I was invited several weeks ago now, oh my, time does fly, to a bountiful dinner at Girl and the Goat, here in Chicago, sponsored by Sonoma-Cutrer. The focus of the event was to meet Assistant Winemaker Zidanelia Arcidiacono, “Z” and taste the beautiful Pinot Noirs she is in charge of crafting out of a refurbished horse barn on the Sonoma-Cutrer properties.
We had dinner in the “Underground Goat” which was a surprisingly spacious room, part storage of beverages, that we got to through a twisty, windy hallway in the basement of the restaurant. “Iron Chef” Izard gave us a detailed rundown in her down to earth style of what ended up being a huge feast, family style, of many of the dishes on her boldly flavored with global influence menu. I asked her about her son Ernie who is now a toddler and she whipped out her phone and showed us a picture of his Halloween costume, “relaxed 70’s California dude”.
As Chef Izard spoke, we sipped their welcoming wine (no picture) a delicious Limited Edition Grand Cuvée sparkling wine (Traditional Method, 40% pinot noir, 60% chardonnay) and all these rustic breads paired with specific condiments: Peter Piper Bread, pickled pepper relish, honey, honey butter, Mr. Sweet Potato, hong kong cream cheese, squash slaw, and Apple of My Rye, carmelized onion bleu cheese, candied pecan apple relish. Although we could see the feast that was to come, between lively conversation, delicious wine and the smell of these breads, we all could not help but dig into them.
Looking at the menu of what was to come, shows the incredible versatility of these classic, Russian River Valley pinot noirs each with their own personality. “Z” considered them her “babies” as she talked about winemaking in the Sonoma-Cutrer Pinot Barn and her love of nurturing the wines through the winemaking process.
At this point, Z’s Russian River pinots started flowing into our glasses including the single vineyards, Owlsey and Vine Hill. Although each had their own personality they all had the characteristics of dark fruit notes, forest floor and a silky structure.
Russian River Valley 2016 – Grapes sourced from Vine Hill and Owsley, jammy red and black fruit, red licorice Paired nicely with the goat empanadas (not pictured but you have to some goat at this restaurant for obvious reasons)
Owsley Pinot Noir 2016 – Black raspberry, cassis, black cherry paired with the cauliflower, scallops and short ribs (yes, all pictured below and delicious)
Vine Hill Pinot Noir 2016 – Red cherry, rhubarb, cherry cola paired with the pork shank (not pictured) quite well
We learned a little about “Z’ as well. She lives in the Sonoma Valley with her husband and son, Gianluca. Born in Texas, she grew up in Argentina surrounded by winemakers, received her degree in winemaking there and then traveled to the south of France to work the harvest. In 2007, she was hired at Sonoma-Cutrer as an enologist, she then moved to Fetzer Reserve wines and finally found herself back at Sonoma-Cutrer in 2015, her role is now crafting the luscious Pinot Noirs we were tasting.
Sonoma-Cutrer has built a completely separate craft winery on their estate in the Russian River Valley area of Sonoma county dedicated exclusively to making small batches of Pinot Noir. The Russian River Valley is known as an ideal region for cool climate grapes because of the evening fog that rolls in from the Pacific Ocean through the Petaluma Gap and cools the vineyards during the night as well as the ancient soils of the area. The grapes are hand-picked during the cool nights and then hand-sorted, after which portions of the final blend are cold soaked and hand-punched down. Fermentation involves a combination of three different methods: oak tank, stainless steel tank and new French oak barrels, each allowed to ferment separately for several weeks before blended and aged for 16 months in French oak barrels.
The wines as I mentioned are extremely versatile and worked with all of these vibrant, eclectic dishes.
Roasted Cauliflower, Scallops (above)
Short Ribs (one of my favorite dishes of the evening, sorry terrible picture) and the Owsley Single Vineyard (My favorite pairing and wine of the evening)
Yes, after this incredible feast, an incredible feast of desserts followed paired with the fifth and final wine, the Limited Production Rosé of Pinot Noir. Desserts included a coco-cocoa-nut semifreddo, macadamia praline, curry feuilletine, aw, honey honey sponge cake, gooseberry, shortbread crumble, honey mousse, whip & gastrique, caramel corn & malt balls, vanilla malt ice cream popcorn caramel, chocolate magic shell, sticky tasty crunchy toffee yummy cake sweet potato, miso caramel whip, sour cream ice cream and pickled persimmon. The rosé was crisp, fresh and a surprisingly nice fit with all these sweet things.
The dynamic duo! “Z” and Chef Izard, both are thriving, through their love of their professions, their families and of the fabulous wines and food they create with their teams at Sonoma-Cutrer and at Girl and the Goat and its siblings. This was one of my wine and food lucky evenings and I was inspired by the conversation and company, food, wine and these incredible women. Thank you Sonoma-Cutrer for a really wonderful evening!