At Abacus restaurant last night, chef/owner Kent Rathbun and his corporate chef, Aaron Staudenmaier, celebrated fall on the plate, creatively working big, earthy, autumn flavors into a meal that showcased California wines from Melville and Brewer-Clifton wineries.
Melville’s general manager, Stephen Janes, led a group of about 50 guests (including me) through a few of the two wineries’ recent releases.
“These are pretty, delicate wines, whose notes go under the food,” Janes explained to me. “We create our wines to complement foods, not overwhelm them, so we press whole clusters of grapes and use old, neutral oak so you taste a purity of fruit and a purity of place.”
Rathbun and Staudenmaier coaxed the herbaceous, savory flavors out of the wines, pairing a 2009 Melville Estate Pinot Noir (2009) from Santa Rita Hills with roasted quail stuffed with andouille sausage and pumpkin-sage spoonbread, which were accented with a smear of demi glace enlivened with ghost chiles (spicy and floral) and cherries.
For the 2009 Brewer-Clifton Chardonnay, a wine with bright acidity and hints of lime and green apple, Abacus served thin slices of hamachi seared on edge with hot sesame oil then topped with microgreens, diced mango, a squeeze of key lime and smokey sea salt.
And with grilled lamb with mustard seed-spiked demi, Janes paired his Brewer-Clifton 2009 Mount Carmel Pinot Noir.
But the real surprise dish of the evening was dessert: browned butter-huckleberry tart with smoked bacon sabayon, in which the chefs had used smokey bacon in place of butter. “This tastes like pancakes and a side of bacon,” offered a guest at my table. He was right.
In Dallas, you’ll find Melville and Brewer-Clifton wines at Sigels.