Perlis Picks: Thelma and Luis Café / Reyes Winery Wine Pairing Dinner

Contributing Editor Michael Perlis
Contributing Editor Michael Perlis

Admittedly, for me, the wine selection is the most important part of my evening [sometimes lunchtime] meal. With my penchant for BYOB, I’ve usually picked the wine well in advance of my entrée. Fortunately, I am convinced that my beloved Zinfandels and California Rhones go well with any cuisine.

The only problem with this approach is that one misses the magic that can occur when proper care and effort are put into matching the flavors of the food with the flavors of the wine.

A perfect example of this was the winemaker dinner held recently at the new Thelma and Luis Café, when Chef Luis Diaz matched his cuisine with the local wines from Reyes Winery.

Most SCV residents are familiar with Thelma’s Gourmet Café [formerly Thelma’s Morning Café] on Copperhill Drive, but I think many people found it to be somewhat off the beaten path. Well, there is no excuse for that any more, as Chef Luis and his wife Thelma have taken their considerable talents and opened Thelma and Luis Café right in the heart of Santa Clarita on Town Center Drive.

Even though they only opened recently [I personally think a restaurant needs a couple of months to get their act together], Chef Luis took on the challenge of putting together a dinner showcasing his cuisine matched with the wines of his friend, Robert Reyes.

Here is the menu from that evening:
First Course: Causa potato cake with tuna tartar and wasabi caviar paired with Reyes 2010 Chardonnay.

Second Course: Crispy skin wild king salmon with a fresh cucumber salad in a zinfandel ginger citrus glaze that is paired with Reyes 2011 Zinfandel.

Third Course: Grilled filet mignon with a Gorgonzola cheese sauce, sautéed Broccolini & zucchini ribbons with a blueberry cabernet sauvignon sauce, paired with Reyes 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Fourth Course: Mango crepes and Reyes White Delight, a white port-styled wine.

My own theory on wine pairing is that the food and the wine should either provide a contrast to each other, or have an appropriate complementary ingredient.

In this case, the first course was an excellent example of contrasting flavors, with the Chardonnay cutting through the slight heat of the wasabi caviar. An added treat was being able to sample the recently released 2011 Chardonnay – with less bottle age on it, it was a little less complex but had more lively fruit. Both went very well with this course.

The second and third courses both had sauces that included the paired wines, which is a great way to ensure complementary flavors. Both courses were outstanding, but I must admit that even though Zinfandel is one of my favorites [check out my email address], Robert’s Cabernet is always the star of the show for me.

Finally, the dessert was definitely swoon-worthy on its own, but the pairing took it to another level.  The Reyes Winery White Delight, a rare port-styled wine, was a perfect end to the meal.

Before each course, Robert introduced the wines to a packed house, and Reyes Winery Marketing and Sales Director Beth Heiserman explained the dishes. Chef Luis visited all the tables and was given a rousing round of applause at the end of the meal.

This kind of event can be risky, especially for such a young restaurant, but Chef Luis and his staff were up to the task, and the pairing of the Thelma and Luis food with the Reyes Winery wines proved that the whole can be greater than the sum of the parts.

Thelma and Luis Cafe , 24250 Town Center Dr. Suite 180, 661-286-2162.

Reyes Winery, 10262 Sierra Highway, Agua Dulce, 661-268-1865

Michael Perlis has been pursuing his passion for wine for more than 25 years. He has had the good fortune of having numerous mentors to show him the way, as well as a wonderful wife who encourages him and shares his interest. After a couple of decades of learning about wine, attending events, visiting wineries and vineyards, and tasting as much wine as he possibly could, he had the amazing luck to meet Eve Bushman. Now, as Contributing Editor for Eve’s Wine 101, he does his best to bring as much information as possible about wine to Eve’s Wine 101 faithful readers. (2013 Update: Eve and Michael announced Eve Wine 101 Consulting. Info is here: