Kelly J. Hayes: WineInk | AspenTimes.com

Kelly J. Hayes: WineInk

Kelly J. Hayes
Aspen Times Weekly

While they hail from two different continents and two different hemispheres, two southern stalwarts will gather this Tuesday evening at the Viceroy Snowmass hotel’s 8K restaurant to provide what will no doubt be a special pairing of great food and great wine.

Peter Gago, the Chief Winemaker for Australia’s top drop, Penfolds, will be making a guest appearance at 8K where he will pour the South Australian winery’s best wines. Handling the food will be 8K chef de cuisine and New Orleans native William Nolan.

While it may be hyperbole to hype these two as southern stalwarts, I’ll take poetic license here. Not with the stalwart part, as both are as sturdy and dependable as men can be, but with the southern part.

While Gago was born a Brit in Newcastle, England, and did not move to Adelaide, home of Penfolds iconic Magill Estate, until late in his third decade, today he lives under the Southern Cross where the sun and ocean influence the grapes used to make the brilliant Riesling, Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cabernet that define Penfolds.

And while Nolan now cooks with attitude – have you seen his tats, heard his patois and tasted his boudin? – at altitude, both his culinary and virtual roots grew to manhood in the Crescent City of New Orleans. It doesn’t get any more southern than that. So it makes perfect sense to say that these are Southern gentlemen, collaborating on a winemaker dinner, to share the bounty of both worlds.

The dinner at 8K this Tuesday, July 26, is limited to just twenty-six lucky diners and drinkers. As of this writing seats were still available for $150 each, which, considering the wines that Peter will be toting and the cuisine that William will be creating, is a great deal.

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Since Penfolds does not do bubbles (not even the occasional Sparkling Shiraz?) and Champagne is always called for (and because Peter loves Champagne), the evening will begin with a vintage Dom Perignon that Chef William is considering pairing with a shrimp croquette, marrying both southern and Asian flavors.

The first course will see a crisp, clean 2010 Bin 51 Eden Valley Riesling. The Eden Valley, a higher altitude sub region of the famed Barossa Valley has become, along with France’s Alsace and Germany’s Mosel, one of the go-to regions for those who love fruit driven, acidic but balanced Rieslings.

There is a rumor that a much touted, but minimally produced wine, the 2010 Bin 311 Tumbarumba Chardonnay, will make an appearance with the second course. Made by Kym Schroeder, Penfolds senior white wine maker, this wine comes from a region at the base of the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales. Grown at elevation, the Tumbarumba sees only old French oak and emphasizes the quality of the Chardonnay grapes. Just 100 cases or so of this wine are made each year, so if it is poured, it will be a special opportunity to try a wine that Penfolds feels is one of their very best.

As Australia is best known for its Shiraz, the next course will provide a signature wine for Chef William’s cuisine: The 2007 St. Henri Shiraz. Though it maybe tinged with a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon for structure, the St. Henri bottling has been a quintessential Australian Shiraz release for five decades. It is not as famous as the collectable Penfolds Grange and does not command the same prices, but there are those who believe it to be an even better representation of what makes Penfolds special.

All of which, of course, brings us to the 2006 Grange. Any Penfolds event should include a taste of Australia’s most famous wine and the 8K dinner is no exception. Each May, a new vintage is released, five years after it is made. There have been just four winemakers, Peter being the latest to make this iconic wine. The 2006 is 98 percent shiraz sourced from grapes grown in the Barossa, the Coonawarra and at the Magill Estate itself. Matured for 18 months in new American Oak, the opportunity to sample the most recent release is worth the price of admission.

All of which provides Chef William with a broad palette to create his meal. “The thing about a wine dinner is that it gives you the opportunity to plan ahead,” he said. “You get a chance to pair flavors and really spend some time with it.”

The menu will include pheasant, a little pork and perhaps some Colorado elk. Whatever is plated will inevitably provide a welcome accompaniment to the wines that Peter pours.