Learning about wine is just as much fun as kicking back with your favorite glass at the end of your day. It’s easy to grab the same bottles every time. It’s much more fulfilling to take a few risks and foray into new and different wine regions to explore something you’ve never heard of. In previous articles I have discussed various ways to expand your wine knowledge, from developing a relationship with your local wine vendor, to taking a class or two, and even attending one of the amazing Wine & Food festivals in your region. This week, I am going to clue you in to one of the most pleasurable ways to learn about wine: the co-hosted restaurant and wine distributor Wine Dinner.
Wine dinners have come into the spotlight in the last decade or so as a great way to learn about food and wine focused on a specific cuisine, wine region, or even winery. In the Denver Metropolitan area, you can find a wine dinner scheduled just about every night of the week. Chic restaurants such as Frasca Food & Wine in Boulder, Bistro Vendome on Larimer and the Kitchen on Wazee in Denver, or Indulge Wine Bar in Highlands Ranch are legendary for their expertly executed wine dinners.
Every autumn, The Hospitality, Tourism and Events Department of Metropolitan State University hosts an affordable wine and food focused, learning opportunity, for its wine students, in the form of a classic wine dinner. This year, the event took place at 1515 Restaurant, an iconic gem specializing in modern American cuisine, located on Market Street in LoDo. This past Tuesday evening, more than 80 faculty, students, alumni, and friends turned out to feast on the specially crafted dishes of Chef Jon Brown and owner Gene Tang paired with strategically selected wines offered by wine distributor, RNDC. Chef Brown created a menu specifically for the event inspired by the wine regions of northern Italy.
The evening started with a crunchy soft shell crab tempura, tangy fennel slaw, compressed watermelon infused with peach schnapps drizzled with a delicate basil syrup paired with smoky and crisp 2010 Michele Chiarlo ”Le Marne” Gavi. The second course was an Italian pork roulade with spinach, nutmeg, ricotta, crusted pecans and a tangy San Marzano tomato sauce which was paired with a very traditional, crisp and aromatic 2010 Borgo Conventi Pinot Grigio from Collio. The main course for the evening was a succulent Brasato al Barolo; a braised short rib dish with rosemary and truffle polenta, spinach with candied bacon demi which was offered with the juicy yet complex 2010 Pio Cesare Barbara d’Alba. And finally, the dessert course was a festive Carnival Tasting of Cracker Jack gelato, white chocolate funnel cake, and cherry cotton candy served with a classic peaches and cream 2011 Ruffino Moscato d’Asti.
Instead of sitting with other faculty, I decided to sit with a few of my students. While the students were enjoying, what was for many of them, their first fine dining experience, the faculty and wine company representatives visited their tables to discuss and critique each dish, wine, and pairing. Although, slow to offer their opinions on the first course, wine as a natural social lubricant worked its magic and by the second course opinions, anecdotes, tasting notes, and evaluations were free flowing. The students and their friends and family were joyously discussing the finer points of wine and food pairing, teaching one another about the wines or the food preparations. Bantering about aromas and mouth feel, and how certain aspects of each dish affected the wine and vice versa. By the end of the evening, everyone was satisfied, both in their gastronomic and in philosophical senses. Of the courses, the first and main course were thought to have offered the best pairings, but everyone raved about the dessert tray.
The Metropolitan State University and 1515 Restaurant wine dinner was an amazing value at just $48. Wine dinners are easy to find and can range in price from $40 to $300 depending on the restaurant and the wines to be presented. Grab your love and your friends and treat yourself to this fun and educational wine experience. You won’t be sorry you did. And, who knows, you just might find a new wine to kick back with at the end of your day.
photos: the author and open table