One of the most diverse wine events to kick off the year is much-anticipated Ultimate Winemakers dinner – held at Shadowbrook Restaurant every February. Starting with wineries showcasing their wines with a general tasting in the Rock Room Lounge, guests then enter one of the dining rooms to have dinner with their chosen winemaker. Because the event is put on by the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association (SCMWA), attendees of the event know to go to their website to select a winery of their choice.
Getting to Shadowbrook at 5:30 p.m. to give myself plenty of time to chitchat with our local winemakers and to check out the silent auction, it was time well spent. Not only did I get to taste some splendid wine, but I also met a few winemakers I hadn’t met before.
I had requested ahead of time to sit with Don Naumann of Naumann Vineyards for my dinner seating time of 7 p.m. Although this winery is considered “local” in that it belongs to SCMWA, Naumann’s winery is based in Cupertino. It’s actually open to the public only four days of the year for the quarterly Passport event (see scmwa.org), and by appointment for private events.
Also seated at the Naumann table were Karen and John Hibble from the Aptos Chamber of Commerce and who also head up SCMWA. They are instrumental in organizing wine events—including the commercial wine competition for the Santa Cruz County Fair in September—and for keeping all of us up to speed on wine happenings in the area.
From a choice of three first courses, I ordered Foie Gras Au Torchon, served with toasted brioche, quince and salad – a splendid pairing with a Naumann Vineyards 2006 Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains. Only 224 cases of this particular wine were made – which comes with a superb citrus start and a light oak buttery finish. Barrel aged for 10 months in French oak, the fruit-forward flavors of fresh, tangy apple make this a really drinkable wine. It was a good thing that Naumann had brought quite a few bottles with him because the first couple quickly disappeared. This is an excellent buy for around $20. It’s produced and bottled by Cooper Garrod Vineyards in Saratoga.
A second course of soup is paired with a 2005 Merlot, but the piece de resistance is the 2002 estate-grown Merlot with the entrée. Rich cherry flavors and heavy mocha notes in this voluptuous wine bring a perfect end to a wonderful evening of wining and dining. Well, we all think it’s the end until talented winemaker Don Naumann pulls out one more – a late harvest 2007 Merlot to serve with the poached pear tart – and much appreciated by all.
Naumann Vineyards, P.O. Box 454, 16505 Montebello Road, Cupertino, (408) 867-7871 naumannvineyards.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Naumann wines can be bought at Vinocruz, downtown Santa Cruz.