Duchman Winery Dinner at Houston’s L’Olivier Restaurant: High Time for Texas Wines on the Gourmet Scene
A splash of Vermentino on a knee and hearty conversation around well-matched gourmet food and excellent wines made for a lovely evening this week at Houston’s French-inspired, Montrose-area L’Olivier Restaurant. But what if I told you this wasn’t a French wine affair, but rather a Texas wine dinner would you think any different of it?
Well, the consensus if those in attendance was you shouldn’t. It was a delight. Famed Chef Olivier Ciesielski did his usual best; taking the finest of European cuisine and pairing it with the wine flair from a quite different part of the universe – the world of Texas wines.
More specifically, the wines were provided by Duchman Family Winery in Driftwood, Texas. Winery owners and fellow Houstonians Stan and Lisa Duchman attended and dined and conversed with friends, associates and the restaurant’s faithful patrons, some of which kept asking if their first wine was a Chardonnay.
OK, after hearing this, I had to take the bait and resurrected the comments I made previously in another winery’s tasting room who was pouring their Texas Viognier to another California Chardonnay drinker.
While on the restaurant’s patio during the reception, I said, “Try it, you’ll like it. It IS Texas Chardonnay! It just happens to be made from Viognier, a grape that does as well here in Texas as Chardonnay does in California.” With that, I saw a cringe from Duchman winemaker Dave Reilly. However, in a flash and with a shared wink, we both smiled knowing that this is how Texas wines will gain new followers…one California Chardonnay drinker at a time.
During the evening, the Duchmans and Reilly provided point-by-point commentary on their wines along side Chef Olivier’s impeccable gourmet cuisine. On the patio,tThe hand-passed Hors D’Oeuvres accompanied the 2011 Duchman Viognier that showed a lighter, less aggressive style than found in many other Viogniers. Dave used one simple word to describe what he was after in this wine: “finesse”. Implicit in this statement is his working with properly harvested fruit (not over-ripe) and his personal style of providing a light hand in the winery, just as his mentor Mark Penna taught.
We settled into our seats in the dim light of the restaurant. The serious food and wine pairing began with the Chef’s English Pea Ravioli teamed with the Duchman 2011 Vermentino, pairing herbal characteristics of both while also playing on the counterpoint of fatty pancetta and the white wine’s crisp acidity. Vermentino is a grape widely planted in Sardinia and in the Liguria region of Italy, but this slow ripening white grape has found a new home in Texas. This has mainly come through the initial efforts from Duchman Winery and Texas high plains winegrowers whose efforts have gained critical acclaim at international wine competitions and even from Oz Clarke during his wine sipping trip to Texas.
Next came a new Duchman release: the 2011 Tempranillo accompanied with a sliced veal chop, potato cake and morel sauce. Each was absurdly good separately and also incredibly fine together. Borrowing from Dave’s initial one word statement, this pairing could be characterized simply by the description: finesse on the plate, in the glass and in the mouth.
I motioned to Dave to come over and have a seat beside me while I was concentrating on his Tempranillo (this being my first taste of this wine).
I said, “Dave, you know…I find that the people that pointlessly bad-mouth Texas wines the worst are Pinot Noir drinkers. They typically can’t find any Texas wines that satisfy their need for a light/medium bodied, red-fruit dominant wine with crisp acidity escorted with hints of smoke and earthy characteristics.”
I followed this with, “Dave, this Tempranillo’s got it all: red fruit, medium body, crisp acidity, and a light earthy smokiness on the finish. It could score big with that group of yet unsatisfied and potential Texas wine drinkers.”
Over hearing this, Stan Duchman said, “We had our Dolcetto (another well-awarded Duchman red wine) in a blind tasting with one of our tasting groups that was pouring high end Pinots one night. Our wine showed amazingly well, something that later surprised everybody at the tasting when the wines were revealed. Interestingly, the only person that correctly identified our wine out of the cast of high end wines featured that night was my wife Lisa.”
Finishing off the evening of fine dining were a Roquefort terrine and berry compote paired with the Duchman Canto Felice, a mildly sweet red wine. Who said, sweet red wines, can’t be serious? Nobody here. The pairing teamed up sweet red fruit characteristics on the plate and in the glass. The fifth and final course was the Chef’s strawberry soup with a personal favorite, Duchman 2009 Muscat, both of which were bright, lively, tart yet sweet.
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For more information on tours, tastings and events at the Duchman Family Winery in Driftwood TX, click here.
For menu and reservations for Chef Olivier Ciesielski’s L’Olivier Restaurant in the Montrose-area near city center Houston, click here.