Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Cakebread Cellars Dinner at North Ranch Country Club

North Ranch Country Club
At the end of March Devon and I attended the second wine pairing dinner of the year at North Ranch Country Club. Cakebread Cellars wines were featured and I covered the event on assignment for Conejo Valley Lifestyle Magazine.
Jim & Leslie Biekkola, Ed Pope and Jordan Sweeney
This was one of the five special wine dinners that social and golf members of the club have available on the 2016 social calendar. Each dinner matches wine from a winery, a country or a theme with inspired food pairings. The first wine dinner was held in February and featured Silver Oak wines; March’s dinner featured Cakebread Cellars. Next up are Grgich Hills wines, a Somm’s wine dinner, and a Taste of France dinner.
Jodi Foss and Jordan Sweeney
The talented and friendly Food and Beverage team at North Ranch delivers a sophisticated culinary and wine experience. The team consists of Director, Jodi Foss; Assistant Director Jordan Sweeney, a Level 2 Sommelier; Executive Chef Karl Gustav Holst, a Level 1 Sommelier; and Maitre 'D, Bernardo Queiroz. The team is supported by a dedicated pastry chef and core group of service professionals. The service staff provides a warm welcome to club members as they arrive and creates a comfortable atmosphere.
It is no surprise that North Ranch Country Club’s wine dinners are top-notch events. As Jordan pointed out, North Ranch scored a 95 out of 100 last year and was awarded the coveted CMAA International Wine Society Award of Distinction. North Ranch was one of only fourteen clubs in America to score 90 or above in 2015. The award is prominently displayed next to an impressive wine cellar that holds more than 500 bottles. 
The collection contains wines from the major wine producing regions of the world, easily accessed with different color-coded tags for each country. North Ranch pours over thirty wines by the glass in addition to a wine list that features their high-end collection of bottles, half bottle and large format selections, and vintage verticals.
Sommelier Jordan Sweeney’s experience spans Food & Beverage and Wine management roles at Presto Pasta, Spanish Hills Country Club, and Birnam Wood Golf Club. Jordan is one of a handful of Level 2 Certified Sommeliers in Ventura County and he knows you can’t serve just any wine with any dish. His goal is to introduce contrast, balance, and harmony in food and wine pairings. Jordan, who is also a musician, composer and recording artist, knows how to hit the right note whether he’s playing an instrument or pairing food and wine.
Executive Chef Karl Gustav Holst attended the Culinary Program at Santa Barbara City College and developed his unique farm-to-table philosophy after exploring culinary delicacies and traditions around the world. His fusion menus combine global flavors with products from local artisanal farmers. Karl has worked in many of the best restaurants and private clubs in Ventura County and currently leads the culinary team at North Ranch Country Club. An avid cyclist, Karl has competed in United States Cycling Federation races on the west coast since he was 13 years old.
Jordan and Karl spent days creating, preparing and executing a Cakebread pairing dinner. They tasted each spice, herb and ingredient featured on the menu and sampled Cakebread wines to match the flavors perfectly. Their objective was to balance the food and wine of each course to create a symbiosis of culinary harmony, each dish surpassing the previous one until it reached a food and wine crescendo!
The sold-out, $125 per person Cakebread Dinner began with approximately one hundred members gathering in the clubhouse with musical entertainment from a talented solo guitar player. People met old and new friends and sipped a glass of nicely chilled, crisp and clean Cakebread 2014 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley
The wine’s nose and taste of honeydew melon and citrus were complemented by the Chef's Selection of Hand Passed Canapés: Macadamia Crusted Chicken with Basil Pesto and Apple wrapped in Prosciutto.
During dinner Jordan and Karl spoke about their efforts to select the right wines for pairing and background about the food selection. Karl recalled that his family often ate rutabagas when he was a child and that later in life he discovered smoked collard greens during his travels in the South -- these memories and others influenced his menu. Spencer Cruse, the Los Angeles/Central Coast District Manager for Kobrand Corporation and Matthew Lapides, Account Manager for The Estates Group shared additional information about Cakebread Cellars wines. 
The Five Course Dinner began with a spot-on pairing of Cakebread’s 2013 Chardonnay, Napa Valley and Charred Scallop & Cold Smoked Hamachi with Almond & Garlic Gazpacho, Chervil, Chive Pearls, Calabrian Chili Oil, and a colorful Micro Orchid.
The subtle spice with an accumulating kick, and smoky flavors of the scallop and hamachi went very well with the Chardonnay’s apple, melon, pear and oak spice in the nose, plus the flavors of honeydew melon, and mineral and a spicy oak finish. This spicy dish was a great way to begin the meal, but it could have been a complete and satisfying meal by itself with a larger serving.
Some Pinot Noir fans prefer a large bowl wine glass to bring out the wine’s flavors, while others believe that the wine is what really matters, not the wine glass. And then again, if you are lining up four wine glasses to taste four different wine styles it may be better to use a uniform wine glass style. The Cakebread 2014 Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Two Creeks Vineyards was served in the same type of glass as the other wines and it was still impressive in both aroma and taste. The “Two Creeks Vineyards” refers to a blend of grapes from the Annahala and Apple Barn estate vineyards in the Anderson Valley of Mendocino County. 
The second course accompanying the Pinot Noir showcased a Seared La Bella Farms Duck Breast with Duck Confit & Sweet Potato Tempura Roll, Thai Basil Beurre Blanc, Charred Iceberg, and Thai Chili Gastrique. The rich, full-bodied Pinot Noir, complemented the duck breast and tempura roll perfectly with its aromas of berry and cherry plus flavors of black cherry and plum with a long spicy finish.
The Blanquette De Veau combined Wisconsin Veal Baked in a Sweet Onion with Sundried Tomatoes and English Peas in a Creamy Cognac Sauce topped with Gruyere and Served with Local Asparagus & Heirloom Carrots.  The sweet onion container cleverly appeared to be a solid food rather than a stew.
Cakebread’s 2012 Merlot, Napa Valley had a black cherry nose and hint of toasty oak. It stood up beautifully to the rich flavors of the veal and cognac sauce. The wine was rich and juicy with dark cherry, plum and blackcurrant flavors supported by big tannins and balanced acidity. Not to be overlooked were the local asparagus and heirloom carrots—both very tasty and served in a stylish coat of arms crossed swords arrangement over the Blanquette De Veau. This third course pairing of wine and food was the best! Until the fourth course was served …
The final pairing of Cakebread 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley with Oak Grilled Prime Dry Aged Rib-Eye was excellent, especially for those who like smoky flavors. The aromas of dark cherry, black fig and scent of oak toast plus flavors of blackberry, boysenberry and fig with a hint of dark chocolate were a perfect match with the last dish. The accompanying Beef Cheek & Smoked Collard Green Ravioli were a nice contrast to each other and the Rutabaga & Carrot Purée made a very flavorful base. The Roasted Shallot & Bourbon Sauce on top of the Oak Grilled Prime Dry Aged Rib-Eye with the Cabernet Sauvignon was a perfect example of the genius behind the pairing. 
As club member Dr. Ed Pope commented, “This is great with the smoky flavors in both the smoked collard green ravioli and the cab!”
The Pistachio Torte with Browned Butter Pistachio Jaconde, Beet Root Gelee, Chocolate Panna Cotta, and Meringue Matchsticks deliciously concluded the five-course dinner. Not only was it just the right amount of chocolate, it was the most decorative arrangement of the night!  Coffee was served with this course.
Attending a dinner like this one underscores North Ranch Country Club as an outstanding venue for private dining or larger events. Facing mountains to the north, the club has some of the best views in Westlake Village. 
Members enjoy the club’s warm atmosphere, five-star dining and exceptional wine program. Club management has reached their goal of being an ultimate wine and dine experience with one of the best wine programs in the nation.

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