Friday, October 12, 2012

Celebrity Chef Tyler Florence Turns Winemaker

Celebrity Chef Tyler Florence Turns Winemaker
Wining and Dining with Tyler at Herringbone, La Jolla
Story and photos by Denise E. Jones
Wine & Dine San Diego, October 11, 2012

Celebrity chef, Food Network star, cookbook author and restaurateur Tyler Florence has spent the last fifteen years sharing his vision of fine, approachable food with the world. When asked if he was a frustrated winemaker during a 2005 interview with Wine Spectator, Tyler responded, “I like the idea of having some land somewhere in the North Fork of Long Island, to have a farm and make some wine. Who knows? I'm 34. I think I have a few more lives to live. I could totally reinvent myself and do that and be very happy… it's such a craft to turn crushed grape juice into something that's so powerful and so beautiful.”

Tyler Florence at Herringbone, La Jolla

Four years later, Tyler found himself sitting around a table with Michael Mondavi and his family at their beautiful Carneros winery in Napa Valley, conducting the first blending session of Tyler Florence Wines.  Led by Rob Mondavi, a fourth-generation winemaker, the partnership has sourced three limited-production wines from world-class California vineyards – TF Pinot, TF Zin and TF Cab.  They also crafted an approachable, food-friendly pair to enjoy every day – Tyler Florence Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Each of these wines reflect their shared belief that wine and food should bring out the very best in each other.

Tyler Florence Wines (courtesy photo)

As a huge Tyler Florence fan who regularly cooks from Tyler’s Ultimate (best spaghetti carbonara ever) and Real Kitchen, I was thrilled to meet him during a recent four-course wine dinner at Herringbone, La Jolla.  The event showcased Executive Chef Amanda Baumgarten’s “Fish Meats Field” cuisine.

Herringbone Executive Chef Amanda Baumgarten

John and I kicked off the evening sipping sparking wine and wandering around the vintage warehouse that wildly imaginative designer Thomas Schoos re-imagined into Herringbone. The front of the restaurant is a cozy, open-air courtyard and bar furnished with couches, bistro tables, fireplaces, bougainvillea trellises, brick and reclaimed wood. The former roof was with retractable awnings that welcome warm dappled sunlight and salty ocean air.

A Navy diver for 20 years and avid collector of sea shells and creatures from the deep, John was intrigued by an entire wall of lobster traps stacked from floor to ceiling and filled with hundreds of inflated blowfish. Six 100-year-old olive trees, trucked in from Northern California, enhance the indoor/outdoor dining experience. The casual California coastal theme continues with several large paintings.  A giant whale skeleton, cased in a wrought-iron blimp structure, serves as a chandelier over the dining room bar. The creative culinary action led by Amanda Baumgarten, a Top Chef winner, is on view through a large glass window that spans the rear wall of the dining room.

For the first course, we enjoyed crudo, the Italian equivalent of sashimi, prepared with silky diver scallops dressed with squeezes and drizzles of orange juice and extra virgin olive oil and garnished with pink peppercorns.  With it, Herringbone poured Tyler Florence Sauvignon Blanc 2010 ($19.99), a unique blend of fruit sourced from both the warmer Oso Vineyard, located in Pope Valley, and the cooler Milliken Vineyard in the southern part of Napa. Cold tank fermentation emphasizes the purity of the fruit and enhances its aromatics, and barrel fermentation adds subtle creaminess and length. This approachable, food friendly wine has bright orange blossom, Meyer lemon, and grapefruit characters supported by a round mouthfeel.  (Wine notes were contributed by the winery)

Maine Diver Scallop Crudo (similar recipe here)
orange, pink peppercorn, extra virgin olive oil

The second course featured thickly cut, pan-roasted Alaskan halibut accompanied by spicy chorizo and tart Jersey apple slices, garnished with watercress and almonds and paired with TF Pinot Noir 2010 ($40). This wine comes from the Carneros District of Napa Valley, a world-famous spot for Pinot Noir. Tyler and Rob chose traditional winemaking methods such as manual punchdowns and aging in French oak barrels to enhance the wine’s luscious red-fruit character. Classic Pinot Noir aromas and flavors of bright cherry and berry are balanced by fresh acidity and engaging spice notes – all supported by a silky structure.

Alaskan Halibut
chorizo, Jersey apple, watercress and almond

Next, Baumgarten fanned beautiful slices of duck breast over a creamy pool of celery root puree.  Topped with clever compote of black currants and juniper berries, the fish was paired with TF Old Vine Zinfandel 2008 ($40). Tyler and Rob sourced grapes for this wine from an old, dry-farmed vineyard on Mount St. Helena in Lake County, a well-known Zinfandel region. They enhanced the wine’s rich fruit intensity with 10 months of aging in French oak. This wine has ripe black fruit character accented with dark cocoa and cracked pepper. Rich tannins give it a firm, pleasant structure that stands up beautifully to food.

Duck Breast
celery root, black currant and juniper

The fourth course starred slices of nicely grilled prime New York sirloin and melt-in-your-mouth short rib, complemented by arugula, charred tomato jam and fork-crushed potatoes and was perfectly matched by glasses of TF Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2008 ($65). For this exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon, Tyler and Rob chose hillside vineyards throughout Napa Valley, sites where well-drained volcanic soils encourage small crops of intensely flavored grapes. Malolactic fermentation and aging in French oak concentrated the wine’s richness. Big, ripe fruit aromas and flavors are accented with nuances of coffee and toasted vanilla that last over the lush finish. A truly luxurious wine.

Duo of Beef
Prime New York and shortrib, charred tomato jam, forked potatoes and arugula

The delicious dessert finale tempted with luscious pillows of milk chocolate mousse adorned with dark chocolate disks, toasted hazelnuts and fresh figs. We toasted Tyler with his Cabernet 2008 ($24.99), thanked him and Chef Amanda for an exceptionally memorable evening, and lined up for photos and autographs. Tyler and Rob selected grapes for this wine from both hillside and valley floor vineyards that contribute rich, complex varietal expression. Grapes were fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks then underwent malolactic fermentation in barrel before 18 months of aging in French oak. Opulent cherry, dark berry and cassis character are balanced by supple tannins and hints of toasted vanilla and toffee – a classic expression of this world-famous Napa Valley Cab region.

Milk Chocolate Mousse
figs, hazelnuts, dark chocolate

Tyler Florence Ultimate Food & Wine Experience Contest

The national release of Tyler Florence Wines coincides with a great opportunity for home chefs around the country to show off their food and wine pairing finesse.  Beginning October 1, 2012 and continuing through December 31, 2012, the Tyler Florence Ultimate Food & Wine Experience contest challenges home cooks to submit a favorite wine-paired recipe to Tyler Florence Wines.  The five winners and their guests will visit Napa Valley and tour the Michael Mondavi family estate, followed by a  cooking class with Florence at his West Coast Kitchen Essentials shop in Mill Valley.  The day will close with dinner at El Paseo. This one-of-a-kind trip includes hotel accommodations, roundtrip airfare and all ground transportation. To enter, upload one original recipe that pairs well with Tyler Florence Cabernet Sauvignon or Sauvignon Blanc. Once the voting phase begins, share your entry via Facebook and Twitter, and encourage your friends to vote for you on-line at Tyler Florence Wines. Tyler will judge the 20 top entries (10 for each wine) and will choose the grand-prize winners. You may enter more than once, but Tyler will select only one winner per household. Go to Ultimate Food and Wine Sweepstakes for details and rules. Unfortunately, this contest is void in CA and TN and where prohibited by law.

7837 Herschel Avenue
La Jolla, CA 92037
(858) 459-0221

Tyler Florence Wines

1 comment:

The Healthy Apple said...

Wow! What a fun event; this is so exciting. Thanks for sharing and can't wait to see his wines!