Robert Craig Wine Dinner at Pairings Food & Wine

There are lots of places in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area that offer wine dinners.  A favorite of ours is Pairings Food & Wine in Minnetonka.  The restaurant offers a nice, casual bistro atmosphere; but Chef Michael pulls out all the stops for the wine events.  This week we had a dinner with Adam Glatt from Robert Craig, a Napa Valley winery.  With Adam was Bill Coy from Paustis, the local wine distributor.  With Adam and Bill as our hosts, there was never a quiet moment in the whole evening.  Lots of laughter and conversation for all!

Pairings has a wonderful room for wine tastings and dinners.

Much more than a bistro menu!

As we started the evening, Adam gave us a bit of background on the Robert Craig story.  He stressed that one of Bob’s key goals is that the wines always go well with food. This means they all will have really good acidity, a key contributor to a food friendly wine.  He also stressed that Bob loves raw oysters (as do I) and the first wine was really intended for them.  However, it is great as a general match for seafood in general.

Chef Michael prepared a wonderful opening course of seared scallops.  The Chardonnay really was a perfect match.  Aged briefly in french oak, the malolactic fermentation was stopped to preserve the wine’s freshness.  This was not your typical Napa butter bomb!

Scallops were served with a Chardonnay designed for seafood.

The second course was really nice, although it was a bit of a mystery when it was first set on the table.  The purple item in the center was a red wine poached egg; obvious once you cut into it, but it was an unusual sight at first!  Unless you eat red wine poached eggs all the time.  This course was served with the winery’s flagship wine, Affinity.  It is a traditional Bordeaux blend.  I wouldn’t have necessarily guessed that a red wine would match so well with a salad course, but it really did. The richness of the duck and the poached egg really benefitted from the full body of the wine and it’s acidity really cleansed the palate.

The purple blob was a mystery until we found it was a red wine poached egg.

Adam explained the location of the vineyard sources for each of the wines as he was pouring.  Many of the Robert Craig wines come from mountain vineyards in Napa, not the valley floor.  He explained the “story of strife” that a mountain grapevine goes through in its’ life.  As it was a recurring theme, we kidded him about it as it came up a second and third time.  It did really make sense!

Each course came with a story behind the wine

The risotto course, paired with the Howell Mountain Zinfandel was the wine/food pairing surprise of the evening for me.  The Zin had a wonderful freshness and acidity.  Tasted by itself, it was almost tart; very different from many of the funny name Zin’s we see from California.  Tasted with the risotto, the acidity was absorbed by the richness of the dish and the combination was just superb. These are the magic moments of food and wine!

Risotto and the Zinfandel were the surprise wine/food match of the evening.

The main course came with a surprise.  Adam offered a second wine to try, side by side with the listed wine.  We got to taste two different single vineyard Cabernets with the lamb.  The listed wine was a 2009 Howell Mountain Cab that was very refined.  The second was a 2008 Mount Veeder Cab which was a bit smoky and much more muscular.  They were both great, and it was a real treat to get to try both with the lamb chops.  My personal favorite was the Howell Mountain, but opinions varied around the table.

The lamb chops were served with a surprise: two wines to try as companions.

To call the dessert “chocolate cake” was a real disservice to the lovely treat we had in front of us.  There was cake, mousse, chocolate icing, caramel; the flavors just went on and on.  Adam poured the remainder of the cabs to try with dessert which was another treat.

The chocolate cake with “leftover” Robert Craig Cab. Wow!

Dessert was pretty good….

All in all, a wonderful event.

Wines for the evening

Robert Craig’s Flagship wine: Affinity, a Bordeaux style blend.

Thanks to Paustis, Robert Craig Winery, and Pairings Food and Wine for a wonderful evening!

The wine shop at Pairings offers lots of choices for your dinner.

On non-event nights, you can stop in the well stocked wine shop at Pairings and pick out a bottle of wine to have with your dinner in the restaurant next door.  There’s no corkage fee, so you can pick out something nice and just pay normal retail, which makes for an economical evening with good wine and food!

3 Responses to “Robert Craig Wine Dinner at Pairings Food & Wine”
  1. Troy Stark says:

    Excellent write-up, Jeff. I had a lot of fun figuring out which wines to pair with the courses and I’m glad you enjoyed them. Just a *tiny* bit jealous that I couldn’t attend!

  2. Stephanie says:

    Thank you so very much Jeff for the write-up. It was so great to see you!

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