Thursday, August 14, 2008

Gargiulo Vineyard Greets Los Angeles

There is no better way to get to know a newer wine than alongside some delicious food. I love letting the nectar roll around on my tongue – before taking a bite of anything – and then trying it again after a taste of the food. It never ceases to amaze me to experience the impact of food on wine, and wine on food.

I was recently invited to “meet” the wines from Gargiulo Vineyards at Jar, in Los Angeles. Jar is one of those rare L.A. eateries which made a big impact upon opening (at least 8 years ago…) and remains at the “top of the food chain” in our gastronomical landscape. I haven’t been there in ages – but looked forward to seeing if it was still as good as I remembered.

Our evening started with some get-to-know you chit-chat with stylish April Gargiulo, our hostess for the evening. She had formerly worked in big city marketing type jobs, which showed - in a good way. Sometimes winemakers are like other artists … incredibly talented but uncomfortable in social situations. April, who runs the company with her father Jeff, is the perfect person to speak knowledgeably about the wines, while charming the crowd.

Gargiulo Vineyard was founded in California’s Napa Valley in 1992, and presented its first vintages to the world in 2003. It is a small producer (which makes it all the more special, in my mind) and grows a fair amount of Cabernet and Merlot. However, one of the most interesting things about the winery is their environmentally-friendly tasting room (written up in Food & Wine's eco issue). It is constructed from recycled/reused materials, such as reclaimed wood flooring from St Helena high school’s basketball gymnasium and a de-commission bridge in Napa. Recycled barrels and ropes serve as chandeliers and the walls of the tasting room are made from signature red rocks collected around the property.

While mingling with the other writers invited to the tasting dinner, I found refreshment in the 2007 Rosato di Sangiovese, which had a slightly fruity aroma but was dry enough to be a pleasant sipper. As soon as we sat down at the long family-like dining table in a back corner of the restaurant, the server delivered several platters of Crab Deviled Eggs. I happen to have a thing for deviled eggs, and am known to make them for most picnics or as my contribution to a potluck party. The addition of crab is something I had never considered – but will absolutely try to replicate… especially served alongside this kind of wine!

I picked the Crisp Squash Blossoms stuffed with shitake and lobster then drizzled with spicy ponzu dipping sauce as the next course. Luckily, my pal and fellow oeno-phile “Adam the Wine Guy” ordered the other choice, a Mozzerella Salad with burrattta, pine nuts and artichoke so I could have a bite. Both were delicioso sipped along side Gargiulo’s 2005 Aprile Super Oakville Red.

Next up was a hearty main course of either Jar’s Signature Pot Roast or a 14-ounce Rib Eye. If it were winter, I would have gone with the pot roast, so I opted for the awesome hunk-o-meat (and took home half of it for a steak salad the next day!). Best of all, they believed me when I said I wanted my meat “medium RARE” and served it pink in the middle. (Sadly, this is cause for big points for a restaurant in my book, even though it should be a given).

It was fun to sample TWO wines with the meat course. We did a side-by-side tasting of the 2005 Money Road Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2005 575 OVX G Major 7 Cabernet Sauvignon. More people at the table seemed to like the Money Road Ranch cab better – but I like the “pow” of the OVX, depite its odd name. It felt more impressive to me, despite it supposedly needing another year or two in the bottle. (I guess I’m what you'd call "a Cabernet cradle robber!")

Finally, for dessert, I opted for the Chocolate Pudding instead of ice cream, which was really more like mousse masquerading as pudding, and I actually preferred Adam’s ice cream - but chocolate in any form is always good with the cabernet left in the wine glass. The perfect last sip to toast a new friend found in Gargiulo wine...

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