Lifestyle

Winemaker dinner: evenings to learn and enjoy

Enjoy a great multi-course meal planned to complement exceptional wines. Meet the winemaker and hear a discussion of the wines as you enjoy them. Put yourself into the hands of the chef to discover new twists. Enjoy the luxury of private dining rooms. Dine with others who also believe that special dining experiences create wonderful evenings.

And do it all for a very fair price, by attending special winemaker dinners that are being cooperatively presented by some of the best restaurants and wineries in the Northwest.

A few weeks ago, I was the guest of a friend at Seattle Ruth’s Chris restaurant’s winemaker dinner, which featured the new releases from DeLille Winery in Woodinville. The chef’s creation of courses to match the wines went beyond the ad hoc type of meal you could order from a menu, the service staff demonstrated the type of service rarely observed and the wine selections confirmed that Washington wines are world class.

The evening began as my husband and I were led into one of the restaurant’s spacious and beautiful private dining rooms, where we were invited to sip Champagne and chat with Greg Lille, one of the winery partners, and other guests.

As soon as we saw our table, we knew from the forest of glassware that this was going to be a serious meal. A glance at the menu beside our plate confirmed this, and a broad smile of anticipation appeared on the faces of all diners. Any memory of the dull gray evening sky vanished.

The first course, scallops stuffed with crab, was served with Chaleur Estate Blanc, a blend of sauvignon blanc (79 percent) and semillon (21 percent). The wonderful wine has a velvet smoothness and lingering finish. It ranks very high on my list, and married well with the scallops. It is the opposite of New Zealand sauvignon blancs, which are wonderfully crisp and would not have worked with the course.

A baby spinach salad with duck confit followed, paired with the 2004 DeLille D2. The D2 is a Bordeaux blend and is normally more available than their other wines. A very high quality wine and well priced. The Chaleur Estate Blanc also was a nice match for this dish. (That’s what we told the wine steward when we asked to sample it again -- and again -- and again.)

Grilled lamb chops with sides of asparagus and caramelized butternut squash then arrived, paired with the 2004 Chaleur Estate. It is, indeed, a serious wine: The D2 is the Chaleur Estate’s “wanna-be.” For some reason, I am among the few who do not enjoy lamb, but it was a beautifully grilled chop. As my husband deftly swept the lamb from my plate to his, he noted that it was incredible. The wine was outstanding and my favorite of the reds. We were now stuffed.

Ruth’s Chris signature filet mignon then arrived. The steaks were perfectly grilled, and paired with 2004 Harrison Hill. (It and the Chaleur Estate are blends of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, and petit verdot). This is a powerful wine and is my husband’s favorite DeLille. We sampled the steak as we enjoyed our wine. I think everyone needed a doggy bag.

This winemaker’s dinner, at $100 per person, was a relative steal! If a group ordered and shared the wines at a restaurant, the cost of the wines alone would exceed the $100 mark. (Two of the DeLille wines served typically cost around $150/bottle.) The five-course food menu would also approximate $100/person. I also computed that you could not create this meal at home for under $100.

Armed with the price justification to attend winemaker dinners, what is available? Here are a few coming up soon. All prices are per person and do not include tax or gratuity, except where marked.

Salty’s on Alki

Three Rivers Winery

Tuesday, March 20, time to be announced

$125 (This is the only one which includes tax and tip)

1936 Harbor Ave.. S.W., Seattle

206-937-1600

Winemaker Holly Turner of Three Rivers Winery and Salty’s Sommelier Tim O’Brien host a wine dinner. In a recent Seattle Times article, Paul Gregutt called Holly Turner “One of a small number of winemakers who seem to have a built-in gift for balance and complexity.” O’Brien says, “Her wines have been a favorite of our guests since she took over in 2002. My toughest task will be to decide which of her many excellent wines we will feature at the dinner.”

Ruth’s Chris Steak House

Betz Family Winery

7 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 21

$100

727 Pine St., Seattle

206-624-8524

This Betz Family Winery Dinner will explore Betz’ 2004 Bordeaux-style blends. Winemaker Bob Betz at one time headed up the wine education programs for Chateau Ste. Michelle, and his presentations are always thoughtful and great entertainment. His wines are very limited, so this is a rare chance to taste.

The meal will be much like the DeLille meal I described. The Betz dinner features the Clos de Betz (mostly merlot) with the duck confit salad, Pere de Familie (cabernet sauvignon) with the lamb chops, and the La Serenne syrah with the filet. The reception wine will be Moet White Star. The sommelier will also choose wines to serve with the seafood course and the dessert.

Ruth’s Chris Steak House

Beresan Winery

7 p.m. Tuesday, March 20

$100

727 Pine St., Seattle

206-624-8524

Winemaker Tom Glase will present Beresan’s semillon, merlot, Stone River blend and cabernet sauvignon with the five-course meal featuring a sizzling steak course. This is a chance to learn about a relatively new Walla Walla winery with estate wines that were planted about six years ago.

Serafina

Betz Family Winery

6:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 22

2043 Eastlake Ave. E., Seattle

$95

Join Executive Chef John Neumark and master of wine Bob Betz of Betz Family Winery for a winemaker’s dinner featuring Bob’s glorious wines and a five-course meal including fish, wild boar ragu with polenta and lamb loin. Check out the full menu at http://serafinaseattle.com.

Waterfront Seafood Grill

Rulo Winery and Walla Walla Vintners

6:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 23

2801 Alaskan Way, Pier 70, Seattle

206-956-9171

$95

Rulo is a small Walla Walla winery I visited a few years ago. Most of the wines are sold from the winery, and many run out quickly. This is a good chance learn about this quality winery. Wow - it’s also a “three-for-one” with winemakers Kurt Schlicker, Myles Anderson and Gordy Venneri. They will present hand-crafted, limited-production wines from the Walla Walla Valley, paired with five courses.

Waterfront Seafood Grill

Januik Winery, Novelty Hill Winery

and JM Cellars

6:30 p.m., Thursday, March 15

2801 Alaskan Way, Pier 70, Seattle

206-956-9171

$95

A bit of a family affair as three great Woodinville wineries come together, just in time to celebrate the grand opening of the new Januik and Novelty Hill tasting room.

Chandler’s Crabhouse

Chateau Ste. Michelle

March 28, time and price to be announced

901 Fairview North, Seattle

206-223-2722

In honor of Taste Washington, which is April 14 and 15.

Dee Hitch can be reached at rockypointlane@aol.com

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