Palate Play is…

1.) The name of our new guided tasting experience.

2.) A suggestion for how to approach any wine tasting experience, or any tasting experience for that matter.

3.) A reminder that wine should be fun. Never snobbish. There are no wrong answers or bad wines (at least, not at this level). There is only what you like/prefer and what you don’t. (Insider tip: everyone -winemakers, included- is always learning. Often as soon as you think you know something about wine, you find out another layer of information that seems to turn everything on its head. Enjoy going deeper and knowing that you’ll never know everything. It’s the journey…)

4.) An invitation to explore what happens on the palate when you taste our 2011 Sonoma County Pinot Noir followed by our chicken liver parfait with pickled strawberry followed by another sip of the Pinot Noir followed by a taste of the seared quail followed by a daring sip of Chardonnay followed by the surprising and exquisite cauliflower panna cotta… You get the idea. Try everything. Try everything separately. Try it in different combinations. This is an invitation to let your taste buds play. Close your eyes. Cover your ears. Go crazy. Be weird. You might be surprised at what you discover. You might not be able to put it into words. That doesn’t mean it isn’t real. Maybe one day you’ll have the words. Don’t worry. Enjoy. And always, always, always, trust your senses. Just because the wines are sensational and the food is amazing like nothing you’ve ever had, doesn’t mean you need to take it all too seriously. Wine is about enjoying.

5.) One of the best wine (and food) tasting experiences of my life.

Sure, I’m biased. I work here. But I don’t make the wine or the food and I didn’t plan to say that or feel that way. I knew the wines were great – refined, elegant, balanced, amazing fruit guided with the utmost care into becoming truly beautiful wines – and I knew that Executive Chef Taylr Behnam was a sensitive and talented artist, committed to achieving perfection in her food pairings- which by the way, requires a lot of playing to accomplish. But I was somehow unprepared for how extraordinary this pairing of four wines with four food items would be. But I want to let you experience it for yourself.

What I will say, for those who don’t have a wine country visit planned in their immediate future and thus won’t be able to enjoy this particular seasonal offering at Ram’s Gate Winery, is that I’m pretty sure the basil pasta filled with citrus cardamom ricotta, garnished with fresh crab and drizzled in beurre monte (French for emulsified butter sauce) actually melted in my mouth. The 2011 Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay was one of the most elegant Chardonnays I’ve had- no movie-theater-buttered-popcorn or butterscotch or vanilla bomb. This was light and crisp in texture but complex in flavors- lots of white blossoms and different kinds of lemon- Meyer lemon, lemon oil and lemon curd. And still so smooth and lusciously mouth-filling. Together, it’s hard to describe. I want to use the word “magical”, but I know how that sounds… They belonged together. They enhanced each other. They made each other even better than they already were individually. I felt lucky to be alive in this moment more than others. How lucky we are to be able to experience taste like this.

I really don’t want to reduce to words the multi-dimensional, expansive experience you should discover with your taste buds. …But I will say that the whimsically light and smooth cauliflower panna cotta made me think of heaven, which I rarely do. The 2011 Bush Crispo Vineyard Pinot Noir was so seductive, so supple, layered and delicious that I lost my sense of time and place and lived for an unquantifiable moment in palate-pleasing euphoria. And the chicken liver parfait. Oh the chicken liver parfait. To be honest, I wasn’t sure from the sound of those three words together that I wanted it. When my lips closed around a healthy dollop of chicken liver parfait with pickled strawberry garnish perched atop a house-made cracker, I may have shed a tear. Fluffy and savory, light in texture, rich in flavor, so many flavors revealing themselves one after the other, rosemary and earth and butter and that hint of sweet strawberry and pickled tartness and that “umami” experience that nothing like good minced liver really can provide.

So come one, come all. Come taste for yourself. Because you deserve it. And if you’re on the other side of the country or somewhere in between, make sure you’re enjoying whatever you have in front of you because life is short (forgive me, but it’s doom’s day on the news these days) and whomever came up with taste buds and what happens to them when they meet great wine paired with great food, wanted us to be happy. Ben Franklin put it more succinctly when he said “Wine is proof God loves us and wants us to be happy.” The words don’t really matter anyway. Got wine?
Britt Starr

Enjoying life is always better shared with great people.   
Big, warm thanks to Dan, Mardi, Lesli, Joe, Teresa and Mark for sharing the experience.

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