Deep In The Wine Glass of Texas … Culinaria 2014′s Becker Wine Dinner at Francesca’s at the La Cantera Hill Country Resort

There are times my line of work when I am required to work overtime, late into the evening, demanding my full attention and expertise … last week was one of those times.

But in my line of work, I absolutely do not mind having to work overtime 😉

I’m sure you wouldn’t either if ‘overtime’ involved a four course dinner and at the lovely Francesca’s at the La Cantera Hill Country Resort and paired with wines from the Texas Hill Country’s Becker Vineyards and Moniker Wine Estates of California’s Mendocino County.

I decided reinforcements were necessary for this type of overtime work, so I called in my entourage. I needed their commentary, albeit snarky and humor-filled most of the time, it’s crucial and oh so helpful.

Meet my entourage! (top photos)
Ramon & Gloria Barretto aka “The Rentals” & John Montoya aka “John Fabulous”

Culinaria Festival Week 2014: Becker Wine Dinner at Francesca's 1

As we arrived, we were invited to enjoy two Becker Vineyards wines and amuse-bouches on the balcony of the restaurant. The sun shining brightly, the rolling hills of the hill country sprinkled with trees, the delightful company … how incredible it was!

The wine options were the 2013 Becker Vineyards Rose Provencal made from the Mourvedre grape and the 2012 Becker Vineyards Grenache Reserve, which was more of a super dark rose with how light and refreshing it was, it would be beautiful served a little chilled.

Both wines paired with the amuse-bouches of a chilled gazpacho of sweet tomato, cucumber, and habanero and a baby endive filled with blackberries, sorrel, raspberry vinaigrette, and candied pecans. The amuse-bouches and the wine pairings were so delicious I forgot to take a photo of them 🙁 (but really :D).

Once we were invited to take our seats inside, it was difficult to do more that admire the view from the windows Francesca’s at the La Cantera Hill Country Resort … it was simply breathtaking! A must see! Once I was able to divert my attention to the table, this is what greeted me … it said, “Gird your loins Ceci, yummy food and amaze wine is near. Brace yourself.”

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Although this was called the Becker Vineyards Dinner of Culinaria Festival Week 2014, we had the unique experience to have a second winery, Moniker Wine Estates, there to share the spotlight and offer us two takes on possible wine pairings with the dinner courses.

Our first course started out with a delightfully daring choice of Smoked Muscovy Duck, compressed grapes and peaches, mache salad, shaved manchego, with a white grape vinaigrette. To pair with this duck salad we had the the 2012 Becker Vineyards Cabernet Franc Reserve & the 2012 Moniker Wine Estates Pinot Noir.

The Pinot Noir paired nicely with the fruits, manchego cheese, and dressing on this salad due to the light fruity nature of both, while the Cabernet Franc’s desert cactus and barn like aromas really highlighted the rustic and smoky spices of the duck and the green flavors of the mache salad. For me though, the Becker Cabernet Franc won by a nose, but then again I am sucker for barnyard, earthy, rustic wines … I am a true Texan 😉

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If you thought duck was a daring start, check out the second course …  grilled octopus salad, with sweet yellow corn, haricot verts, cantaloupe, and lemongrass! Yeehaw! Now that is a brave choice! Not many people are comfortable with eating Ursula from The Little Mermaid, but this is one grilling of an octopus that anyone would be a-ok to eat! All I have to say is Brava Executive Chef Annie Hongkham, Brava! You pulled that daring choice off amazingly!

This dish was served with pairings of the 2012 Becker Vineyards Viognier & the 2012 Moniker Wine Estates Chardonnay. The Becker Viognier with all its beautiful aromatics was a wonderful match for the cantaloupe and lemongrass, while the Moniker Chardonnay and its blend of toasty apple and crisp minerality was a just the wine to pair with the delicate aromas of the grilled octopus and the minerality and crispness of the haricot verts.

In the end, I thought the Moniker Chardonnay was the slightly better match, but I had to get picky because they were both brilliant with the dish. My being picky, was that I felt the Chardonnay let the octopus express itself a little easier. The Viognier, being an aromatic varietal, just slightly overpowered the octopus’ delicacy. But like I said, that was me being picky to pick the winner, they both were excellent pairings.

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Needless to say, the social lubrication, aka the wine was beginning to kick in and fun conversation and good laughs filled the air. To round out the main entree we were served petit filet, sous vide shallots, kimchee spring onions, pee wee potatoes, and pan jus. Cutting the petit filets was like cutting a stick of butter with a hot knife and the spices on this dish danced on the palate.

Paired with this dish were two Cabernet Sauvignons, the 2009 Becker Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve & the 2011 Moniker Wine Estates Cabernet Sauvignon. For me, this round was a tie. The Moniker Cabernet Sauvignon had these gorgeous tannins that married well with the filet, while the Becker Cabernet Sauvignon was spot on with the kimchee and pan jus flavors. I kept going back and forth trying to pick the winner, but it was impossible.

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Now for those of you who know me, or have read my bio, you know how much I abhor chocolate. I despise it. It is the bane of my existence. Additionally, I was born with the smallest sweet tooth in the world. So while dessert or sweet things are not my high point, I will say that the wine served with this dish, the 2012 Becker Vineyards “Clementine” Late Harvest Viognier, was a rather nicely made sweet wine.

Made from Viognier grapes that were left on the vine for a longer-than-usual time, this late harvest wine had a splendid level of acidity that cleaned up the sweetness of the wine, preventing it from becoming cloying. And as for the dessert, everyone at my table said it was “YUMMMM!” and it was even “YUMMMIER!” with the wine pairing.

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Oh vinous overtime, how I love thee! And after heavily tasting our way through the nine wines of the evening, and being delirous from the deliciousness of the dishes, the vinous and foodie spirit started to take hold of us …

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Thank you Culinaria for putting on the year round festivities of good food, good drink, good company, and all for a good cause. Thank you to Executive Chef Annie Hongkham at Francesca’s La Cantera Hill Country Resort for the super tasty and bold dishes. Thank you to Resort Sommelier Steven Krueger for pairing these delicious wines with the meal and for your love and support of Texas Wines. Thank you Becker Vineyards and Moniker Wine Estates for the lovely array of your vinous creations. And thank you to the hard working, behind-the-scenes people that made this spectacular dinner happen.



Vinously Speaking & Vinously Yours,

The Ceci Sipper