The SOMM Journal

August / September 2015

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30 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2015 { experiences } IF ATTENDANCE AT THE JAMES BEARD HOUSE DINNER FOR APRIL'S "Laetitia Wine Celebration" is any indication, California's Central Coast is trending high. The dining room of that venerated incubator of culinary talents was filled to capacity and spilling into the stairwell for a dinner crafted by Chef Christopher Manning, formerly of Thomas Hill Organics Restaurant in Paso Robles, accompanied by wines from Laetitia Vineyard & Winery, grown and made in the coastal appella - tion of California's Arroyo Grande Valley. Seeds for the dinner had been planted 18 months prior when Laetitia's co-owner, Nadia Zilkha, represented Laetitia at the James Beard House for a dinner featuring cuisine from Ken Frank of La Toque in Napa with a selection of Pinot Noirs (including Laetitia's 2012 Whole Cluster Pinot Noir) curated by Karen MacNeil. In company with venerated Pinot Noirs like that of William Selyem, Domaine Carneros, and Kosta Browne, the Laetitia Pinot Noir was the crowned favorite, kindling requests for an all-Laetitia event at JBH in the future. "It's such an honor to be at the James Beard House again," said Zilkha, introducing the dinner. "I think I live on Waverly Place so that I can walk here and walk back," she quipped. "It really makes my life so much easier." Kicking off, Winemaker Eric Hickey gave a quick lesson in Arroyo Grande Valley terroir. "When you think of San Francisco and Los Angeles, we are right in the middle on the coast. And when I say 'on the coast,' I really mean on the coast. When you're standing in the vineyard, you're looking at the ocean. So when you drink Laetitia wines, put yourself on the beach in California, because the ocean is the biggest influence on the wine we're going to have tonight." In the kitchen, Chef Manning executed a thoughtful menu to complement the selection of six Laetitia estate wines while also including personal touches like his signature huckleberries (Manning is originally from Montana) and beluga lentils. Hors d'oeuvres like tuna crudo with osetra caviar, and lemon cream on toasted brioche paired with Laetitia Brut Cuvée ND to pay homage to Laetitia's heritage as an outpost of sparkling wine established by Champagne Deutz in the early 1980s. Other dishes included wildflower honey–glazed rack of spring lamb with cauliflower purée, Kalamata olives, broccoli rabe, roasted red bell peppers, and rosemary glace de viande to show off two of Laetitia's vineyard-designate Pinot Noirs, the 2012 La Colline and 2012 Les Galets. After seven courses, Chef Manning emerged from the kitchen, along with Thomas Hill Organics' owner, Debbie Thomas, to a well-deserved round of applause. "We opened six years ago and for six years we've carried Laetitia wines," said Thomas. "Tonight, I'm so excited to be at the James Beard House with them. Unbelievable." Chef Christopher Manning, formerly of Thomas Hill Organics Restaurant in Paso Robles, prepared a dinner at the James Beard House in NYC. Les Galets is one of two single-vineyard Pinot Noirs featured by Laetitia at the James Beard House. Laetitia's VP Vineyard Operations, Lino Bozzano, spoke to the differences between the winery's two single-vineyard Pinot Noirs. "La Colline is grown on a hillside in an alluvial flow, whereas Les Galets is grown on volcanic ash settlement," he said. "La Colline is a single clone and to me, having a single-clone wine grown on a single site is the ultimate expression of Pinot Noir. Les Galets is a blend of clones and more muscular." The Central Coast Takes Manhattan THE JAMES BEARD HOUSE WELCOMES LAETITIA VINEYARDS AND PASO ROBLES RESTAURANT THOMAS HILL ORGANICS by Jaime Lewis / photos courtesy of The James Beard House

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