Lunch at De Tierra in Monterey
When we travel for our reports, we almost always have at least one outstanding food and wine experience. We recently traveled to Monterey to become better acquainted with the diverse AVAs, winemakers, and wines of the region in preparation for our upcoming report on The Wines of Monterey and its AVAs. We tried a couple restaurants in Carmel where the food was not quite up to the wine. We tried a hole in the wall Mexican take away in Gonzalez and fell in love with their carnitas, but there was no wine. Our best Monterey food and wine experience turned out to be a superbly crafted food and wine pairing at the De Tierra winery organized by Kathleen Robison and Matthew "Gus" Gustat. We enjoyed the meal with Tom Russell, owner (pictured here), and Ian Brand, winemaker. Tom’s estate vineyards are farmed organically.
De Tierra is located just 5 miles from the Pacific in an area called Corral de Tierra, a high valley situated between the Santa Lucia Highlands to the east and the Carmel Valley to the west. Tom planted the vineyards in 1998 to Pinot Noir (cuttings from Gary Pisoni’s vineyard), Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Chardonnay. Later on, he planted Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir at the Silacci Vineyard north of the Santa Lucia Highlands. De Tierra also purchases some fruit, mostly from Coastview in the Gavilans north of Chalone and Sargenti and Chula Viña, also located in the foothills of the Gavilan Mountains.
Prior to the meal Kathleen served Grilled Medjool Dates. These were dates stuffed with Gorgonzola and served warm. It was a stimulating appetizer designed to waken the palate.
The meal started off with a Shrimp Couscous Medley with Tomato Pesto, served with the De Tierra 2010 Pinot Gris from the Silacci Vineyard. The combination was divine. This was followed by our favorite dish, Grilled Quail Salad with Bourbon-Orange-Mustard Sauce, which paired beautifully with the 2009 Vindegard Chardonnay, which is made from a blend of Sargenti and estate fruit. Vindegard is the name given to the Star Wars type character (pictured here) that stands on the balcony of the winery to protect it from all foes (armed, naturally, with an empty wine bottle). We also took the opportunity to taste two other De Tierra Chardonnays—the 2007 Coastview Chardonnay and the 2008 Estate Chardonnay. Our favorite was the Vindegard.
The final course was Beef Short Ribs with Polenta Wedge and Ragu of Braised Vegetables, which we tried with several De Tierra red wines—the 2007 Pinot Noir, the 2007 Pinot Noir Silacci Vineyard, the 2006 Estate Merlot, the 2006 Syrah, the 2007 The Puzzler, and the 2008 Five by Five Bordeaux Blend made from Coastview fruit. Our favorite wine was the Silacci Pinot Noir, but the Five by Five paired best with the dish.
Our full reviews of the De Tierra wines will be published in the upcoming Report #29 The Wines of Monterey and its AVAs.