Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Bridlewood Winery at Harvest, Cambridge

Wine makers are a breed of person completely of themselves. They are some of the most passionate and romantic people out there. Their trade is one of complete love-it is one that must weather every storm and keep strong during the down times do it can flourish during the ups. It is one of faith and love and character. Each time you pour a glass of wine, it is hours of blood sweat and years that flows forth from the bottle-those of the always interesting wine maker.

Recently I had the good fortune to join David Hopkins owner of Bridlewood Winery for dinner at Harvest Restaurant in Harvard Square to learn about his vineyard and the varietals and vintages of which he is most proud.

We began our evening sipping glasses of their Chardonnay-a 2008 varietal with a lovely floral scent, slight acidity and a very subtle taste of oak. Hopkins attributed this delightful twist to the utilization of stainless steel tanks with the traditional oak barrels. The result was a clean wine through the finish with subtle flavors of green apple. This lovely wine was paired with our first course for the evening, an appetizer of scallops. Harvest is nothing if not a leader in bringing to the table the most beautiful seasonal produce. Our opening dish that evening was no different- a duo of large sea scallops sat atop a vibrant green pea puree, bedecked with early spring rhubarb and a single strand of candied ginger. This was a perfect celebration of fall flavors- the green peas and the rhubarb which are so often the first signs of life after a harsh winter, and the spicy ginger really allowed these flavors to shine forth. The chardonnay was a great pairing here as its own flavor was gentle, it allowed the dish, and all of its flavors to shine forth.

Our next course was a lovely heap of fresh tartar dotted with crispy shallots, caper berries, cornichon and pickles. The plate was decorated with both a spicy siracha and a violet mustard to accompany the crostini and tartar. This dish was paired with Bridlewood’s 2010 Pinot Noir. The Pinot began with an earthy entrance, a lighter bodied wine, I tasted strong notes of smoke followed quickly by dark berries. This was not my favorite wine of the evening, a bit more acidic than I typically enjoy, but when it was paired with the fatty beef, the result was a beautifully round tasting wine, and a much lighter tasting dish. The acid from the one cut through the denseness of the other, and the luxury of the other dulled the acid of the one. It was a perfect pairing and allowed me to truly enjoy the wine despite my opposing palate.

Our next wine was the 2010 Central Coast Blend 175, a wine made up of mainly Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. The scent elicited thoughts of cream in my brain, and once on my tongue I felt similarly. I fell in love with it immediately- for its creaminess and its complexity- it was a bit of a mystery. Chef paired it with Giannone Chicken, served with vanilla scented carrot puree, mushrooms and the very first fiddlehead ferns I’ve seen this season. While every element served on this dish was delicious, the standout was the carrot puree. Hints of vanilla elevated those orange roots into something exciting, something entirely new from the carrots we found in stews and soups all winter. Hinting at something sweet, without fulfilling that idea, these carrots were completely delicious. In addition, as a sip of wine was savored with the carrots the flavor of vanilla lingered as well bringing forth more complexities in the wine.

As much as I enjoyed the carrots, the next dish was a plate cleaner. Tender slices of duck, served atop a pile “sinful” dirty rice enhanced with soy beans and fennel, and then accentuated with a generous portion of bing cherry sauce, every element here was fantastic. The duck was juicy and nicely seasoned as it bore a little crust of salt on its fatty skin, and when dipped into the rich cherry sauce, a wonderful harmony was found- salty to sweet, game to fruit. Chef paired this dish with Bridlewood’s 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon which was a deep wine, full of red berry flavor and enhanced with a note of crisp green pepper, and finished with a clean note. Hopkins discussed the notes of chocolate found in this wine, however I am sad to say those didn’t speak to me. Others at the table however agreed that chocolate was a prevalent flavor. When paired with the duck the salty savory combination blended into the berries and enhanced the pepper flavor, when mixed with the cherry sauce the acid drew out more.

Our final course was the dessert course a hazelnut cake, topped with frozen sheep’s milk yogurt, the zest of oranges, and enhanced with lovely caramel dotted with a mead flavored gel. This was served with Bridlewood’s 2010 Viognier, a light crisp wine with strong notes of honey, but rounded out with a slight acidic bite. It was a beautiful dessert wine, especially when combined with the tart yogurt and vibrant citrus notes of the dessert.

The evening was not only delicious, but also highly educational as David Hopkins took us on a tour of his life as a wine maker, the ups and downs, and all of the particulars that go into it. His words gave me a clear picture of this world, and I was filled with an incredible desire to visit Bridlewood in the flesh. I will say this much- if you are looking to go on a wine tour in California but don’t want to engage in the hubbub of Napa- check out Bridlewood and the surrounding places instead.

That said- Harvest never fails to deliver a beautiful, well thought out, artfully presented meal, and one that I considered myself lucky to indulge in. If you’re in Cambridge- eat at Harvest; if you’re in California- go to Bridlewood, if you’re anywhere else- buy Bridlewood wine, especially the Central Coast Blend 175- it’s as simple as that.

1 comment:

Joy said...

Hi Fiona!

This is Joy of "Hot Oven, Warm Heart." I wanted to thank you for all your thoughtful guidance in preparation for Bloggers Bake For Hope. I am so excited to see how the auction goes, and I hope that my participation proves helpful in raising funds for the cause.

After reading your blog post, I'm so impressed by your incredibly descriptive and poetic writing style- you made me feel like I was actually at that dinner with you, tasting the food and sampling the wine. As a non-drinker myself, you made me want to expand my horizons and taste some of the incredible wines you described. Maybe you could offer me some tips about wines that would be enjoyed by a "beginner"- I'd say something definitely on the sweet side. One thing I already utilize wine for is cooking (and I always follow the rule, don't cook with anything you wouldn't want to drink)- I'd love some recommendations for moderately priced white and red wines to add to my dishes. Maybe it depends on exactly what you're making- I'm not sure. In that case, I hope I could call upon your expertise when I have more specifics.

I'd love it if you'd stop by my site and say hello whenever you get a chance. I hope you're doing well, and had a great weekend!


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