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NOVEMBER 22 2009: A Taste of Paso Wine Dinner
at The Wine Vault, San Diego, CA

winevault.jpgIf you've been following our adventures over the last year, you know we're BIG fans of Paso wines. We've been back and forth six or seven times (we've lost count), so it would seem that driving to San Diego for a wine dinner would be redundant and bit extreme. However, we've heard about the Wine Vault from friends of ours who live in the area and when we saw what they were cooking up, we just couldn't resist. Seven courses, 10 wines (from L'Aventure, Cass, Opolo, Four Vines, J. Dusi & Bodegas M) for $60 a person. You can't get a better deal than that...at least not in Los Angeles. They also feature a $20 fixed price meal every Friday with wine flight and a $50 5-course wine pairing meal on Saturdays. The food was so good at this dinner I dearly wish they were located in my neighborhood or anywhere in L.A. County for that matter. A restaurant not to be missed for wine lovers.


winevault2.jpgLocal Spiny Lobster Croquetta with Tarragon Gremolata
2007 Bodegas M Albarino

– A nice way to start off the meal. The wine was light-bodied, crisp and fruity with flavors of green apple, pear, citrus and hints of honey on the finish. The only problem with the Lobster Croquetta was that there was only one. A really nice pairing, the tarragon complemented the wine beautifully, focusing the fruit and countering the acidity.


winevault03.jpgTile Fish Ceviche | Uni Emulsion | Baby Fennel | Pickled Enoki | Chiles | Yuzu Gelee
2006 Opolo Viognier

– This is something I never would have eaten a year ago. Generally not a fish fan and certainly not when it's uncooked. However, the bright spice and citrus flavors really made this dish a surprise to me. The wine initially tasted a bit tired to me, with subdued aromas and flavors. The food changed it completley, in a very good way adding a richness of stone fruit and spice. The best example of the evening how food and wine can bring out the best in each other.


winevault04.jpgPulpo a la Plancha | Escarole | Garlic Confit | Chiles | Pancetta + Bean Crostini
2007 L'Aventure Cuvée Des Potes Rosé

–I'm not sure The Man would have eaten this dish if he had known what it was ahead of time. We had no idea Pulpo a la Plancha was octopus, but we all really liked it anyway. None of our guesses were even close. Didn't taste a bit like seafood...a plus for me. Had great texture and a lovely mixture of flavors. Went nicely with the rosé but was not a pairing that knocked my socks off. Pleasant and delicious.


Nueske Bacon Wrapped Pork Loin | Stone Ground Grits | Hen of the Woods
Natural Jus
2006 Cass Grenache

– You can't beat Nueske's bacon. It's smokey goodness wrapped around a perfectly cooked pork loin and I'm in foodie heaven. It went wonderfully with the wine as well. Who needs Pinot with pork? Grenache works just as well. Tied for my favorite pairing of the night. The savory elements brought out the earthiness of the wine, while the fruitiness made the pork flavor pop. Delish.


winevault06.jpgShort Rib | Caramelized Onion Chutney | Mini Grilled Cheese | Harissa Mayo
2006 Cass Mourvèdre
2007 Four Vines "Peasant" Rhone Blend

– Hands down everyone's favorite course of the night. Melt in your mouth, cheesy, spicy goodness. The one dish we couldn't stop talking about over breakfast the next morning. While both wines were delicious on their own, the Four Vines was overwhelmed by the flavors, failing to mesh when mixed with the food. The Mourvedre, because it was older and more integrated, was the perfect complement of fruit, earth and spice. Wish I could have this pairing everyday.


winevault07.jpgGrilled Hanger Steak | Smoked Potato Puree | Broccoli Rabe | Demi Glace
2005 Opolo Sangiovese
2007 J. Dusi Zinfandel

– This was the oddest pairing for me. While the food was delicious, I just couldn't understand why they paired steak with Sangiovese. Opolo makes great zinfandels, and while there's nothing wrong with their sangiovese, it was completely overwhelmed by the meat, making it seem thin and bitter, which it is not on it's own. This is a pasta/pizza wine for a reason. Thankfully, the Dusi zin had enough body and depth to save the pairing. A bright, fruity, elegant zin. Haven't enjoyed one from Paso so much in a long time.


Camembert | Fig Compote
2006 L'Aventure "Optimus" Red Blend
2007 Four Vines "Monarchy" Red Blend

– While I loved both wines, the cheese just overpowered them. Just ate the compote and enjoyed the wines. Wished they had paired the Optimus with the steak.


I was initially worried there wouldn't be enough food for all the wine, but the Wine Vault knows what they're doing and by the end I was perfectly satisfied without being stuffed. It was a great event that showed what Paso wines are all about and it was fun to meet the different winemakers and hear their stories. Will definitely be back next year. Maybe sooner.

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