On Thursday evening, I was treated to a winemaker dinner at Belvedere at the Peninsula Beverly Hills courtesy of Revana Family Vineyard, a boutique winery with vineyards in Oregon and Napa. The dinner was to celebrate the release of their 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon and to introduce it to some food and lifestyle writers in Los Angeles.
We started with an amuse bouche of duck confit risotto with butternut squash along with a splash of the crisp 2007 Alexana Pinot Gris from Revana Vineyard in the Dundee Hills of Oregon's Willamette Valley. We stayed with that wine for the first course of Dungeness crab chowder with carrots, basil pesto oil and a crab souffle puff garnished with tiny microgreens.
Dr. Revana explained his fascinating background: how he was originally from India and grew up on a farm there, made his way to the U.S., became a cardiologist (he still practices in Houston), and had an epiphany while visiting friends in Italy that he wanted to own a winery. He bought his first land in Oregon, then found another plot near St. Helena in Napa in 1997, where he enlists the help of vineyard manager Jim Barbour and renowned winemaker Heidi Peterson Barrett. He also told us about his newest project, a vineyard in Argentina's Uco Valley near Mendoza, that sits at about 3000 feet elevation, and where he plans to make a Bordeaux-style blend, but with Malbec as the primary varietal.
Next up was a dish I ordinarily would not order, though it did resemble much of the cuisine I ate during my recent trip to Austria. Overbaugh's specialty with gamey organ meats meant a course of pan-roasted veal sweetbreads with chestnuts, pungent changerelles, tiny fluffy spaetzle and a spiced elderberry-pear chutney. It was like autumn in the mouth. To accompany this flavorful yet still delicate dish, we were served Revana's 2006 Alexana Pinot Noir, of chich only 600 cases are made. It has rested for 21 months in the bottle, though, you could tell that with just a few more years it could reach its truly superb potential. Right now, the alcohol and leftover notes of wood from the barrel aging sort of overwhelm those more subtle earthy flavors, and you can't really get past that fresh burst of cherry that is the first thing to hit the palate, but I'd like to see how some of the vanilla and tea-like, herbaceous qualities come out over time. The other interesting fact about this wine is that the harvest took place extremely late, practically in mid-November, so this wine is idiosyncratic, to say the least.
The main course was a classic lamb two-ways: braised shoulder and roasted loin. The shoulder was gelatinously soft from slow-roasting, and was almost chocolatey smooth. The lamb loin, which I preferred, was beautifully prepared medium-rare, and sliced extra thin with just the right amount of pink juiciness. Served with it were slices of yellow cauliflower and green onions with a very light curry emulsion (read: foam), and some highly seasoned red quinoa. Chef James Overbaugh explained that he'd normally serve a Pinot Noir with the lamb, but that he thought it would stand up to the 2005 Revana Estate Cabernet Sauvignon from their property in Napa (2000 cases), and he was right. The Left Bank Bordeaux-style blend (mostly Cab, but also touches of Cab Franc and Petit Verdot) was purply-red, with those classic cassis and cocoa powder notes, finely laced tannins keeping a nice, firm texture, and just a hint of minerally stone to it. Again, I'd like to try this wine in a few years, but it was a great climax to the tasting, and it had a very nice balance of acidity and fruitiness, so it didn't overwhelm the food.
Finally, there was a little palate cleanser of coconut ice cream over tiny pieces of plum, before a dessert of dense pistachio pastry, chocolate paste-like ganache, and fresh strawberries garnished with just a touch of basil to provide an herb counterpoint to the sweetness.
After all that food and wine, I figured I'd be rolling out of there, but I was simply satisfied and not feeling too heavy because of the nice portion sizes, the food-friendliness of the wine, and perhaps the fact that the conversation was spirited enough to keep all of us energized all evening.
In any case, I will definitely be looking forward to future releases from Revana, and future meals at the Belvedere!
(Photo Credits: Belvedere courtesy of Kayak, Revana Wine and Winery courtesy of Revana Vineyard website)