A Food and Wine Pairing – Summer 2011
By Lindy Baker and Judy Tischler
Situated right off Highway 12 in Sonoma County is Mayo Family’s Reserve room where they showcase their wines with a food and wine pairing. The Highway 12 / Sonoma Valley corridor is an often overlooked part of wine country – it shouldn’t be. Beautiful vineyards, farmlands and trees flank the highway which winds its way to some fine wineries including St. Francis, Kunde, Arrowood and more. Mayo’s reserve room is a tasting room; the winemaking facility and hospitality center is located nearby in Glen Ellen on Arnold Drive. The grounds are pleasant, but not a place to picnic or stroll.
Judy: ”I found the tasting room to be really user friendly. The intimate atmosphere, with sunny wall colors and pretty art, was arranged with tables and chairs and had more of a feeling of charming bistro rather than a typical tasting room.”
Lindy: ”I agree. It was a little tricky to pull off the highway and into the rear parking lot and to enter in the side door, but once inside it felt very welcoming.”
Chef Clayton Lewis wasn’t there on our visit, but his sous chef, Edwin Porcayo, was extremely knowledgeable and eager to share his description of each dish.
Overall, the entire presentation of seven bites really highlighted Mayo’s wines. Winemaker Michel Berthoud crafts beautiful, accessible wines from Sonoma and Napa county fruit with an emphasis on the varietal’s self-expression. The pairings we enjoyed showed a focused attention to the nuances of each wine and the spice notes in particular.
our first plate
We began with Sablefish, Goat Cheese and Apple “Donut”, the specific textures and red miso jus played elegantly with the 2008 Laurel Hill Estate Reserve Chardonnay. It was plated next to a Cucumber, Peach and Lychee Timbale that was paired up with Mayo’s 2007 Viognier, Sara Lee’s Vineyard. Also on the plate was a Salad of Sweetbreads, Wakame and Tomato, which was paired with a 2007 Pinot Noir, La Cruz Vineyard, Sonoma Coast.
Judy: “I noticed the Viognier fruit from this vineyard does express pretty peach and floral notes. While I didn’t pick up a distinctive lychee flavor in the timbale, I thought the cucumber was a smart accent.”
Lindy: “I usually don’t put fish and cheese together, but the sablefish with the goat cheese really worked nicely together. It’s best to take it all in one bite to allow the flavors to play with each other. The Chardonnay was soft, with a lot of mallow and butteriness. I found the timbal to be tasty, but it did bring out a bit of bitterness in the Viognier or vice versa.”
Judy: “I think the sweet, salty flavor of Wakame, popularly used in Japanese style seaweed salad, overpowered the sweetbreads, but it was a nice concept to pair it with the 2007 Pinot Noir.”
Lindy: You know a lot of people might be put off by the “sweetbreads” but truly they were like bacon. I liked the tomato and the wakame, while I agree it was a bit overpowering, it did play nicely with the fruit driven Pinot.”
Our second plate was a trio that began with a Wagu Flat Iron Streak, Trumpet Royales and Pomegranate Demi Glace served with a 2006 Cabernet Franc, Ridgeline Ranch “Reserve” Alexander Valley. The second bite was Summer Soba Noodles and Shiitakes, which was paired with a 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Random Ridge “Reserve” Napa Valley and to finish the plate, Rib Loin of Kurobuta Pork, Vanilla Sweet Potato Puree and Plum Sauce which paired with a 2007 Zinfandel, Ricci Vineyard, Russian River Valley. Wow!
Judy: “This was my favorite plate! The steak and mushrooms with the demi-glace had me going back and forth between my Pinot glass and the Cab Franc… both wines worked will with the bite for different reasons. I think the Cab Franc hit spot-on with the tender beef and pomegranate, while the mushrooms worked with the Pinot Noir.”
Lindy: “I agree with you Judy. I enjoyed this plate the most as well. It’s always good to keep a sip or two from the previous pairs to “test” with the current bite. Gives you a good perspective of what works and what doesn’t work so well. While the chef is working with one idea in mind, I thought all of these bites worked with most any of the red wines served. It shows how “food friendly” Mayo wines are. And I loved the diversity.”
Judy: “I really enjoyed the soba noodles as well, and had fun playing with the different wines. Tasting the wine, tasting the food and then tasting another wine. Both the soba and the Kurobuta pork had a subtle sweetness and the textures played so nicely together.”
Lindy: “I thought the soba noodles worked best with the Pinot. And the pork was very rare, more normal in serving pedigree pork then it was in the old days when pork had to be cooked to death. Cooking it rare showcased its subtle flavor and soft texture. I did find it interesting, that in the middle of wine country, the entire tasting menu had an Asian influence; not that it didn’t work with the wines, just interesting conceptually.”
Our final plate was a Tropical Fruit Shortcake paired with a 2008 L.H. Gewurztraminer, Kunde Ranch “Reserve”, Sonoma Valley
Judy: “Unfortunately, this wasn’t up to par for me…the shortcake was problematic; more like a dry, previously frozen biscuit. I think the tropical fruit compote spooned over would have benefited from a squeeze of acid. I did enjoy the Gwertz though.”
Lindy: “I agree that this was a miss. I think the biscuit was cold and it just felt like it had been defrosted. I think the fruit would have shined better on a sweet biscuit as well, this was a buttermilk biscuit and it just was too sour for the sweet fruit. Maybe, served as it was, the squeeze of acid might have worked, but then maybe the wine wouldn’t have as well. The Gwertz was delish.”
Our verdict: 2 thumbs up.
We enjoyed our experience at the Mayo Family Reserve Room. The tastes were all well balanced both in flavor and texture and were beautifully plated. The wines were interesting and diverse, and it was fun to play with them as we compared with each bite. Pedro, our wine guide, was very knowledgeable about the wines and chef Edwin’s enthusiasm was catching.
It was also a good value for the money ($35/$25 for club members). We definitely left full and satisfied.