An Evening of Wine, Food and a Winemaker

I was so grateful to be able to attend The Wine Cooperative's dinner with Hall Wines and Steve Leveque, their wine maker this past Tuesday.

You're probably wondering, what is The Wine Cooperative?

Great question, it's a new project from the people behind the International Food & Wine Festival held at the Ronald Reagan Building. They are focusing on food and wine events to appeal to the wine collector as well as the novice wine drinker. Currently, they are focused on winemaker dinners which allows people to mix and mingle with those who make the wine they are drinking. It's a unique and great way to learn about wine, the vineyards, the industry, the winemaking process as well as meet fellow winos.

This event did not disappoint!

After roaming around the Reagan building to figure out where the dinner was, we finally found it! (only downfall, Reagan Building is huge!) We were greeted at the door with wine and a cheese and cracker bar. The cocktail reception lasted for a short while then we were guided into a seated tasting led by Steve Leveque himself. He introduced Hall Wines as well as Walt Wines which is just launching in our area this week. Walt is the maiden name of the owner, Kathryn and is newest addition to Hall Wines.

The tasting consisted of 4 wines; Hall Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Walt Clos de Pepe Pinot Noir 2010, Hall Merlot 2008, and finally Hall Cabernet Sauvignon 2009.

Aged in stainless, the Sauvignon Blanc was a very fresh, fruit-forward white. It is unfiltered which Steve said helps to show the true grape, vineyard and style of the winemaker. It's also risky but with a winemaker like Steve, who has been producing wine for many years, it shows off his talent.

The one and only Walt wine of the night was a delicate, elegant Pinot Noir from the Close de Pepe vineyard in Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara. This Pinot Noir is outstanding in my opinion. No yeast was added which allows the natural qualities of the grape to shine. Very bright with a smooth, long finish, this wine is aged in 40% new French oak. Sadly, they only produced 330 cases, only 15 of which are in the DC market. All those cases are for restaurant distribution only. So I won't go on anymore about how much I love this wine since it's definitely hard to get a hold of! (visit their website to purchase directly)

The third wine is the Merlot 2008. Sourced from 2 vineyards in Napa, this is a big Merlot by design. Again, unfiltered but has good complexity and medium tannins. It drinks more like a Cab than a Merlot.

Finally, the Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 is from the Hillside Vineyard and displays great purity. This wine is finally showing well and will be able to age in the coming years. Elegant, smooth and an easy drinker.

Wow, so that was just the tasting...that's not even half of it!

We were then seated for the 5 course dinner that was paired with the wines that we just tasted. Glancing at the menu, I couldn't wait to try it. Food was prepared by the Ronald Reagan Building lead chef, Xavier Deshayes and the popular Todd Gray of Equinox.

 Service was fantastic and the food was even better! Of all the dishes, my favorite was the first course; crayfish sausage. The risotto was so creamy and went perfectly with the fish and the Sauvignon Blanc. I was able to try a few new items I've never had before including veal cheek and wild boar, both of which were delicious.

Steve was able to walk around during dinner to meet everyone which was a great personal touch to the event. Also the chefs, came out to greet us and we were able to thank them for the fabulous food and service.

Wholesaler for Hall Wines, Steve and myself
I must say, The Wine Cooperative did not disappoint and I hope to be able to take part in more of their events. Stay on the lookout for more educational, fun, delicious events from them!