eroica turns 10

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Chateau Ste. Michelle’s groundbreaking collaboration with Dr. Ernst (“Ernie”) Loosen has reached the 10-year milestone with the release of the 2008 Eroica. To celebrate, CEO Ted Baseler, his wife Joanne, and VP of Communications Keith Love joined with winemakers Ernie Loosen and Bob Bertheau and Herbfarm owners Ron Zimmerman and Carrie Van Dyck to host a “Vision of the Vine” dinner last night.

I’ve had riesling-only dinners before, and it’s not an easy challenge. Not that the wines aren’t brilliant – they often are. But you try orchestrating a nine-course meal with riesling after riesling, and only riesling. Some dry, some off-dry, some late harvest, some botrytised; some German, some from Washington; some brand spanking new, some a decade old. That was the assignment given to the Herbfarm’s executive chef Keith Luce, and he approached it with tremendous enthusiasm and creativity.

At the beginning of the evening, Luce, Loosen and Bertheau stood in front of the packed room and chatted about each wine and course to come. What might have become a bit tedious (there was a LOT to talk about) kept the audience chuckling, thanks to the good-natured humor of the hosts. The curly-haired Loosen, who speaks perfect English with a perfectly charming accent, only has to utter the word “win-yard” to bring down the house. His description of one wine that “tasted like liquid sex” pretty well summed up the night.

This is not a foodie blog, and I am not going to re-print the entire menu (see it here – But I will give you a glimpse. Here is the list of wines, in the order they were served:

2008 Eroica Riesling
2007 Cold Creek Vineyard Riesling
2006 Dr. Loosen Urzigerwürzgarten Spätlese (from magnum)
1999 Eroica Single Berry Select (from magnum)
1999 Dr. Loosen Erdener Treppchen Kabinett
2000 Eroica
2008 CSM Winemaker’s Cabinet
2006 Dr. Loosen Beerenauslese
2006 Eroica Ice Wine

Each wine was accompanied by a perfectly-plated dish, all using immaculately fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. The Herbfarm has developed a 100-mile menu, where everything, from the salt to the tea, is entirely produced within a hundred mile radius. This was not that menu, but in many respects it could have been. One of many highlights was a Foie Gras “Short Stack” – apricot/vanilla stuffed brioche pain perdu with seared foie gras, Alaskan sea salt and caramel British Columbia Big Leaf maple blossom syrup (that was course number four, with the single berry select). Sound uber-rich, and it was, but it was a petite serving that did not tire the palate or overwhelm the rest of the meal.

As the wines came through, the conversation swelled, and the stories rolled. Sitting across from me at our small table, Ted Baseler described his first meeting with Angelo Gaja’s daughter Gaia (yes, her name is Gaia Gaja). Not sure he heard her introduce herself correctly, and thinking it was some odd Piedmontese custom to speak in this way, he contemplated introducing himself as Baseler Baseler. She praised the wines of Washington, and avowed an interest in opening a winery in Walla Walla, so she could become Gaia Gaja from Walla Walla.

Keith Love and I talked about baseball, Charles Smith’s American 35 installation, and other matters vinous and sporteous. Ron Zimmerman shared an ornate wine menu from a pre-Prohibition San Francisco restaurant (whose name I’ve already lost, I’m afraid). Pretty good list, with wines offered by the pint and by the quart. We ordered a quart of the Mouton ($4) but sadly, it never arrived.

Among all the wines, I especially appreciated the 2008 and 2000 Eroicas – near bookends of the decade, both in excellent drinking condition, and neither at all close to the end of its life. The 1999 Dr. Loosen Kabinett was lovely, vivid proof of Ernie Loosen’s ad-wice that such seemingly ordinary wines can age for decades. I confess that I am not overly fond of sweet wines, though I admire and appreciate the artistry and industry they require. All were very thoughtfully paired with the food, and scattered across the meal so that they became individual highlights rather than a sea of sugar.

On Thursday we will taste through all ten vintages of Eroica, and I will file a full report.

1 comment:

Judith Caldwell said...


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