A Special Edition! “Lost Files” Pairing Fork & Vine with Solaro Estate Wines

By Oscar Adrián Montes Iga, Certified Executive Chef of Wine Arts; Editor, Texas Wine & Trail

The Texas Two Taste column is a periodical editorial with intent to discover eateries around Texas where one can uncork and enjoy wines made across the Lone Star State, bringing wine & food pairings closer to you, two tastes at a time.

Well, the Texas Two Taste editorial from July 2014 featured oddly enough as a special edition of not just one or two pairings, but instead a full course meal – and did we mention it was paired with Beer!? So, as homage to the jealousy of my memories, I decided to write up the Texas Two Taste “Lost Files” Special Edition featuring another full course meal, this time, Texas wine style of course.

On the 1st of August, 2014, if you were driving in the Hill Country, you realized it was a beautiful summer day. Not over the top hot temperatures or humidity, just perfect breeze for an al fresco dining experience in a beautiful winery nestled in some rolling hills. Solaro Estate Winery, located just north of Dripping Springs, is one of only a handful of wineries in the vicinity, and they have fast made a name for themselves, catering not only to the Austin/Hill Country area, but also hosting tastings in their Houston location. Solaro Estate was our host for the evening, and our friends from Fork & Vine catered the fabulous dinner for a bunch of thirsty and hungry audience.


The Food   

Chef Camden Stuerzenberger of Fork & Vine, Innovative “New American” cuisine, Austin, TX.  Now Open! 3010 West Anderson Lane, Suite D – 78757; 512.489.7000 Website

The Booze

Daniel Dillon, Sommelier of Solaro Estate Winery – The Art of Science in Winemaking

Five generations of Texas history and a long family tradition of winemaking, Dripping Springs, TX. Website

The Guinea Pigs

Senior Wine Instructor, Daniel Kelada, MC, International Wine & Spirits Guild – Texas Wine Journal.

Texas Wine Negociant Craig Mayer, President at Vinovium Partners.

Photographer & Wine Judge Oscar A. Montes Iga, MC; Wine & Food Contributing Editor of the Texas Wine & Trail Magazine.

Let the Pairing begin!

Solaro Estate Texas Fork and Vine Dinner 5So, the three amigos drive up to the winery’s property as the breeze is waiving the Star Spangled banner in front of us. We arrive to two long tables set outdoors just outside the tasting room, overlooking part of the estate’s vineyards. White linen makes glassware sparkle even more as the sun rests comfortably just behind the tasting room, as the evening turns into night all guests are seated comfortably enjoying the anticipation of dishes yet to come.

Chef Camden goes through a presentation of his inspiration for not just the dishes, but also about his cooking philosophy that will be showcased in the brick and mortar Fork & Vine scheduled to open Fall 2014 – it actually opened 1st week of November, so if you haven’t already been, you have been missing out…but good news, here’s a preview of what you could expect once you get there. Then our host Sommelier Dillon briefly explained to guests the Solaro philosophy of winemaking, including information on focusing on Italian and other Mediterranean varietals and styles of winemaking, quite frankly, suitable for our Texas climate.

Solaro Estate Texas Fork and Vine Dinner 6But speeches were cut short as mouths started to salivate. And it is in that spirit that I lose no more time in arriving at the main event – the actual wine and food pairings –

After the hosts’ presentations we dove into our first course, a very refreshing Tuna and Scallop Crudo dressed with Grapefruit, Basil and Serrano pepper, all alongside the Solaro Estate Winery, Texas, Chenin Blanc, 2013 – a lively wine with nice acidity and a creamy mouthfeel, with a hints of guava, yellow apple and vanilla. The bridges between the wine and food were well built, showing a restraint to showcase the seafood, playing along with the sourness of the grapefruit, and elevating the spicy kick just a bit to make you enjoy the breeze.

Solaro Estate Texas Fork and Vine Dinner 4For round two we were served Shrimp & Grits, topped with Green Onion and a Vanilla Beurre Blanc, served with the Solaro Estate Winery, Texas, Chenin Blanc “Barrel Aged” 2013 – sort of like the older brother of the previous Chenin Blanc, it showed a bit more roundness in the palate, and it enhanced a bit of sweeter notes, which went superb with the sauce atop the grits. It really complemented the shrimp well, and it contrasted with the green onion, making it a really fun pairing, but I have to give it to Chef Camden, the grits were the best I have ever had.

For course numero tres the kitchen kicked it up a notch with the heat. We packed a Goat Barbacoa with Pickled Chile, Red Onion and garnished with Cilanto, all paired with Solaro Estate Winery “Miscela Bianco” Texas “Reserve” 2012 – a blended wine with mostly Viognier and finished with Orange Muscat, adding more complex aromatics and sweetness. The Viognier makes this a heavier wine, certainly capable of standing up to a weightier dish, and with strong character, it helps to cut the tinga spice in the barbacoa a bit, but it also helps the flavors linger in the palate for a while. The touch of sweetness in the wine rounds up the pairing, and it plays around fairly well with the pickled chile and red onion.

Solaro Estate Texas Fork and Vine Dinner 7Half way through our meal, we are presented with the fourth course, a Duck Boudin with Mustard and Cabbage slaw, and alongside the Solaro Estate Winery, Texas, Tempranillo, 2010 – a wine that had earthy spicy notes to complement what had been presented in the dish. It was rustic and it had a lot of texture, and the tannins in the Tempranillo worked the floor, while the savory and pungent dish worked the room so to speak. As if they had known each other all along.

On the fifth pairing, a delicate and well executed Short Rib Wellington, with Cheddar Mash and Mushroom Jus was served with Solaro Estate Winery, Texas, Cabernet Sauvignon “Reserve” 2011 – it was also an earthy dish undisputedly, and the wine again worked with the savory components. The cab was silky, and the rich velvety meat melted in our mouths, it was overall a smooth rollercoaster….if such thing exists.

Solaro Estate Texas Fork and Vine Dinner 3And for the closing sixth course we were delighted to have such a simple yet full of flavor combination of a Caramelized Fig atop a Chocolate Biscuit with Lemon Curd, and it was served with Solaro Estate Winery, Texas “Cellar Reserve” Port – an after-dinner or dessert wine on its own right, however, the sweet prune notes on the wine well complemented the chocolate sweetness, and the caramelized fig notes. To also not lie, a handful of these caramelized figs alone would have been just as good of a closer for the meal for myself, and I think my two companions, Daniel and Craig would have agreed.

Chef Camden and Fork & Vine’s General Manager Christopher Diehl, and Sommelier Chris Howell, as well as our host Sommelier Daniel Dillon of Solaro Estate, made final closing remarks thanking everyone for attending, when in truth, we’re all thankful for the brilliant dishes, warm hospitality, and delectable wines offered throughout the evening.

All in all, a couple pounds heavier, and a few wine bottles emptied, we are pleased at the two teams who had joined to showcase what the local culinary arts and oenological fields can come to create together in one vision of harmony and balance for and with the support of the local communities. As a good friend would say, “Pair with flare. Don’t leave your dinner lonely” – whether it’s a 12 course meal aboard a cruise ship, or a German Riesling [or a proper Hefeweizen] with your next bratwurst barbeque – two is better than one.

So I’ll invite you to join us next time for more on Texas wine & food pairings – two tastes at a time in Texas Two Taste!

Oscar Adrián Montes IgaOscar Adrián Montes Iga, MC.

Oscar Adrián is the contributing editor of the Texas Two Taste column, and wine writer for Texas Wine & Trail Magazine.

Oscar was recognized as a Magna Cum Laude after graduating with a specialization in Nutrition, Diet & Health Science. He attended college and finished degrees in Travel & Tourism, Meeting & Events Planning, Food & Beverage and Hospitality Management; Oscar’s background in Food Service and Hospitality started long ago however, as he was part of family-ran restaurants throughout his childhood, but it wasn’t until working at a Texas prime steakhouse in 2005, when he visited a local vineyard for the first time that he discovered a drive for lust of wine & vine – the rest is history in the making.

He has worked in three distinct Texas Hill Country wineries, and has been an essential staff component in wine festivals, seminars and conferences throughout the state involved with major community organizations such are The Wine & Food Foundation of Texas, the Texas Hill Country Wineries Association, the Texas Wine Consortium, the American Wine Society, the French Wine Society and the Society of Wine Educators, and additionally, Oscar is a core Panel Wine Judge member for the Texas Wine Journal.

Oscar is a Certified Sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers, a Certified Specialist of Wine through the Society of Wine Educators, also certified as Executive Chef of Wine Arts and was granted a Guild Wine Master Candidate title with the International Wine & Spirits Guild.

To sum up Oscar, he is a dedicated Texas Scholar, grape hunter and oenophile, foodie and avid ambassador for hospitality, and he takes great joy in sharing his passions with others.

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