WC crew syrah/shiraz home tasting potluck

by Billy Guest on November 23, 2009

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Last Saturday, the WC crew all got together for our first ever wine home tasting and potluck. Our theme wine was syrah or the Australian variant, shiraz. Home tastings are excellent ways to get together with friends and family, try a lot of interesting wines in a short time, and feast on exciting dishes. And lest you worry about the “potluck” aspect, John reminded me quite correctly that potlucks are always sensational because people inevitably make their ‘signature’ dishes, which they tend to feel most confident about, so are almost invariably good.

quinoa love and salmon patties with caramelized soy topping

quinoa love and salmon patties with caramelized soy topping

We had about twenty folks with about that many wines. I sent an evite to get everyone together. It had specific instructions: bring your favorite syrah or shiraz as well as a matching vegetarian or pescetarian dish, and arrive on time. The on time part was so that all of the wines and accompanying dishes could be sampled before the party got too inebriated.

a blurry forest of bottles

a blurry forest of bottles

Since everyone “knows” that syrah “only” matches braised and other kinds of meat (yeah, right!), the field was pretty open for creative food. Hegui made his now classic quinoa love and a beautiful salad with endive, watercress and walnuts. Others brought exciting couscous dishes, salads with potato and greens in a tahini dressing or baked tofu with mushrooms. We had a variety of cheeses, a quiche and homemade filo pastry stuffed with spinach and feta. My favorite dish was Joanie and Guido’s salmon patties with caramelized soy dressing on a bed of shredded cabbage. Hopefully she’ll give me the recipe sometime! For dessert there were brownies, a chocolate peanut butter cake, gingerbread cake, chocolates and “Skinny Cow” ice cream sandwiches.

I'm eating like a pig!

I'm eating like a pig!

The wine selection was tremendous! We opened everything right at the start of the party so people could help themselves and try whatever. Though mostly red, there were two syrah roses. Despite being the same grape variety, there really was a lot of variation between the wines, which ranged from cherry and fruity with minimal structure to thick, leathery, chocolaty masterpieces. KevStar brought the amazing Tallulah 2005 syrah, Bald Mountain Ranch, Mt. Veeder. It was loaded with leather, smoke and had a great mouth feel. I kept coming back for more of that one, that is, until the bottle was drained.

intense conversation

intense conversation

Other popular choices were Whit and Amie’s Anglim 2003 syrah Best Barrel Blend, Paso Robles, and our fave, Brian Benson Cellars 2005 syrah, Denner Vineyards, Paso Robles. Among the Australian shiraz, the clear “winner” was the Thorn-Clarke Shotfire 2005 Barossa shiraz. I was delighted to finally taste the Eric Kent Wine Cellars 2007 syrah, Dry Creek Valley, though I grudgingly must agree with the professional wine critics that it might have developed more with a bit of age. Perhaps if we had decanted it first? I’d like to go wine tasting there sometime. I overheard several guests raving about the Adelaida 2006 syrah, Anna’s Vineyard, Paso Robles, too. I was flattered by that because I supplied the bottle from my most recent club shipment.

skinny cow ice cream sandwiches

skinny cow ice cream sandwiches

After a while, I lost my sense of taste so I sat by the roaring fire and just enjoyed the party. We didn’t bother with covering the wine or formal tasting notes. Really most people aren’t as obsessed with wine tasting as we are at weirdcombinations.com. And since to many these wines were unfamiliar, it didn’t matter that you could see the label, since everyone wanted to try them all. If you haven’t done this kind of event already, you really should! It’s easy to set up and super fun.

Guido and Joanie

Guido and Joanie


beautiful couscous

beautiful couscous


glowing holiday fire

glowing holiday fire

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Professor Martin November 23, 2009 at 9:35 am

What a spread. It was a marvelous party!

Joan van Rijn November 23, 2009 at 1:36 pm

Bravo! Wish I had brought a doggie bag…no not for Clarence but for ME! thanks for the
wonderful evening.

ritatower November 27, 2009 at 11:43 am

Oh my, that’s lovely! The couscous and quinoa love look like good ones to make over and over again!

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