Cote Bonneville wine dinner at Four Seasons Resort showcase wines that sing, new chef Jonathan Rivera’s talent
Last Saturday night, master sommelier James Tidwell, who runs the beverage program for the Four Seasons Resort and Club in Las Colinas, invited a couple dozen guests to sip and swirl with winemaker Kerry Shiels from Cote Bonneville.
From their high desert vineyards in Yakima, Washington, Cote Bonneville produces some incredibly fine wines. All of CB’s wines are made from estate-grown fruit, which doesn’t yield much wine at all. But that’s okay with Shiels and Cote Bonneville’s owners– her parents.
Shiels, an engineer who also earned a viticulture and enology degree from UC Davis, refined her craft at some of the world’s best wineries before taking over the winemaking job at Cote Bonneville. Her attention to detail and passion show in every glass we tried.
“Being an engineer, I conducted a lot of research and testing to make our wines,” Shiels told me. “We really take a scientific approach to everything we do because we want to make the best wines possible from our vineyards.”
For example, Cote Bonneville uses Cabernet Franc grapes grown only in rows 1-19 of one planting to make the few barrels of Cabernet Franc rose CB releases, whereas the Cab Franc from rows 20 and above are reserved for CB’s Bordeaux-style blends.
“We sepererate them because we farm them differently,” Shiels says, adding that she wants the grapes to express different characteristics when ripe. Similarly, the CB Chardonnay is a blend of two different blocks of Chardonnay vines: grapes grown in one area of the vineyard express more minerality and a bit of Meyer lemon flavor, while the other block yields pronounced tropical flavors, “especially pineapple upside down cake,” says Shiels.
“Cote Bonneville is one of the best producers in the Northwest,” Jon Davis of Hear Hear Wines told me. Hear Hear represents many high-end boutique Pacific Northwest wineries in Texas (including Eyrie Vineyards, which I wrote about here). “These are benchmark wines, and we can’t get enough of them.”
Like Tidwell and Owens, I’m a huge fan of Cote Bonneville’s 2009 late harvest Riesling, made from grapes grown exclusively in Cote Bonneville’s DuBrul vineyard. That parcel was once an apple orchard before Shiels’ family replanted the land with grapes in 1992.
Unusually plush for a Washington State late harvest Riesling, CB’s tastes of ripe tropical fruits (mangos, apricots, pineapple, a bit of kiwi) and honey ably balanced by bright acidity and dry-stone minerality. The wine paired perfectly with Cafe on the Green chef Jonathan Rivera‘s dessert: honey-lavender gratin, grilled mangos and creme fraiche gelato.
In fact, all of Rivera’s menu sang on pitch, matching each of Shiels’ wines note for note, which is not the norm in many wine dinners.
“Wow, a wine that pairs well with mango! That’s a tough fruit to match,” agreed Melissa Monosoff, another master somm in attendance.
What also impressed me? Rivera’s take on duck. He rubs it in cocoa powder, sears it, roasts it, then teams it with sweet Amarena cherries, a few shards of sautéed swiss chard, mushrooms and leeks– an ideal foil for Cote Bonneville’s 2006 Carriage House Bordeaux blend.
Tidwell, you did it again — another flawless wine dinner, and further proof that what’s going on at the Four Season’s Cafe on the Green is worth noting. And Rivera, who replaced former Cafe chef Katie Natale, is on track to rise fast; his cooking is really, really good. Mark my words: This guy gets it.