Wine & Food Festival - Winemaker's Dinner

On the second evening of the North Florida Wine & Food Festival, an intimate group of wine enthusiasts had the pleasure of a luxurious meal with imported wine pairings.

The evening began with an assortment of canapes and would follow with a five course dinner prepared by students from Florida State University's Dedman School of Hospitality.

The wines selected for the evening were from the Trefethen Family Vineyards in Napa Valley, California. The Winemaster, David Whitehouse, from the vineyard selected the choices provided and was in attendance to share the passion he holds for the wines and the stories behind them. The Trefethen Vineyard is one of the few family owned and operated wineries left in Napa Valley. The grapes used to make the wines come only from their fields, as none are imported to use in the wine making process. The winery graciously donated all the wines for the evening's dinner.

The first selection was a 2008 Dry Riesling. Mr. Whitehouse explained wines from Napa Valley are usually more fruity compared to classic French wines, as they are aged less. He noted the Trefethen wines are consistently of great quality and their taste changes ever so slightly when comparing years due to the influence nature has on each season's crop. It was a pleasure hearing him speak and learn more about the overtones and pairings each wine had to offer.

The dinner began with the first course of Wild Shrimp Three Ways, which included: Shrimp & Grits with Andouille & Tomato; Applewood Smoked Bacon Wrapped Shrimp with Peach Chutney; and Lemon Poached Gulf Shrimp with Citrus Butter. Each bite was incredible. The deep flavors from the accents used with each piece of Gulf shrimp was impressive. The Shrimp & Grits took me back to my vacation in New Orleans with its classic Southern flair. The bacon and peach complimented the sweet shrimp, and the citrus butter melted me as well.

The wine pairing for our appetizer was a 2007 Chardonnay. It was fruity and floral with low tannins, which allowed the grapes to shine. 

Our second course was called a Tallahassee Salad, which included the following: Duck, Venison, & Boar Sausages with a Three Mustard Glaze; Organic Greens, Champagne Vanilla Vinaigrette, Dried Cherries, Haricots Verts, Candied Pecans, & Chantrelles. This salad is the best I've ever tasted. The wild game sausages were quite rich in flavor and still juicy, plus the sweet fruit and nut accompaniments were complimentary without covering up the taste. I wish more salads came like this one - I'd eat them more.

The wine pairing for the salad was a 2006 Merlot. This wine had a slight bite to it, but was still warm and smokey. The merlot was not too strong and went well with the game sausages. An excellent choice.

The meal had thus far been incredible and I was very much looking forward to the entrée. The plate was called the Tenderloin Trio and included: Bison with Red Currant Jus, Beef with Port Wine Tomato Jam, & Ostrich with Grape Gremolata served with Truffled Scallion Potatoes and White & Green Asparagus. Heavenly. I do love bison, which was so tender and rich in flavor. The beef was a bit tough for me, but it's not something I usually eat, so no complaints really. I cannot remember the last time I enjoyed ostrich, and the meat was also robust and juicy. The potatoes and asparagus were cooked perfectly. A fabulous dinner selection.

The entrée's wine was a 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon. The flavor for a red wine was both fruity and smooth, a nice surprise. The wine stood on its own without overpowering the dinner, which allowed me to enjoy both.

The dessert was separated by a wonderful three cheese course from Sweet Grass Dairy in Thomasville, GA. The cheeses were not identified leading to discussion amongst guests to decipher what they may be. The cheeses were topped with a sweet balsamic glaze and pressed fig.

The wine paired with the cheese course was a 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. This year was similar to the 2005 selection with a fruity taste, but had a small spice undertone. It was a pleasure tasting the same family of wines from different years to understand the complexity of achieving the same taste profile, but allowing the natural difference of the grapes between years to come through. I enjoy both equally.

The final dessert course, my favorite title, was the Florida Trifecta of: Pecan Pie & Lemon Tart from a local favorite Tasty Pastry Bakery; and White Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake prepared by the students. Such a luscious way to end the evening.

The dessert wine was a 2007 Late Harvest Riesling. It had the highest fruit taste, which was pleasantly sweet; however, I detected a smokey smell even though it did not have a smokey taste. I loved the dual simple complexity of this wine, which was my favorite of the evening.

The evening was superbly impressive. The wine pairings of the evening demonstrated the expertise of both the Trefethen Family Vineyards and those of the Winemaster, Mr. Whitehouse.

Chef K & Students

The students had only been in class a few weeks at this point, yet were still able to not only choose the wise meal selections for the evening, but expertly prepare them as well. It was one of the nicest dinners I've ever experienced. Fantastically planned and executed with friendly dinner guests to boot.

I am definitely looking forward to more events this school has to offer. Thank you for letting me be a part of it.


  1. all the foods seems great.. have u ever tasted a turkish wine? personally i dont drink alchol but turkish wine also so good as i know:) and i ve read an article about turkish wines in NY times i suppose. a few turkish wine is settled in a very famous NY restaurant menu..

  2. This sounds like it was a fantastic event. I've been to a few of these events at other schools and they are always stellar.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Wow wine and food festival...I miss those kind of events. Since I moved to LA I have been a bit lost to find those events. That looks like was lots of fun.