California’s Mirassou Winery is launching a national PR blitz, nominally in celebration of its 155th anniversary of doing business. 155 is an odd year to celebrate, but it’s hard to complain about the manner in which they’re doing it — they’re sending David Mirassou, the sixth generation of his family to make wine, on a barnstorming tour across the country. Each stop is punctuated by a media dinner prepared by an acclaimed local chef, each course paired with a Mirassou wine.
Recipes from each chef have been compiled into a lovely downloadable PDF cookbook, which you can grab from their website.
This Tuesday was Mirassou’s Minneapolis stop. The affable vintner teamed up with Chef Isaac Becker of 112 Eatery, and the resulting seven-course meal was a gastronomic powerhouse. A few observations from the evening.
1) The Right Wine Can Complete a Dish
Chef Becker’s signature tagliatelle with foie gras and chicken meatballs would seem to be at the apex of deliciousness as is, with tender folds of pasta cradling the rich, velveteen goodness of the meatballs. But the addition of a Sauvignon Blanc gave the dish an added dimension — each sip of wine provided a crisp, bright conclusion to each bite of meat and pasta. The wine was like punctuation, completing a sentence.
Later in the evening, a Mirassou Cabernet Sauvignon complemented a deeply spiced sirloin dish served with farro, echoing the spice notes while smoothing out the dish’s enjoyable but challenging rough edges with a taste akin to blackberries.
2) Pinot Noir Can Be a Ton of Fun
Mirassou is known for its Pinot; among the cuttings that founding vintner Pierre Pellier brought from France in 1854 was what many regard as the first Pinot Noir (or “Black Burgundy”) planted in California. Mirassou’s Pinot has a soft mouthfeel and notes of dark chocolate, cherry, and a quality some tasters have described as “helium” — it’s a pleasant glass of wine and a superb value.
3) Californians are PR Superstars
If you want to learn how to market your state’s industry in a highly visible way, watch what the Californians do. The state runs oodles of commercials just trying to persaude people to visit; its milk marketing board has assembled a slanderous and highly visible celebration of the state’s so-called “happy cows”; and Napa Valley has turned an agricultural production region into a top-flight tourist destination spangled with must-visit scenic wineries and winemakers (like Mirassou) who are marketable personalities unto themselves.
Mirassou made reference to how his family’s winery is run in “partnership” with wine giant Gallo, but that’s not quite right — Gallo bought the Mirassou brand and inventory in late 2002, in a move described by journalists, at the time, as a bid to save a noble winemaking name that was on the ropes. The story presented for digestion at Tuesday’s dinner was that of a plucky sixth-generation independent winery that makes good wine at a great price. The real story may well be how a sprawling wine family with deep roots copes with (or embraces) the heavy presence of a senior partner that is one of the world’s wine marketing superpowers.
4) Chardonnay Can (and Maybe Should) Tread Lightly
Many Chardonnays lean heavily on oak and vanilla notes; Mirassou’s offering is much fresher and crisper, and was an elegant companion to the seared ahi tuna with roasted garlic and parmesan course.
5) Parmesan Broth is Worth the Effort
Simmer parm rinds with stock, and you get a liquid that packs some of the sublime, piquant punch of the venerable Italian cheese. Becker paired this broth with seared ahi tuna and roasted garlic, to great effect — the broth was a saucy and energetic tango partner for the more affable and laid-back tuna.
You don’t often think of parmesan (or cheese in general) as being light on its feet, but made into a complementary broth it practically tap danced across the palate.
Disclosure: In addition to a free meal, our writers were each given a bottle of 2008 Mirassou Pinot Noir (value: $10 or less per bottle).