Darioush delights at Encinitas-based Firefly

The latest creation at Firefly Grill and Wine Bar in Encinitas was a masterpiece of fine dining and premium wine pairing with Darioush Winery and Vineyard of Napa Valley. I applaud owner Jim Barrasso and Executive Chef Aaron Daily for their wine-first policy.
The two, in planning a paired menu, spend an extraordinary amount of time thoroughly examining the properties of each wine selection. Then they carefully craft a menu that will exalt each wine selection, enabling the guests to understand the capabilities of the wines chosen.
On the evening of the Darioush event, a spiced date leg of lamb with roasted eggplant, lentils and mint were the compliment to the Darioush 2005 Signature Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is considered best of breed at this renowned estate on the Silverado Trail in Napa. It is a subtle blend of 85 percent Cab, 10 percent Merlot and a hint of Petite Verdot and Malbec.
Ryan Norton from the winery also brought along a 2007 Signature Viognier from Darioush which paired to perfection with the passed around appetizers. “This is a California twist to a Rhone Valley French grape with tropical notes, lush and balanced acidity,” he said. “Red wine lovers go for this white with its complexity and ability to fit in with a lot of menu selections.”
Darioush is owned by Darioush Khaledi who comes from the cradle of wines, the middle east. Other wines that impressed included a 2006 Signature Chardonnay Caravan 2005 Shiraz and a Signature 2005 Merlot. Darioush is the kind of winery you can get close to. Small and dedicated to the highest standards, it embraces the passion of Napa Valley. Learn more by visiting www.darioush.com.
The next Firefly wine event will be the Foxen Vineyards event at 6:30 p.m. March 4. Jim and Aaron have released the menu and the main course will be a plum and red wine braised short rib, complimenting a Foxen “Range 30 West” blend.
Jim also presides over occasional chef’s cooking classes and at 6 p.m. March 3 he will teach at Kitchen Witch in Encinitas. Proper food and wine pairing will highlight the evening. Cost is $59. Call (760) 635-1066 or visit www.fireflygrillandbar.com for details.
Giant Wines from the Woods of Washington
Up in the great northwest, the wines keep getting better. Washington is the second largest appellation in the nation with more than 30,000 acres and 500 wineries, though far less than No. 1, California. Most all grapes are grown in Eastern Washington, many miles from important destination wineries near Seattle like Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia Crest. In places like Walla Walla, Yakima and the Columbia Valley, the sun shines 17 hours a day, producing a short
but intense growing
season. The principle
grapes are Chardonnay, Merlot, Riesling Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
I have always liked Washington’s Cabs, blends and Merlots, kings of the red wine world.
But let me call your attention to the big, bold Syrahs coming out of the state. The 2,830 acres devoted to this Rhone grape is in the middle of the state’s acreage allocation, but it has increased substantially. Washington Syrahs are big, bold and adventurous with an intense blueberry flavor. You get a big bang for the buck with most Washington Syrahs, but I would caution against too much alcohol in some, so check the label. Anything over 15 percent I would pass on. Some favorites include Dunham Cellars 2004, L’Ecole 2005, DiStefano 2005, Cayuse 2005. For more, search www.washingtonwine.org.

Wine Bytes
— The laugh hit “Joey & Maria’s Comedy Italian Wedding” will come to Wilson Creek Winery in Temecula on March 7. Doors open at 6 p.m. and proceeds will benefit an area non profit. Champagne reception, auction and Italian dinner included. Tickets are $80 per person. Audience participation encouraged! Visit www.wilsoncreekwinery.com or call (951) 699-WINE.
— North County Wine Company in San Marcos presents Great Cabernet at its tasting on Feb. 27 from 5 to 8 p.m. Includes Simi, Cedar Knolls and Cakebread.The cost is $25 each. Call (760) 744-2119.
— Holiday Wine Cellars in Escondido brings in Tricia Record of Levendi Winery of Napa Valley to host a Levendi tasting from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. March 5. Cost is $15 per person. Call (760) 745-1200 for more.
— Loews Coronado has its first “Farmers, Foragers and Fishermen” wine dinner on March 5 at Mistral Restaurant. Eric Brandt or Brandt Beef will appear and speak about the natural beef process. Hours are 7 to 9 p.m. with a cost of $48. Call Michael Graichen at (619) 424-4000, ext. 4000 for RSVPs.

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