Cover Story - April 6, 2011

Striving for pairing perfection at the Pub's winemaker dinners

by Renee Batti

Early on during a recent event at the Village Pub in Woodside, winemaker Michael Martella of Thomas Fogarty Winery and Vineyards told the wine-swirling, sipping guests: "This is what wine — here, in the Santa Cruz Mountains in Woodside — tastes like."

Those familiar with cleanly made, unmanipulated wines made from northern Santa Cruz Mountain grapes would have been likely to agree after tasting the intense, finely structured pinot noirs, chardonnays, and cabernet sauvignon served that night.

But as the assembled wine-lovers savored the wines of the nearby mountain, they indulged in the tastes of another Woodside institution as well: Each wine tasted during the March 22 winemaker's dinner was paired with food chosen by Village Pub chef Dmitry Elperin and sommelier Michael Acheson to complement the wine's specific characteristics.

The Pub has been hosting winemaker dinners for years, and this was the second to feature Fogarty wines — the creations of winemaker Martella, associate winemaker Nathan Kandler, and the environmental elements of the Skyline area just south of Woodside's Skylonda community.

Mr. Acheson worked with the winemakers and winery manager Tommy Fogarty — the son of winery founder Dr. Thomas Fogarty — to choose the wines for the dinner: a sparkling "blanc de blancs," two vintages of chardonnay, two vintages of pinot noir, a cabernet sauvignon, and a port.

He then collaborated with Mr. Elperin, the Pub's Michelin-star chef, to come up with a menu. "Generally, we'll sit down and go over my tasting notes, (consider) each wine's acidity, fruit profile, body, and tannins, and use that as the basis to then craft a menu," he explained.

Wine and food pairing is not very complicated when the "wines are solid, are well-produced," as are Fogarty wines, said Mr. Elperin. In choosing the food, he added, "there's a responsibility to live up to the expectations created by well-made wines."

Mr. Acheson explained that good pairing often has to do with contrast: The acidity that lends backbone to the 2007 Damiana Vineyard chardonnay, for example, was well-complemented by "the creamy, rich boldness" of the lobster bisque served with it.

Mr. Elperin said one of his favorite pairings of the night was seared duck breast with farro and dried cherries, which was served with 1997 reserve pinot noir and 2008 pinot noir, both from Block B of the Rapley Trail Vineyard. "Duck breast with pinot noir is a natural pairing, and the fruit of the cherries complemented the wine's nuances," he said.

The dinner also included roasted sirloin of lamb with root vegetables grown in the nearby hills, served with a 2005 Gist Ranch cabernet sauvignon, which Mr. Elperin said had "just the right amount of tannins and fullness to go along with the meat."

Both men say the winemaker dinners give them the opportunity to be creative and adventurous, coming up with dishes that aren't typically on the menu. Mr. Acheson said he's hoping to include more local winemakers in the monthly events.

Go to for more information about the Village Pub's monthly winemaker dinners.


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