On Monday, December 5, wine- and food-lovers gathered for a “Sip & Savor with Wine Pairing Dinner” with the Paul Hobbs Winery at ELWAY’S Downtown in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Denver. The mood was especially high because The Ritz-Carlton, Denver, had just been awarded AAA Five-Diamond status, making it the first hotel in Denver to earn the AAA Five Diamond Award.
This Award is the highest level of the AAA Diamond Ratings System for restaurants and lodgings administered by AAA, or the American Automobile Association. The AAA Five Diamond Award is given to less than 1% of restaurants and lodgings that AAA considers to be the best of the best premier establishments that offer “the ultimate” in quality, service, and amenities. Only three other hotels in Colorado have received the AAA Five Diamond Award: The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch in Beaver Creek (awarded 2005), The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs (awarded 1976), and The Little Nell in Aspen (awarded 1991). The quality of ELWAY’S Downtown’s service, physical space, and elegance contributed to the full experience of the Ritz-Carlton, Denver, which helped it earn the award.
ELWAY’S Downtown’s Five-Diamond service was in evidence at its dinner with the Paul Hobbs Winery. Sommelier Justin Jelinek welcomed diners with a glass of Alma Negra Sparkling Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina. He described wanting to develop a core group of people who attend ELWAY’s wine dinners regularly so there is continuity when the group meets to experience new wine and food. Jelinek introduced Jenifer Freebairn, Director of Sales & Marketing for Paul Hobbs Wines. She described the winemaking technique Paul Hobbs uses that relies on his years of experience growing up on a farm in New York. She said the wines are crafted for subtlety, nuance, and vibrancy. Freebairn described how the style of winemaking required thoughtful farming, since everything is put into the wine: whole clusters, stems and all. If the grapes are not grown well, the stems would add a sharpness or bitterness to the wine.
The courses were introduced by chefs Robert Bogart, Sayre Yazzie, Marco Ugarte, Byron Borel, and James Lee (sushi):
First Course – 2008 Russian River Chardonnay paired with Lobster Three Ways: Apple and Lobster Fritter with Bisque, Vanilla Butter Poached Lobster Claw atop a Yukon Gold Bellini, and Lobster Sushi with Apple and Jalapeño. The wine was outstanding with the first two pairings. Its vanilla, pear, subtle oak, bright minerality, and taste of nutmeg on the finish was rich and golden with the buttery bisque. With the lobster claw the wine became smooth and bright, the vanilla in the food enhancing the vanilla in the wine. The sushi sharpened the wine and the jalapeño dominated the pairing until the apple softened it. This three-way pairing was a wonderful start to the meal.
Second Course – 2008 Russian River Pinot Noir paired with Boar Roulade with Spiced Dark Bread Beer Stuffing and Cherry Gastrique. This vivacious, fruit-forward wine tasted of cherries, spice, and cola. In one of the highlights of the night, it paired wonderfully with the food. The cherry notes in the wine amplified the cherries in the sauce as well as the elements in the stuffing, which was made from pumpernickel bread, spice, bacon, onion, and cinnamon. While the Russian River Pinot Noir enhanced the fruitiness of the dish, the Hyde Vineyard Pinot Noir brought out the flavor of the stuffing and meat. There was a lot of interesting conversation around the table as diners sampled both Pinot Noirs with the boar. Freebairn described Pinot Noir as an expressive grape that has a sense of place or terroir that comes through in the nose and palate.
Third Course – 2009 Carneros Hyde Vineyard Pinot Noir paired with Braised Rabbit Pot Pie with Autumn Vegetables. The Old World style of the wine – subtle, earthy, elegant – paired well with the delicate rabbit and pot pie textures.
Fourth Course – 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon paired with Dry Aged Strip Loin with Brussels Hash and Shiitake Au Gratin. As delicious as the prior wines were, this was the group’s favorite wine of the night. Rich, velvety, and complex, it invited tastes of mocha, dark fruit, and spice. The umami of the pairing came through in the flavor density of the wine and food.
The evening concluded with a dark chocolate cake pop, which paired nicely with any sips of wine remaining. To see pictures click: http://lodeplus.com/wine-in-denver/elway-s-downtown-wine-dinner-an-e…
The Paul Hobbs Winery was founded in 1991 in Sebastopol, California. The winery is open by appointment only. AAA is a travel and automotive association of more than 51 million members. Each year AAA representatives visit and evaluate more than 60,000 lodging establishments and restaurants to rate them on a scale of one to five Diamonds.
ELWAY’S Downtown is located at 1881 Curtis Street, between 18th and 19th streets, on the main level of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Denver. Parking is always free, courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton valet.