With over 700 wineries to choose from in Washington, how does any one winery compete in an increasingly competitive market?For me the answer lies in producing a diverse range of quality wine with an attention to pairing to excellent food. To this, add great service and attention to marketing the winery’s unique history and experience. I look for a winery that offers not just a beverage in a glass but an experience. Vin du Lac Winery delivered on all fronts on a recent trip to Lake Chelan.
My sister Dawn and I decided to do a “quick” tasting at Vin du Lac on our way back home to Seattle. Kathleen Rodman, the wine club and direct sales manager, warmly greeted us at the tasting bar. She showed us the free tasting lineup of Vin du Lac wines as well as the premium tasting available for a reasonable fee. We decided just to do the basic tasting but we were interested in a few wine varieties in their portfolio that Vin du Lac was not pouring that day. Once Kathleen realized we were not out for an afternoon buzz and were really interested in evaluating the wines, she generously poured us a few tastings of these varieties. As amazing aromas enticed us from the kitchen, Kathleen asked us if we were up to lunch and mentioned that the chef, Frank St. Dennis, had created a new soup for the menu and there were just a few servings left. How could we resist?
Dawn and I agreed to share our lunch so we can mix and match our wine flights with the fare. We ordered an open-faced turkey sandwich with melted cheese, caramelized onions, cilantro and jalapenos. A cup of the new Spring Onion and Potato Soup, a cup of the french onion soup and a wonderful dish of the saffron chantrelle mushroom risotto also made up the feast. Dawn ordered the white flight. She promised to write this up so she has the info but it did include the Vin du Lac ’06 dry Riesling that I really enjoyed. I ordered the red flight that included their ’07 Barrel Select Cab Franc, the ’07 Barrel Select Cabernet Sauvignon, and the ’08 Barrel Select Syrah. Each of my wines were wonderful to drink alone but our delight was exponential when our lunch finally came. We actually came to a 100% consensus (which is rare between brother and sister!) and here is what our favorite pairings were:
1) We enjoyed the sandwich best with Dawn’s ‘06 Riesling. I need to point out in our frenetic feeding we did not realize that Frank had forgotten to put the caramelized onions under the turkey. The Riesling was also our favorite wine with the French onion soup. The Vin du Lac Riesling and their Gewurztraminer have great potential for pairing.
2) Our favorite pairing with the risotto was the Vin du Lac ’08 Syrah. The saffron chantrelle mushroom risotto was a hearty dish that blended well on the palate with this fruit-forward wine.
3) My ultimate pairing was the potato onion soup with the Vin du Lac Cabernet Sauvignon. I must confess that I think of potato soup as a sort of “poverty chowder;” missing some key ingredient like oysters, clams, corn or even some little smokies. I was not expecting this rich “umami-laden” cup of lusciousness. Spoon of soup + sip of cab = PURE BLISS. It required an additional full pour of the Cabernet to truly appreciate this amazing pairing.
Chef Frank St. Dennis came out to check on our lunch and he was pleased to hear that his new soup was a success. He describes it as “roasted spring onion with russet potatoes and garnished with the green of the onion and fried spring onion bulbs.” He then abashedly confessed that he had omitted the caramelized onions on our sandwich and another was on the way. The magic of bridging was revealed. The new sandwich, with the caramelized onions now paired best with my Vin du Lac Cab Franc.
Our ten minute tasting turned into an amazing, unforgettable two hour lunch. Not only am I now a total enthusiast for Vin du Lac but…gasp…potato soup has attained a whole new meaning.