A Dreamer’s Brunch in El Dorado Wine Country
I dream of the purity of a soul
That resides in the vestal sphere of Paradise
Where virgins dance and sing
To mortals and to all of heaven’s reach.
In this unexpected moment of delight
I taste the tip of my own chastity
And I realize how a soul devoid of blemish
Floats so quickly up unto the clouds
To bump against angelic wings.
171001 | Skinner Vineyards
Who knew that a salad could inspire such poetic prelude to flow? I was not even drunk.1 I was not even at my usual state of literary nonsense.2 But something magical happens when wine and food perfectly pair – beauty we may not have recognized unexpectedly becomes apparent.
Such poetic verses manifested during the International Food Bloggers’ Sunday Brunch3 last month in El Dorado Wine Country.4 The region is not entirely foreign to me, but I was still spectacularly surprised and impressed with the wines, food, and people that welcomed us that day.
Ravish Me with Riesling
I was expecting sparkling wine5, but they welcomed us with Riesling6, instead; poured by Gordon Pack7, a somewhat stoic man with beard and hair as light as snow and with the unbridled concentration of my Mechanics and Special Relativity Harvard Professor8. When he finished pouring, he spoke with an accent that made the women’s eyes glimmer the way the glass of Riesling refracted the radiant sun. Mr. Pack’s eyes began to glimmer, too, as he spoke of his family history and wine making. I swirled and sipped; and then without protest, my eyes glimmered9, as well as I tasted the refreshing Riesling. Pineapple, lychee, and pear made me dream of white sand tropical beaches as I re-acquainted my palate with the golden10 grapes of El Dorado.
An Amuse Bouche Welcome
Beautiful food and wine depart from the common purpose of sustenance and affect us in a transcendental way. Chef Kimberly Medici11 greets us with Gazpacho Shooters fragrant of cantaloupe seed milk and Asian herbs; made creamy with sweet almond oil; and texturized with crispy prosciutto. The craveful bite of Romesco Crostini made with local fire-roasted heirlom peppers, salt-cured black olives, and shaves of Manchego cheese teases the palate with bites that quickly disappear. Both appetizers inspire a joyful beginning; and pair so amicably with the crisp, refreshing Riesling and Skinner Vineyards’ 2014 Estate Mourvedre.
Freshness and Poetry
Behold the salad that inspired poetic words to flow. Chef Medici basks on the region’s gifts of fresh produce and crafts a salad of raw zucchini capellini, fresh pesto, honeyed heirloom tomato jam, and toasted pine nuts. She then juxtaposes such freshness with a lemon scented riccotage stuffed squash blossom. Crunch and lushness create competing duality of textures and flavors so beautifully tied together even more by Fenton Herriott Vineyards’ 2016 Rose, which blooms with aromas of a honey-soaked flower field and tastes of tropical fruits and hint of pepper.
The Cider House Rules the Heart
It wasn’t until last Spring and in another country, that I developed appreciation for hard cider. Tasting it in El Dorado was a delightful experience. Delfino Farms crafts their Henrietta Hard Cider from a blend of Arkansas Black and Granny Smith apples picked exclusively from the family farm. The juice is aged in French Oak barrels and produces a light and dry potential-sparkling-wine-alternative with tempered carbonation. It leaves the irrelevance some people associate with ciders and endearingly reaches memorable taste profile that could stand with other fantastic wines on parade. Add the visual of Peter Delfino’s12 strong arm pouring the cider, and you arrive at inescapable visual bliss to accompany your tasting experience.
Friends of Cabernet Franc
I am among winos who adore the intensity of a Cabernet Franc, and Madrona Vineyards celebrate the luscious fruit character of this varietal. Tammy Amburgey, Tasting Room Manager, pours juice that showcases a synopsis of Cab Franc’s character: richness, depth of dark fruit, and hint of sexy smokiness. With such alluring qualities, California wineries have bottled the grape as a single varietal to satisfy the thirst for purple teeth of winos like me. This is a Cab Franc worth climbing the hills of El Dorado for.
Into the Belly of the Feast
Chef Medici presents two dishes for the brunch’s main course: The first – a slow roasted garlic, chard and delicata frittata topped with fried sage and aged gouda. The delicate frittata pairs with Shadow Ranch‘s 2015 Grenache. The second dish celebrates a house-cured white wine and apple braised pork belly, a poetic tribute to the pig’s final sacrifice.13 This glorious gift of fat pairs with Madona Vineyards’ 2014 Cabernet Franc and with Smokey Ridge Ranch‘s 2014 Estate Sangiovese. The divine pairing reminds me of newly discovered enrichment opportunitites as an ex-vegetarian.
Pour the Prelude to Farewell
Kevin Jones and his father Charlie Jones of Lava Cap Winery were captivating and generously engaged with me and my fellow Wine and Food Bloggers on that beautiful Sunday morning. It was delightful that Kevin poured the last brunch wine, Lava Cap Vineyards’ 2014 Old Vine Zinfandel, one of my favorite varietals. The juice boasts of the region’s affinity for producing Zins that are un-apologetically high in their fruit concentration, light in their peppery ending, and with soft tannins.
To end the most spectacularly innovative and refreshing brunch, Chef Medici delivers one of the most beautiful brunch desserts I have ever seen. A rosemary shortbread topped with herbed jollity farm goat cheese and luscious fig at its perfect ripeness drips with local honey drizzle. This ecstatic gift of love deliciously dances in my mouth with Lava Cap’s Old Vine Zinfandel. Together, they added sweetness and joy to our imminent departure from Skinner Vineyards.
Visit El Dorado Wine Country
I recently told someone that El Dorado Wine Country has a soft spot in my heart because of its charm, warmth, and fabulous wines. Celebrated varietals, such as Zinfandel, Primitivo, and others thrive in the hills of El Dorado, and winemakers craft elegant wines from the special vines. Chefs and cooks create gastronomical masterpieces that celebrate sustainable and farm-to-fork dishes to fill cravings of the tummy and yearnings of the soul. Most especially, there is extraordinary magic through the smile, embrace, and captivating hospitality of the people of El Dorado; an experience that will inspire sunny daytime dreams and star-speckled dreams of night.
- Note yet.
- Although that may seem to be a perpetual state.
- Part of the closing event excursion and reception at this year’s International Food Bloggers Conference.
- El Dorado Wine Country is a California wine region about an hour east of Downtown Sacramento.
- As someone previously announced.
- Which is one of my favorite varietals since broke college years.
- Owner and Winemaker of Gwinllan Estate Winery
- Kidding. I went to UCLA and I would never take or survive such a high level Physics course.
- Glimmer is the word of the day.
- El Dorado has a history as the heart of Gold Country.
- Owner and Executive Chef of Table Nectar, a local and organic catering company.
- Peter is part of the Delfino family who owns and runs Delfino Farms, one of the legendary apple farms in Apple Hill.
- I shall expect contempt from vegetarian and vegan friends.