Matello Wine Dinner at Pairings in Minnetonka

The menu and our lineup of Matello Wines

Pairings is a wine shop and bistro in Minnetonka, and they brought Marcus Goodfellow, owner and winemaker at Matello Wines in Oregon, in for a wine dinner this week.  We have enjoyed many dinners at Pairings, and a little research on the web showed us that Matello would be winery we might really enjoy, so we signed up right away.

Fred, the wine rep, introduced Marcus and started pouring.

After a few minutes of introductions, wine started flowing and Marcus explained his background and how he got into wine making.  Matello is a pretty small winery, around 2,00 cases a year.  They aren’t widely distributed, but you may be able to find some of their wines locally, especially at Pairings.

Chef Michael started us with a little surprise, a little polenta bite.  We got a little ahead and had the Whistling Ridge Alsatian Blends.

Initially, there was a little confusion, as Chef Mike had prepared a little surprise course, and we thought it was a replacement for the first course on the menu, so we tried it with the Alsatian blend from the Whistling Ridge vineyard.  This wine was had just the smallest hint of sweetness, but it needed the touch of sweet to balance the strong acidity.  I’d place it just between a bone dry Alsace Riesling and a German Kabinett Riesling.  The grapes in the Whistling Ridge vineyard are a mix of grapes, so it isn’t a 100% Riesling, but who cares?  It was really nice, tart and refreshing.

Not long into the evening, we were all having such a nice time, Marcus asked Fred to go and retrieve “that bottle” from the trunk.  It was another bottle of the Whistling Ridge Alsatian Blend, but from a number of years ago.  He explained that he only had a bit over a dozen bottles of this vintage left, but he wanted to give us the chance to taste the same wine with a few years of cellar time.  It was really nice to experience how the wine had changed and deepened over the years while still retaining freshness and that tart acidity.  He explained that this is the reason to start a cellar, no matter how small.

Marcus Goodfellow: winery owner, winemaker, carpenter, bottle washer. It’s a small winery!

We had a blast talking with Marcus all evening.  He told us how he got into winemaking from the restaurant business.  He explained his winemaking approach, and likened it to whitewater rafting (he has also been a WW guide).  He explained that in whitewater, you have a certain amount of control, but the river has more!  Balance is achieved when you learn how to work with the river.  Marcus’ winemaking approach is to intervene as little as possible, and to let the season and the vineyard shine.  His wines are all sourced from non-irrigated vineyards; they see no new oak, no artificial yeasts, and are not fined or filtered.  He strives for a wine that will really play well with food; and the wines at dinner demonstrated that principle beautifully.

Salad of greens, watermelon, hearts of palm & avocado, served with Pinot Gris.

Next up was the first of two Pinot Gris, and now the mystery of the 1st course was solved, because here it is!  The Pinot Gris had a very floral nose and was flavorful and very dry.  It matched nicely with the salad which was a great combination of summer flavors.  This first one had been vinified in stainless steel and had been aged on its lees for 7 months for richness.

We finished up the two Whistling Ridge Pinot Gris’ with a wonderful shrimp risotto.

Next came the second Pinot Gris, the Clover.  We had it with a risotto and shrimp course with an edible “rose” made from the peel of a tomato. We also had a chance to have a bit more of the two Pinot Gris, side by side, to compare.  Marcus explained that the Clover had been vinified in an oak tank, and took 8 months to go through its initial fermentation!  Many winemakers might have intervened, but he let the wine develop in its own good time.  This one was less aromatic, but had a unique richness that was really intriguing.

The Lazarus Pinot Noir was a beautiful match for the salmon, brussels sprouts and veggies.

The next course was my favorite of the evening.  It featured salmon, just a bit beyond seared, but still a bit rare in the center; brussel sprouts, and a carrot/zucchini combination.  The wine was Lazarus, Marcus most accessible Pinot Noir.  It was beautifully translucent, lean, and had great acidity.  It was great fun to just smell, trying to separate out the different aromas present.  It was a superb match to the salmon.  Marcus’ style matches perfectly with what I look for in a Pinot Noir: translucent, aromatic, great acidity, and no overt evidence of oak.  The Lazarus was all cherries and some foresty element that was really fascinating.  Wow!

The Hommage Pinot Noir was a bit richer and was a nice counterpoint to the Panna Cotta.

The last wine of the evening was the Hommage Pinot Noir, a tribute to Marcus’ mentors who helped him get started in his winery venture.  While not a heavy Pinot by any means, it was deeper and richer in flavor, less fruit forward.  It was served with the dessert, a vanilla panna cotta with cherries and chocolate shavings.  I wouldn’t normally think of serving a Pinot Noir with a dessert course, but this one worked very nicely.  While it was rich, it still had nice acidity to cleanse the palate after a bite of the rich panna cotta.  Something new to try at home!

A unique touch, Marcus puts a Haiku on the back of each wine.

Marcus puts a nice little Haiku on the back of each wine, just for fun.

Matello Pinot Noirs are beautifully colored, transparent, and not overly dense; just right for Pinot Noir.

As an amateur wine/food photographer, I enjoy exploring how to capture the unique colors visible in a glass of wine.  This was a new one for me!  The overhead light shone directly down through my glass of Pinot Noir and provided a beautiful illustration of the color in the Hommage Pinot Noir.

I couldn’t locate the first bottle, but here’s the lineup we tasted at dinner (from right to left)

The wines we sampled:

  • 2010, 2008 Whistling Ridge White (Alsatian Blend)
  • 2010 Pinot Gris & Clover (Pinot Gris)
  • 2009 Lazarus and Hommage Pinot Noirs

I took home a bottle of the Whistling Ridge Blend and two of the Lazarus.  Can’t wait to try them out, but I do think I’ll put down one of the bottles of Lazarus for a few years!

Pairings is a food and wine market in Minnetonka.  It’s a great concept: wine shop and bistro.  You stop in the wine shop, pick up a bottle of wine and take it next door for a casual dinner.  With no wine markup, you can pick out a nicer bottle than you might usually spring for in a restaurant.  The dining is casual, but Chef Mike and the restaurant crew are really great, and the food is really good.  The big surprise is that Pairings has a great special room for a small group and they host classes and wine dinners regularly.  Their classes often include some bites to sample along with the wine, something I haven’t seen at other shops.  The wine dinners are really fun, in a small group setting, and are priced very well for a wonderful evening of food matched to wine.  The wine dinner this week cost $60 +tax & tip.  I thought it was a great value.

The Patio at Pairings is a great spot for a bottle of wine & dinner!

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