This column has previously commented on wine dinners, but more in-depth information of what constitutes a wine dinner could prove helpful here. Wine and food are made for each other. Properly done a dinner with wine is greater than the sum of its parts. However, many people are intimidated when it comes to pairing food and wine. Many cooks typically adhere to the most basic rules. One advantage of a restaurant wine dinner is an opportunity to see how imaginative chefs can bring unusual elements together.
A restaurant has a number of choices in putting together a special event wine dinner. The event may be jointly arranged between a winery wishing to showcase its wines and a restaurant familiar with their wines. It could also be sponsored by a distributor that wishes to publicize some of their wines, or reduce overstocked items. Finally, the restaurant may create themed dinners that feature wines from their cellar. Often a sommelier is involved, unless the chef has good wine pairing credentials.
One restaurant that regularly features wine dinners is Prairie Star in Bernalillo. That includes themed dinners that feature wines from a certain region, such as Rhone or Burgundy, or rare, aged wines such as the Vin Extraordinaire event, which featured great French wines from its cellar. The restaurant always schedules at least one wine dinner per year with Milagro Vineyards wines. Small wonder, since Sommelier Samuel McFall is a big fan of their wines.
The most recent Milagro wine dinner in April had an intriguing twist; vertical tastings. One of the entrees, Monkfish en Croûte, was paired with the 2007 and 2008 Milagro Chardonnay, while the Grilled Petite Dry Aged NY Strip was paired with the Milagro 2004 and 2007 Merlot.
In New Mexico, the vintage year is important, because of the vagaries of weather. Predicting when spring has really arrived and the vines will bud out can just as accurately be done with a coin flip. The always-feared late spring freeze can cause grape and vine loss and require rethinking the production phase. Rick Hobson, Milagro’s owner/winemaker, identified how these differences shape how the grapes are harvested and the wines made.
Both Rick and Samuel McFall provide a wonderful background to understanding and enjoying the wines offered, which is a good reason to attend a wine dinner. This four-course dinner with six wines was just $75, which may be the best reason to attend a Prairie Star wine dinner.
Prairie Star restaurant is located at 288 Prairie Star Rd, Santa Ana Pueblo, NM 87004. Call (505) 867-3327 for reservation or information about wine dinners.