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Mirassou Wine Tasting at Stephan Pyles in Dallas

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Recently Andrew Chalk attended a wine event at Stephan Pyles in Dallas. He presents a video (above) and tasting notes (below). What is interesting to me is that Mirassou wines generally retail for $12 to $14 and, according to Mr. Chalk, they performed well with fancier priced food. Chalk talks:

Not only is David Mirassou the sixth generation scion of a winemaking family but he is also one of the most personable wine people you could hope to meet. Since the sale of the Mirassou name to E&J Gallo in 2003, he serves as a representative for the brand. Mirassou comes to Dallas about once a quarter and this week he held a tasting of the latest vintage at Stephan Pyles in downtown Dallas. Before the tasting, I asked him about Mirassou’s winemaking philosophy and current offerings.

Jump for the tasting notes:

The tasting paired a Mirassou wine with a course from Stephan Pyles Executive Chef Matt McCallister. That meant we only got seven courses. I’m using some Greek budget math here but the first course in my count was actually an amuse bouche: Cured hake with Caviar and Confit Pine Nuts and Balsamic Jelly. First courses should have a support group. When you ask people “what was your favorite course?” only the very sober and the very alert can come back with the first course of the night. Usually it is the dessert (the last course) which garners comments like to die for… (yes, you will). As you have probably guessed, I think a good case can be made for this one.

Cured hake with Caviar and Confit Pine Nuts and Balsamic Jelly

Can you see the square section in front of the caviar? That is the balsamic jelly. I gently moved it away from the fish eggs and put it in my mouth. It spontaneously melted with balsamic flavors exploding in all directions like a living organism responding to being touched. Very ingenious. The whole dish, in fact, is worth requesting as an aperitif if you don’t see it on the regular menu. Who ever crafted this combination of textures and flavors had a deft hand in the bouche amusing department.

Accompanying it was 2008 Mirassou Pinot Grigio California with its nose of grapefruit and wine gums and its taste of cantaloupe. This wine is made from Monterey County and Lodi fruit. My striking memory of it is how unobjectionable it was. We had quaffed it in advance of the meal as a pre-prandial. Now it accompanied the amuse bouche. It worked equally well with either and one could conceive of all kind of dishes that it would go with. It didn’t need more ageing, it was fine just now. It didn’t require any kind of special mental concession (such as “well, this region is colder than absolute zero in July so you have to allow for that” or ”the vineyards were recently attacked by the sharpshooter moth armed with automatic weapons, so aromas may be challenging”). With no excuses this wine could be served at a party and 99% of the attendees would be making voice memos of the name on their iPhones with serious plans to buy it. The phrase ‘the wine incorporates the wine maker’s personality’ is much overused, but when applied to Mirassou and David Mirassou it is apposite. David’s easygoing style and gregariousness show in this wine and, as I found out, Mirassou’s wines in general.

The first listed course of the night was Sea Scallop “Migas” with Spring Pea Emulsion and Chorizo. This was a strong alternative presentation of scallops.

The green pea emulsion was rich with the flavor of peas and the chorizo added a piquant tang.

The chorizo is actually worth a double mention. Someone needs to interview Stephan Pyles for his thoughts on chorizo. It gets star billing at both Samar and Stephan Pyles. In every case the ‘hinge’ makes the dish work rather than the main subject. I suspect it is one of his favorite ingredients.

This pairing illustrated the point above about harmony. The matched wine was 2008 Mirassou Sauvignon Blanc, California (from Monterey and Lake County fruit). It had acid, but not in excess. Same for the herbal and green apple aromas. A citrusy component in the mouth, but not in excess. Overall, a more approachable Sauvignon Blanc than those New Zealanders that do for newbie palates what the Marquis de Sade did for convent enrollment. A more fruit-driven Sauvignon Blanc than those Sancerres from France that remind you that when they claim to have gout de terre, it really is gravel.

The ‘Big Dog’ white came next. The best selling white grape in the country, Chardonnay, was represented by the 2008 Mirassou Chardonnay, California. David describes the style in the video but my notes referred to a nose with hits of juniper berries, a bit like a Gin and Tonic. The taste was citrusy and had a good fruit-acid balance. The lack of a strong oak dimension may make this the anti-chardonnay. This wine was a natural match with Butter Poached Lobster with Corn Milk-Green Chile Custard, Hearts of Palm and Black Garlic Cream. Lobster is one protein that really shows well when cooked sous vide and McCallister gave a master class in the technique tonight. The sweet flavors were intense and the texture retained an al dente firmness that is so easy to lose with this crustacean.

On to the reds, and Mirassou’s best selling wine, the 2008 Mirassou Pinot Noir, California. The personality was of a New World Pinot Noir with a nose of red fruit, a mouthful of chewy, seductive dark cherry and cherry stone flavors.  At about $12 this wine is a tremendous value. It was served with Sous Vide Pork Tenderloin with Masa Cake and Texas Strawberry-Pasilla Gastrique.

Sous Vide Pork Tenderloin with Masa Cake and Texas Strawberry-Pasilla Gastrique.

The distinctive earthy-doughy flavor of masa stood up well in this mix and those greens came from Tom Spicer’s F.M. 1410.

Next was the 2007 Mirassou Merlot, California made from Paso Robles and Lodi fruit. This featured merlot fruit taste with soft tannins and a touch of sweetness in the mouth. It accompanied Foie Gras “Forest” with Shaved Chipotle Brioche and Caramelized Figs. Any chef who pairs foie gras with something outside the sweet dessert wine category is taking a risk, but here the sweetness in the wine complemented the sweetness from the figs in the dish.

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We still had a Big Dog red to cover. The 2007 Mirassou Cabernet Sauvignon, California was served with Cherry Salsita-Stuffed Wagyu Shortrib with Dallas Goat Cheese-Chimichurri. The wine had a nose of stewed fruit and enough tannin to give it a backbone in the mouth. Like the preceding Merlot, the fruit was sweet. Also like the Merlot, the fruit hailed from the Paso Robles and Lodi regions of California. The beef was cooked conventionally, rather than by sous vide and that may have accounted for the firm and quite chewy texture. The goat cheese came from The Mozzarella Company.

Last, but not least, the dessert wine, a 2008 Mirassou Riesling, California made from Monterey County, Paso Robles and Santa Barbara fruit (with a little Sylvaner and Pinot Grigio blended in) had a taste of peaches that harmonized well with the Mango-Semolina Croquettes with Coconut-Marcona Almond Sauce. Interestingly, although both wine and food were sweet, neither was extremely sweet. That made these two a good match.

Mirassou wines are widely distributed in Dallas and generally retail for around $12-$14.

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