Monterey County is known for its history, agriculture, dining and of course, wines. Having the opportunity to travel through most of the country we have to say we are impressed with the diversity of fabulous wines that come from this region. Great wines in this area are made from both small and large producers. Many think that only great wines can be created only by small producers and that is true in many cases. However, there are very large producers that make thousands of cases of wines but the wine making process still has the passion and hands on approach you would expect from much smaller wineries
One of these producers is the very well known Estancia which means” estate “in Spanish. They purchased their first Ranches in Soledad in 1966 and have never looked back. Director of Winemaking and General Manager Scott Kelly is a “hands on” kind of winemaker and can be found tasting and perfecting Estancia’s wines on a daily basis. His dedication shows in the final product from this very large producer in Monterey County.
Recently we were invited by Scott Kelly and his Estancia team to experience a very unique wine dinner using large format bottles, some of which dated back to 1991. This was a very nice opportunity to taste older wines along with some great dishes prepared by Executive Chef Matt Bolton at the very renown Pacific edge restaurant overlooking the beautiful Pacific ocean.
Arriving at this lovely Cliff Side resort along the Big Sur coast was awe-inspiring to say the least. After a lovely reception enjoying the view of the never-ending waves crashing on the jagged rocks below , it was time to get down to the business of trying these great wines paired with classic California fare.
Carnaroli rice , autumn truffle
This was a great start paired with 2009 Estancia Pinot Grigio with its aromas of white flowers, apple and lime and palate of lingering green apples. It was complemented by the very nice 2009 Estancia Sauvigon Blanc that had hints of white pepper and finished with green apple as well.
California Wild Sea Bass
Butternut squash puree , celery root baton, brussel sprout leaves , chanterelle truffle jus.
Our first large format of the evening would be paired with a much younger vintage so we could compare them side by side with this amazing dish. 1998 Estanica Pinnacles Chardonnay 3L really showed its class and age ability when compared with the 2007 Estancia Reserve Pinnacles Chardonnay. Both were great wines, but there is really no substitute for age and the large format allows it to age slower than the standard 750 ml bottle
Second Course :
Sonoma Duck Breast
Pan roasted, grilled polenta, bloomsdale spinach, porcini, huckleberry jus
One of the classic pairings is Pinot Noir and Duck. Chef Matt Bolton did not disappoint with this dish that said “ Classic California “ all over it. Starting with the 2004 Estancia Stonewall Vineyard Pinot Noir and then 2007 Estancia Reserve Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir they really showed two ideals of Pinot noir grown in this region. The 2004 Vintage was in a word “stellar”. Greater rainfall and very moderate temperatures allowed Pinot Noir from this vintage show very nice, balanced fruit Characterizes. The 2007 Estancia Reserve Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands showed a nice comparison of the same varietal from the same area but subtle differences because of climate. Whereas the 2004 vintage had pretty much a moderate climate , the 2007 in contrast was very consistent producing smaller berries but a much more concentrated flavor.
Dry-Aged New York
Prime , pan seared , pomme anciene, herb salad , red wine jus
When we saw this dish on the menu we were expecting a Cabernet or a Syrah. We were very pleasantly surprised with two nice Mertiage wines from two totally different AVAs that could not be more different. The 1991 Estancia Reserve Alexander Valley Meritage 1.5L was a real treat. This wine exploded with dark cherries, rosemary and sage. On the palate, chocolate notes prevailed with rich dark fruit moving on to a lingering finish. Subject to more extreme climate fluctuations, the 2007 Estancia Reserve Paso Robles Mertiage was true to its blend of noble Boudreaux varietals. Because of its longer hang time, this Mertage explodes with robust flavors and some spice on the finish.
Golden raisins , Cherris , quice jam,honey ice cream
We knew there were a few things Chef Matt could do with dessert. Would he contrast the flavors or pair them? In this case he created an excellent pairing with with the 2008 Estancia Riesling. Those that have traveled in Monterey County know that Monterey is well known for its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir but not so much for Riesling. Usually Riesling is the last varietal picked so it is subject to whatever Mother Nature wants to through at it. Growers pick it later as to make sure the acidy is in balance with the fruit and aromas of the wine. The 2008 Vintage Riesling is 100% Monterey County fruit. Aromas of Tangerene and Oranage Blossom give way to flavors of peach and honey with a delightful crisp finish.
We have been to many winemaker dinners over the years and they are all educational. Scott Kelly did an excellent job not only educating us on his Estancia wines but also on the subtle differences that overall climate from vintage to vintage effects the fruit as well as Large format bottles and their age ability . Chef Matt pulled out all the stops with creative and palate pleasing dishes that showed off this very unique area of California.