We’ve all had that day dream at one point or another. The one where you’re sitting at work, imagining travelling to some exotic destination, eating delicious food, and drinking incredible wine, wishing you could get paid to do just that. Well friends, believe it or not, that’s actually a real job. There are those out there that get to try the cuisines and beverages of the world and learn how they work together, as well as how some don’t. Unfortunately, it’s not a job you can just pick up because you’re a foodie (much to my dismay). The title is Master Sommelier, and the hard work and dedication it takes to become one is nothing short of impressive.
Here at The Club, we had the honor of hosting Master Sommelier Matt Citriglia last Friday, March 18th. Mr. Citriglia is one of only 230 people in the entire world to have earned the designation of Master Sommelier, a feat that can generally take anywhere from six to fifteen years to earn. Did he go to school for it? Not quite. In fact, Matt went to school for Electrical Engineering, but soon found out that wasn’t where his passion was. His beverage education was mostly self-taught and learned through the years of experience working in the industry, as well as taking extra steps to learn the thousands of grape varietals in the world. It’s not just wine though. A Master Sommelier must know the ins and out of liquors and cordials and cocktails as well in order to make expert recommendations to anyone and everyone.
Matt, along with Jeff Feddett from Vintage Wines, teamed up with Our Executive Chef Josh Harris (Matt and Chef pictured above) to create a one of a kind pairing menu sure to impress even the most refined palettes. As you walked in the room, you were greeted with a glass of Scarpetta Timido Vino Spumante Brut Rose, a sparkling wine from Friuli, Italy. With its pinkish color and crisp taste, it was a refreshing way to start the meal. As everyone took their seats, Mr. Citriglia gave everyone an idea of how the meal would go. “You’re going to try a lot of different wines with different courses tonight,” he said, “but don’t limit yourself to just one with each. Try your first course wine with your third course meal and vice versa. You might like one wine on its own and not with food, or you might hate a wine until you try it with food and realize it works together.” When he described drinking wine with dinner as most people do, he said “People will order one glass of wine or one bottle for the table for their meal, and us Master Sommeliers see that and think ‘how boring!’ It’s like listening to the same song over and over and over again.” This analogy helps get you into the mindset of a Sommelier and appreciate their passion for their craft. They have multiple bottles of wine open with each meal so they can experience all of the combinations and see what pairs well together and which foods bring out which notes in a particular wine.
The first course consisted of Crisp Oysters with Stout, Tabasco Remoulade, Radish, Pickled Red Onion, and Watercress. Matt chose this Sparkling wine to pair with our first course because “Fried food and Bubbly always works.” That is definitely a tip to remember and carry with you, and was noted by the entire table as a good tip to keep. The Oysters had a nice crunch and the sauce gave it a spicy kick while the radish was peppery. The wine complemented it with a light and refreshing finish. Another interesting fact Matt pointed out about sparkling wine is that “it is the world’s greatest tranquilizer” due to it’s composition and how it gets into your bloodstream much more quickly, which is why a glass of champagne always helps after a long day.
With the first course well underway, Mr. Citriglia began to discuss our second course wine. For this course, which consisted of a Green Curry Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad, he chose Paco & Lola Albarino white wine. He went with this choice because it has higher levels of acidity which is needed when it comes to bitter greens. Our Master Sommelier pointed out that people always want to pair red wines with brussels sprouts and asparagus and others of the sort, but that ruins the wine and the experience. Cruciferous vegetables such as Brussels Sprouts and Broccoli and Cabbages tend to over power the wines and make them taste “green,” so a more acidic wine is needed in order to stand up to that, and boy did it ever stand up. The salad had a creamy bitter bite to it but then you would get a sweet crunch when you bit into an apple and the combination was absolutely perfect. With the peachy, white floral notes from the wine, the two couldn’t have worked better. This was clear from the number of people asking if they could get the recipe for the salad and if they could purchase a bottle of the wine!
Moving on to the third course, Matt introduced us to the idea of drinking two wines with one course. He did this because although we may hear that you should have red wine with this food or white wine with that food, that’s just not true. For any dish you can name, he can name a red wine, a white wine, a sparkling wine, and a cocktail that would go well with it. But even then, you should drink what you like and what works for you. For our third course, Chef Harris prepared a Rabbit and Mushroom Risotto with a Parmesan Tuile. The risotto was so creamy and the mushrooms made it very earthy, which complemented the rich ripe body and the stony minerality of the Terradora Greco di Tufo DOCG white wine. For those of you who haven’t had the opportunity to try Rabbit, I would move that up on your list. As a first time trying the meat, I was surprised at how delicate and delicious it was. Of course Chef did it justice as he says it his his favorite type of meat. The Pietradolce Archineri Etna Rosso red wine with this course had notes of cherry and cedar and a long finish that balanced well with the Rabbit.
At this point, the drinks were all flowing freely and everyone was having a great time. Members were making friends with other members they hadn’t met and the laughs were contagious.
For our next course, Chef had Sauteed Fresh Sea Bass and it was accompanied by Duchesse Potato, Balsamic Grilled Asparagus inside of a crispy Onion Ring, and all served with a Sauce Choron. I can honestly say I’ve never had a better piece of fish. My table shared my sentiments as not only did they all enjoy every last bite, one gentlemen was eating Sea Bass for the first time in thirty years due to a bad experience and absolutely loved the dish. Another gentlemen asked the chef what he seasoned it with and Chef told him “We used Salt and Pepper. That’s it.” Chef Josh and his team believe in using the freshest fish (freshest of all ingredients in general) and cooking it just right so its natural flavor shines through, and in this case, the flakiness of the bass let it delicately fall apart and melt in your mouth.
Mr. Citriglia chose quite a spectacular pair of wines to match up with this dish. First he chose one of his all time favorite Rieslings, Pfeffingen Riesling “Weilberg” GG. He noted that Riesling grapes are a favorite variety among Master Sommeliers because they truly manifest nature better than any other variety. The flavor is more specific than just the region and the town, it is so specific that they can tell the exact vineyard the wine hails from. He shared with us that the U.S. is the only country that drinks sweet riesling, and that’s why 80% of the riesling from Germany is dry, with only one town producing sweet riesling in the entire country. One thing he wanted us to keep in mind is that Riesling ages incredibly well, better than most white wines, so it’s a good one to have around.
Additionally he chose Argyle Pinot Noir “Nuthouse” from Lone Star Vineyard in Oregon. When talking about Oregon Pinot Noirs in general, he said Sommeliers love them because “They combine the sexy fruit of California with the restraint and sophistication of France.”
Lastly we came to my personal favorite part of the meal, dessert! Our guest imparted a piece of knowledge with us about dessert wines that was quite fascinating. He said “The level of sweetness of the dessert determines the level of sweetness of the wine. If the food is sweeter, it will make the wine taste bitter, especially if it’s a dry wine.” As we began to sip our wine, Lustau Pedro Ximenez “San Emilio”, we noticed just how sweet it was. It was a sherry wine, so much heavier and thicker than a regular wine. One of my table companions, Mr. Mark Dollison, quickly noted “It tastes like raisins,” and it indeed did, as Matt went on to tell us it had raisins, fig, and dates used to create its sweet bold flavor. To go along with this very sweet wine, Chef Josh made an incredible interactive dessert for us. It was a Chocolate Sundae Dome in which you poured hot chocolate sauce over and the dome melted onto the ice cream, brownie, pretzels, and fruit underneath. It was every chocolate lover’s dream.
This night was an incredible experience unlike any other. We got to enjoy what the best of the best’s palettes enjoy, learn tips on how a Master Sommelier drinks, as well as have good conversation and many laughs. A guest of Marion Fisher commented that this was “the best food she had ever had at any sort of event and she loved it.” An enormous Thank You to Mr. Matt Citriglia and Jeff Feddett for joining us and creating such a lovely evening. Another special Thank You to our incredible culinary team that worked so hard to make this night unforgettable.
If you weren’t able to join us for this one of a kind night, don’t worry! We have another wine dinner coming up on Tuesday, May 17th, 2016 that will be just as unique, as we will be hosting Anne Amie Winemakers and they’ll be sharing all about the actual making of wine and bringing us their very own to share. To make your reservation, call us at 614-292-2262, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or stop by the Catering and Membership Office next time you’re in The Club!