The various incarnations of The Wine Council, now known as The Wine Review Council meet separately from my own group. On a February afternoon the Occasional Wine Council gathered at a home in Temecula’s wine country with a daunting assignment. We had seven wines to taste, all with price tags of at least $40. Each of us was tasked with creating a dish to pair with a particular wine.

WINEormous tasting

photo courtesy of Todd Montgomery

On this unseasonably warm evening, we started with a Chardonnay. Not was not just any Chardonnay, however. This was the Le Cuvier XLB Chardonnay Reserve from Paso Robles. The first thing that grabs your attention is the color. It looks more like a Sherry than a Chardonnay. This wine spent over five years in oak. The question on everyone’s lips was “this is a Chardonnay?” I found the wine to be sharp and not to my palate. Todd brought a smoked salmon and caper spread with pumpernickel to pair with it. This wine sells for $55 and you can find it only at Tastes of the Valleys in Pismo Beach.

Next we sampled the 2012 Masut Pinot Noir from Mendocino County. Benjamin and Jacob are the third generation of Fetzers to make wine and this one is glorious. The color is quite deep for a Pinot. It has an earthy, old world nose with a touch of mushroom. I had prepared a wild mushroom risotto to go with it and I thought the pairing worked beautifully. This wine retails for $40. The risotto recipe is here.

photo courtesy Hilarie Larsen

We tasted another Pinot next. Sojourn Cellars 2012 Pinot Noir from their San Giacamo vineyard on the Sonoma Coast. This wine has a classic Pinot nose; vibrant and fruit forward. It’s a well-balanced wine with a nice long finish. It also worked well with the risotto and the truffle Gruyère Gougeres Karsten prepared. $54

From Tudal Winery in the Napa Valley we tasted their 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. Blended with a bit of Petite Sirah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec, this wine is deep red with a pronounced black cherry nose. This is a complex wine with many layers that rewards you the longer you let it sit in the glass. Ginger made Bolognese stuffed bell peppers that paired very well with this $65 wine.

We tasted another Napa Cabernet, the 2011 Ca’ Momi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Deep in color with a bright nose, this wine has plenty of fruit and chocolate. Sue made veal, pork and ricotta meatballs to go with this wine and the next one and it was a great match. This wine also sells for $65.

The third and last Cabernet of the night was the 2010 Provenance To-Kalon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Another dark red wine, this one also needs time in the glass to open up and show its pretty nose. There are soft flavors of cherry and the tannins are well integrated. I loved drinking this wine on its own, but it didn’t seem to pair to well with any of the food except for the risotto. It’s priced at around $89.

WINEormous tasting

photo courtesy Hilarie Larsen

We wrapped up the evening with a Czech wine, Slámové Vino, Ryzlink Rynsky from the Marcincak Winery. It’s a 2003 vintage Riesling with an orange tinge. For its age it displays lots of fruit on the nose. It’s quite sweet, but well-balanced and it matched up very nicely with the tropical fruit trifle that Hilarie made. It sells for $63.

Tom Plant launched WINEormous in 2009 and is a member of the International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association. Based in Temecula, California, he offers intimate winery tours for no more than seven people. Tour details and pricing are available at Call now to book your Temecula Winery Tour at (951) 907-9701! Ask about special discounts.