We recently wrote about a wine dinner at Tam O’Shanter restaurant featuring Carol Shelton Wines that we were unfortunately unable to attend. At the time, we had resolved to do our best to make it to the next wine dinner at The Tam, and that opportunity came sooner than expected when Tam O’Shanter paired up with Thacher Winery of Paso Robles.
Michelle and Sherman Thacher discovered the Kentucky Ranch in what is now the Adelaida AVA of Paso Robles in 2003 when they attended a wedding there. They ended up buying the property soon thereafter and Thacher Winery officially opened in 2008, in time for their fourth harvest. The focus is primarily on Rhone varietals and Zinfandel from a combination of estate and purchased fruit. We’ve tasted and enjoyed the Thacher wines at events but have not yet visited the winery.
It is always an eye-opening and palate-gratifying reminder what a talented executive chef such as The Tam’s JC Salazar can do when using his expertise to create dishes to pair with selected wines. An added bonus was having Tony Quealy, Thacher Winery’s General Manager, available to discuss the wines and the winery.
Here is the menu with our comments in italics:
Lemon Hamachi Crudo – fennel, cucumber, apple-pear, watermelon radish, aguachile, smoked salt paired with 2021 Own Rooted Chenin Blanc – Shell Creek Vineyard, Highlands District, Paso Robles AVA.
First of all, kudos for using Chenin Blanc, a much overlooked grape these days. Even more kudos for using grapes from a vineyard planted in 1972. With a lemon and apricot nose, it was crisp and clean with grapefruit notes. Moderate acidity and body and very well balanced with a medium to long finish. The wine was a perfect accompaniment to the refreshing and complex crudo and was perfectly timed to the hot-day segueing into a pleasantly cool evening.
Lamb, Lavender & Plums – New Zealand Lamb Rack, Romanesco succotash, plum chutney, lavender honey paired with 2019 Constant Variable – Central Coast.
Is there a better pairing with lamb than Rhone varietals? We think not. In this case, the wine was a blend of 37% Grenache, 35% Syrah, 12% Mourvedre, 7% Cinsaut, 7% Counoise and 2% Viognier. Tony referred to this as Thacher’s flagship wine. The deep burgundy/maroon wine presented with dark, ripe stone fruit and a hint of white pepper on the nose. There were spicy notes from the Counoise along with a hint of baking spices. Extremely well balanced in body and acidity with added freshness from the Cinsaut. The mouthfeel was full and the finish was long. All the varietals were barreled separately except for the co-fermented Syrah and Viognier. The richness of the lamb with the chutney and honey proved to be both sweet and savory and this wine helped to bring out these aspects.
Certified Angus NY Strip – potato fondant, glazed Globe carrots, asparagus ribbons, shiitake demi paired with 2018 Original Copy – Adelaida District, Paso Robles AVA.
As lamb pairs with Rhone varietals, beef pairs with Bordeaux varietals. In this case, a blend of 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Petit Verdot and 14% Cabernet Franc combine to make a wine that is deep, dark, rich burgundy in color with aromas of ripe plum. Nicely structured and medium-bodied, with earthy and smoky nuances and a medium to long finish. The bold flavors of the perfectly cooked steak dipped in the demi went hand in hand with the Bordeaux blend.
Olive Oil Cake – macerated cherries, almond brittle, Fosselman’s vanilla ice cream paired with 2020 Working Holiday, Cass Vineyard Red, Paso Robles Geneseo District, Paso Robles AVA.
The dessert was not overly sweet and was delightful with this fruit forward wine from the renowned Cass vineyard on the east side of Paso Robles. A combination of 54% Syrah, 37% Grenache and 9% Mourvedre, this Rhone blend and lively, ripe raspberry on the nose and followed through with the same on the palate. A perfect way to end a perfect dinner, leaving you satisfied and looking forward to the next time.
In addition to greatly enjoying our dinner, we learned a few things about Thacher Winery from GM Tony Quealy. Production is about 5,000 cases, of which about 65% is Estate. Estate growth is being expanded, including plantings of Mencia, a red grape grown in Spain and Portugal, as well as a mixed white field blend. The logo for Thacher Winery is a grasshopper, based on the Thacher family crest going back to Sherman’s English heritage. And shortly after we attended the dinner, we learned that Brenna Hill had been promoted from Cellar Lead to Assistant Winemaker at Thacher.
We want to thank Tam O’Shanter management and staff for an excellent dinner, both in food and service. We have never felt better taken care of. We are looking forward to the next wine dinner to see what imaginative dishes Executive Chef JC will come up with, although we will definitely be revisiting Tam O’Shanter before then. And the Thacher Winery and Vineyard will be on our agenda the next time we are in Paso Robles, one of our absolute favorite stomping grounds.
Thacher Winery & Vineyard
8355 Vineyard Dr, Paso Robles, CA 93446
The Tam O’Shanter Restaurant
2980 Los Feliz Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90039Michael and Karen Perlis have been pursuing their passion for wine for more than 30 years. They have had the good fortune of having numerous mentors to show them the way and after a couple of decades of learning about wine, attending events, visiting wineries and vineyards, and tasting as much wine as they possibly could, they had the amazing luck to meet Eve Bushman. Michael and Karen do their best to bring as much information as possible about wine to Eve’s Wine 101 faithful readers.