I attended the first Wine Maker’s Dinner at Rafati’s Encore310 on Thursday, along with my friends Steve and Krista. They plan to make these monthly events, featuring local winemakers. Maysara Winery was featured, and I am a member of their wine club and enjoy their wines. I was looking forward to the food just as much. Encore310 is owned by Reza and Georgia Rafati and they specialize in Northwest cuisine produced with local products.
We were greeted by Reza and the members of Maysara’s Momtazi family. The 2007 vintage is Tahmiene Momtazi’s first year as the winemaker. It was also a very rainy year, resulting in very low brix scores for the grapes. This made its mark on the wines produced in 2007. My husband and I found ourselves stocking up on the 2006 vintages as we prefer the fuller fruit flavor of that year. Tahmiene said that she had been studying with DePonte’s winemaker, Isabelle Dutartre, and that bodes well for us, as DePonte is our local favorite.
We first had champagne and smoked salmon/goat cheese appetizers. I could have eaten a plate of those alone. But at 7 pm we were ushered into the dinner room and encountered a grand place setting with wine glasses and utensils for each of the next six courses.
With each course, Tahmiene or her father Moe Momtazi described the wine, the wine making process, and their vineyard philosophy. They practice biodynamic farming and are striving to make biodynamic wines. This method uses as few “inputs” as possible, relying on having a balanced ecosystem in the vineyard to produce healthy crops.
The first course was dungeness crab cakes with a 2007 Maysara pinot gris. Loved both. Each table sat 6 people. On my left was Carol Thomas, whose husband operates Wine Tours Northwest. The other couple at the table were wine stewards from a restaurant and the Gresham Fred Meyer. Carol asked if we were “winos.” I said I was, but Steve and Krista were more newbies and here to learn. I learned quite a few tidbits about the wineries and the wine scene in Portland from my table companions. I also thoroughly enjoyed meeting Carol and I hope to see her at future events.
The second course was a roasted beet and baby greens salad, with 2007 Maysara Roseena Rose. I am not usually a rose fan, but I like the Roseena. The salad was perfect.
The third course was steak tartare and foie gras mousse with the 2006 Maysara Jamsheed pinot noir. This is one of our favorites from Maysara. Krista and Steve discussed how it tasted different between the steak tartare and the foie gras. I realized my palate wasn’t educated enough to feel the difference in wine and food pairings. I loved the food and the wine.
The fourth course was a cassoulet with artisan sausage and the 2007 Maysara Estate Cuvee pinot noir, one of Tahmiene’s wines. This was Krista’s favorite wine of the night. It definitely is the lighter kind of pinot that was produced by the 2007 grapes.
The fifth course was rack of lamb with potatoes and 2007 Maysara Asha pinot noir, one of their top-priced wines. We were really getting stuffed by this point, although the portions on the plates were appropriately small. I like the Asha, although it could use more cellaring, and it is not as fruit forward as the Jamsheed.
The sixth course was really two courses. First we got a cheese and nut plate with the 2005 Maysara Delara pinot noir, also one of their top-priced wines. It was delicious. Then dessert arrived, a brioche with quince and the 2005 Maysara Anahita riesling. We had been discussing rieslings and this one was not a typical riesling. Unlike all of the other food, I thought the dessert was just too sweet and not very interesting. But the rest of the evening was so far above hope and expectation, and we were so stuffed, that I can’t complain.
I shall keep tabs on the Encore310 wine dinners and plan to attend. The price is a great value – $75 includes tip. Krista is the Your Money Examiner at Examiner.com and she endorses saving frugally for splurges such as these. Encore310 has received the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. I believe that next time I may even book a room at the attached hotel so I don’t have to throttle back on how much wine I drink of each glass. The dinner lasted from 6:30 pm till 9:30 pm. It was a full evening’s entertainment and left us satiated and eager to return.
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