Last week a much-needed rain storm pummeled Santa Clarita, but the day of the much-anticipated Opolo Wine Pairing Dinner at Salt Creek Valencia, it was a beautiful day. And the patio at Salt Creek screams out for events! Perfect for a group of, I don’t know, maybe 60, to mingle, hear a speaker, have their own private bar, or like this, play host to the wine lovers of Santa Clarita.
For this event Chef Ignacio Munoz had created a four course dinner that I teased about in an earlier post – Opolo Wine Pairing Dinner: Lobster, Duck, Steak, and Oh My, Chocolate Filled Beignets! Not to mention ’12 Albarino, ’11 Grand Rouge, ’11 Petite Sirah and ’12 Mountain Zinfandel! Meet me there! – so I was a little anxious to get started.
I met my table mates and began to enjoy a sparkling wine that was not from Opolo: Wycliff. According to Jennifer Chadwick, Director of Sales and Marketing, Wycliff is the same sparkling wine served for their Sunday brunch. However, what most people don’t know is that it is an ingredient in their Crostini as well. And, according to Jennifer, if said Crostini is made with any other sparkling wine it’s not nearly as good.
So I took my sparkling starter and walked around the room, recognizing a few of the guests: Steve and Julie Sturgeon, Marlee Lauffer and Laine Hedwell, David and Dr. Kimberly Rosen, Claudia Sheridan, Chell Amsler, Jennifer Chadwick, Camille Demasio, Jason Crawford, Don and Joyce Woodmansee, Zee and Linda Falahat, Mike and Brenda Nielson, and Opolo winery co-owner David Nichols.
“It’s my first time here and based on this first course I will be back.” began Nichols as the first course of Lobster Flatbread Thermidor was being served. Nichols said that Opolo’s first vintage was in 1999 and of their 300 acres some of their fruit tonnage ends up in Napa. Half of what they make is Zinfandel, and this year they were adding 3 new Vineyard Select Zins. The rest of the wines are Cabs, Bordeaux blends, Rhone blends and several varietals. Nichols said, “Basically, if there is a grape – we make wine with it.”
If you visit the tasting room, according to Nichols, you will be faced with dozens of wines to try. And if that doesn’t send you, the staff will question you to find exactly the wine that you will like.
Lobster Flatbread Thermidor
2012 Opolo Albarino: Peach, apple, lemon and wet cement in both aroma and taste (except for the cement!) with the addition of some kiwi on the back palate. Great as a palate cleanser between lobster bites.
From Nichols: From the Edna Valley, and not Opolo grapes, this Albarino is one of four made from that section of the valley, all by different wineries, and each one tastes different.
Smoked Duck Breast Salad
2011 Opolo Grande Rouge: Mushroom, pepper, raspberry, cigar, blueberry on the nose, with nuances of the same dark berries and fig in the mouth. The blood orange in the salad perfectly accompanied the fruit in the wine.
From Nichols: This Grande Rouge is a blend of Counoise, Grenache and Petite Sirah.
Peppercorn New York Steak
2011 Opolo Petite Sirah: My favorite in the tasting with aromas of black cherry, black pepper, and menthol on the nose with the addition of dark chocolate in the taste. The sautéed kale in the salad was difficult for some to enjoy with the wine, but I found the combination of meat/potato/kale all together on my fork paired very well.
From Nichols: There is nothing small about this wine, it is a big, dark wine and had the most tannins of what we drank.
Chocolate Filled Beignets
2012 Opolo Mountain Zinfandel: Port-like qualities in both the aroma and flavor, slightly sweet and also astringent. Loved the warm chocolate-filled beignets, along with Stilton blue cheese and the wine berry sorbet; and how all three softened the Zin and brought out an earthier semi-sweetness in the wine.
From Nichols: With grape clusters 8 times bigger than the Merlot this had 16.5% alcohol, some residual sugar and is considered to be one of their bigger Zins.
I did get a chance to check in with a couple of people enjoying the dinner. Zee Falahat wanted me to share that he found the pairing “Exceptional” and Joyce Woodmansee had a “Great time. Loved the Opolo wines.”
The Chef’s End
The buzz in the room was all about the wine and the food, duh, but with special emphasis on the food pairing. The food on its own was remarkable, but unlike other wine dinners where guest are left to wonder if the chef actually sampled the wine with the menu, the consensus this night was that Chef Ignacio Munoz had sampled plenty. I asked Jennifer Chadwick if he would come out so people could meet him. He’s very shy, she said, and he got as far as the first table when I led the room in a round of applause, as I called out, “Our chef is here!”