Wine dinners can often leave you in a cranky frame of mind. Even if the company is good and wines better, you leave feeling as though you’ve been pumping quarters in a peep show. You get some tantalizing sips of a lovely world, but eventually you run out of quarters. Luckily, the MIT Sloan School wine dinner at Matsuri in Manhattan was unassailable instead of unattainable. The restaurant served eight course and appetizers family style. Sheldon and Carol Rabin provided the wines and the takeaway chocolates. Shelly is a collector who understands that life can’t always be one Romanee Conti after another. The wines he donated for the dinner were affordable, drinkable and delightful. The appetizers were unagi pie (think mini eel chimichangas), chicken yakitori, Kobe beef with red radish and mustard, and seared tuna with wasabi and and cucumber. The wine with them? Willm Blanc de Blanc Brut NV, an Alsace sparkler which complemented the whole panoply of flavors in the noshes. Dry, light and a hint of citrus marked the palate.
The Negress is fatally allergic to oysters, but could see the merit of the 2007 Seaglass Sauvignon Blanc from Santa Barbara County. The wine had some grass, citrus and peach notes, I was assured by Wine Comrade Bob that it melded flawlessly with the oyster topped with yuzu granite.
A selection of sushi and sashimi followed with a 2007 Casa Lapostolle Sauvignon Blanc from Chile poured. Wow! This light, floral gem has a touch of slate and enhanced the sushi and sashimi flavors.
Baked mushrooms in parchment paper were served with the 2006 Casa Lapostolle Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine was a fruity fit with some notes of plum and black cherry. But it preceded a pairing of shrimp tempura with 2007 Willm d’Alsace Pinot Blanc. The Pinot Blanc kind of got slapped around by the Cab but some of the usual lychee and pear notes did emerge. Also, in the interests of full disclosure. I came darn close to eating my birth weight in sushi.
Moving on, black cod grilled with sake paste was accompanied by 2006 Bourgogne Les Setilles, Olivier Le Flaive. The wine had some pear and floral characteristics with citrus and a touch of honey on the palate.
Now here’s where it gets tricky.The wasabi roasted duck breast was served with the 2006 Conn Valley Vineyards Prologue Napa Valley. This cabernet sauvignon was was not a typical California flab cab, but it was rich with black fruit and a little oak.
However, the Conn Valley Cab might have been a better fit for the garlic-soy grilled sirloin, which was paired with my favorite wine of the evening, a 2006 G5 Puerta Bonita, Vinos Sin Ley, S.L. This hot-to-trot garnacha would have cozied up to the duck very well. It was fine with the sirloin, but would have been better with the duck. Wine Comrade Bob and others concurred.
By the time the dessert sampler arrived with bits of chocolate mousse, sweet potato flan and fabulous gelatos, it seemed unlikely that more wine would be welcome. However, the Virbio Carline Silvestri Vino Spumante was pinkish rose and just sweet enough not to overpower the desserts.
This was quite a night for wine and good company.