Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Toulouse Pinot Noir Festival Open House

This year's Pinot Noir Festival Open House at Toulouse Vineyards was bigger than ever.  Just when I thought you couldn't squeeze one more person into the tasting room or on the crush pad to taste wines and participate in the ongoing food and wine pairing workshop...wrong! It was an enormous turnout of hundreds of new and ever loyal Toulouse fans, on the hunt to expand their palates and to hone their pairing skills. That irresistible combination of genuine, personable, passionate people and great wines keeps people coming back once they've experienced the Toulouse magic.

Last Sunday was the culmination of the three day Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival.  It began with a technical conference on Friday, followed by the grand tasting on Saturday at Goldeneye with winemaker dinners throughout the valley and the coast that evening.

This year, Vern poured the 2009 Toulouse Vineyards Rosé, the 2007 Estate Pinot Noir and the 2008 Estate Pinot Noir.  The simplest, most perfect pairing of the day was the Rosé with an exact match of ripe organic strawberries topped with cardamom cream and candied grapefruit zest. (If you tasted the flavor profile box for the Rosé you too, would know why.) The 2007 Pinot was paired with the incomparable King Island Seal Bay Triple Cream, a forage forward Tasmanian cheese that gently cradled this wine's Burgundian qualities. And finally, we offered a challenging pairing of smoked grass fed beef tongue with a coconut nectar Dijon mostarda and fennel tips on grilled bread for the 2008 Pinot as well as a 65% Hispaniola chocolate made by Kilwin's Chocolates. Happily, nearly everyone stepped up to the plate and joined the club of smoked tongue afficionados. For those of you who are surprised at the chocolate pairing, don't be. It's absolutely true that I usually shy away from pairing red wine with chocolate because often, the high sugar content in the chocolate destroys the wine, however, in this case, Kilwin's single origin chocolate was barely sweet and so the shared flavor elements of deep, dark cocoa and coffee could bridge the pairing seamlessly. Detailed wine profiles, flavor pals and recipes are available from Toulouse Vineyards winery.


The taste bud expanding, eye opening palate profile elements of the day were grapefruit peel with the Rosé and Indonesian Long Peppercorn with the 2008 Estate Pinot Noir. The peppercorn is actually a pinky sized cone. It has a seductive, earthy, spicy perfumed nose that delivers some serious heat. Difficult to put a finger on that unique smell and taste that straddles sweet and savory. But the taste is definitely in the wine.

My good friend, Michael Joyce came out from Minnesota to lend us a hand putting out samples for the workshop. People were so enthusiastic about exploring the flavor profile boxes and then tasting the elements put into practice, it was pretty much non-stop assembling samples and guiding the workshop.

And finally, a big thanks to Vern and Maxine Boltz for the pleasure of working with their fabulous wines. Every year, the wines blossom in complexity and finesse. And every year, I think it's their best vintage. I can't wait to taste the '09s.

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