We are getting pretty good at this. As most of us have gotten together numerous times over similar events, we’re learning things that work and not repeating things that haven’t worked. Our first taste of the day was a non-vintage sparkling Moscato d’Asti. This wasn’t merely a sweet sparkler, it was extremely sweet, way too sweet for my palate, and the bubbles disappeared almost instantly. It definitely needed something to offset the sugar, so I tried it with Gorgonzola. It cut the sweetness a bit,as did a little prosciutto with melon, but not enough. If you’re a fan of sweet sparklers, you should be able to find this for $18.99 or less. This dish I made to pair with this wine was a caramelized onion and fig bruschetta. My thanks to Michelle at La Dolce Vita in Oxnard for the recipe.
- 3-4 ounces of grated Tellagio, Asiago or (for a milder taste) provolone
- 10 dried mission figs, halved lengthwise, then sliced crosswise
- 1 goat cheese log
- 1/8 cup dry sherry, Marsala or port
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1-2 large Spanish onions, halved and thinly sliced
- 9 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary (3-4 inches long)
- 2 teaspoons coarse salt
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- baguette, thinly sliced (for gluten-free, substitute gluten-free crackers or sliced pears)
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Crumble the goat cheese into a medium-sized oven-safe dish. Set aside.
- Put sliced figs in a small saucepan. Add sherry and a little water to cover. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Set aside. Dried figs will plump and absorb sherry flavor.
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, rosemary sprigs, salt and pepper. Sautée, stirring often, for 10-12 minutes, until onions are lightly browned. Removed plumped figs from pot using a slotted spoon and add them to the onion mixture. Stir to combine. Remove thick woody rosemary stems from mixture and heap the caramelized onions and fig mixture on top of the cheese. Cover this with the grated cheese. Make ahead. At this point you can cover and refrigerate the dish for a day or two. When you are ready to serve it, let it sit at room temperature for half an hour before continuing.
- Just before serving, bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, until cheese is hot and starting to bubble at the edges. Serve hot, surrounded by baguette slices or crackers. Enjoy!
We moved onto the reds with a powerhouse. The 2009 Barolo is a massive wine. I loved its nuanced nose with hints of vanilla and strawberry. Time in glass brought out its complexity. Roger brought a smoked venison roast that was the ideal accompaniment. It carries a price tag of $64.99, but that’s not too bad for a good Barolo.
Demarie’s 2009 Barbaresco was next up. It displays a beautiful color with a violet tinge. A perfume nose with rose petals and cinnamon, it’s beautifully balanced and went very well with the bruschetta (oh, hell, everything went well with the bruschetta), venison and Gorgonzola. It’s priced at about $54.
Our next to last wine was the 2009 Nebbiolo d’Alba. A beautiful, deep-colored wine again displaying a touch of violet, it offered blackberry on the nose and featured bold tannins. It paired well with the venison, Gouda with bacon was a match made in heaven as was sea salt chocolate and caramel. We were hard pressed to find a wine it didn’t pair well with. I found it an excellent value at around $24.99.
We wrapped up our gathering with Demarie’s 2009 Barbera d’Alba. I really loved this wine and thought it was the perfect way to end the evening. It had a very fruit forward nose with soft tannins. Roger’s venison was again a great match and I enjoyed it with a dark chocolate caramel. Expect to pay just under $20. The Council’s favorite wine was the Barolo, followed closely by the Barbaresco.