Californian Fine Wine Dinner

Stepping into Berry Bros & Rudd in London in June 2023 for the Californian Wine Dinner was like stepping into a wine lover’s dream. The eventing was impeccably hosted by Michael Dabbs and the atmosphere was ripe with anticipation as the aroma of fine cuisine and the undercurrent of chatter filled the air. The experience that unfolded over the next several hours was nothing short of magical.

Our culinary journey began on a sparkling note with the 2008 Champagne Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Nicolas Francois ($198 – rating: 4.9 / 5.0). One of my all-time favourite champagnes, with charming notes of ripe citrus, fresh brioche, and delicate floral aromas. On the palate, the rich flavors of toasted almonds and green apple, subtly laced with honey, showcased its depth and complexity, which beautifully complemented the canapés and set an anticipative tone for the splendid evening to follow.

The first course featured a delightful Pavé of cod, served with fresh seasonal peas, broad beans, and a shellfish sauce. It was accompanied by a 2019 Ramey Chardonnay from Russian River Valley ($74 – rating: 4.5 / 5.0) and a 2018 Racines Pinot Noir from Santa Rita Hills ($154 – rating: 4.5 / 5.0). This unusual white and red pairing was both exciting and harmonious. The Chardonnay’s minerality and refreshing citrus notes contrasted well with the dish’s subtle flavors, while the Pinot Noir added depth with its earthy undertones. Both wines were simply splendid, and selecting a winner would be an unjust task.

Next up was the Ballotine of leeks with roasted seaweed, wild mushrooms, truffle, and cepe dashi. The dish was paired with the exceedingly rare 2011 Sine Qua Non, Patine Syrah from the Central Coast ($4328 – 6 bottle collection case – rating: 4.8 / 5.0). The robust, full-bodied Syrah was a real treat, with its seductive layers of dark fruit flavors and spice playing off against the umami-rich dish.

The third course featured a tasting of lamb paired with an array of Provençal vegetables. The selection of wines for this course was a tour de force – a 2015 Ridge Vineyards, Monte Bello from Santa Cruz Mountains ($293 – rating: 4.9 / 5.0), a 2015 Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon from St Helena, Napa Valley (in magnum $897 – rating: 4.6 / 5.0), and a 2015 Harlan Estate from Oakville, Napa Valley ($1991 – rating: 5.0 / 5.0). Each wine was a testament to California’s viticultural prowess, offering unique and distinct profiles. The Harlan Estate with its robust structure and rich complexity slightly edged out the others for me, although the floral and aromatic Monte Bello was a close second. Interestingly, the remaining Sine Qua Non from the previous course also paired well with the lamb, a testament to the wine’s versatility.

The finale featured a trio of cheeses – Lincolnshire Poacher, Asiago, and Taleggio. They were paired with a 2006 Vérité, La Muse from Sonoma County ($376 – rating: 4.5 / 5.0). The bold, velvety red wine, with its plush tannins and ripe fruit flavors, was a suitable match for the cheeses. However, I would have appreciated a wine with more acidity or even a dessert wine to cut through the richness of the cheese.

Overall, the Californian Wine Dinner at Berry Bros & Rudd was a symphony of masterful pairings and exquisite tastes. It showcased the splendor and diversity of Californian wines in a most memorable way.


Written by

Bernard Marr has a deep passion for wine. He has written hundreds of articles on wine, including features for Forbes, covering wine-making and industry trends. Away from the world of wine, Bernard is a world-renown business and technology futurist. He is the award winning author of over 20 best-selling books and has a combined audience of nearly 4 million people across his social media channels and newsletters.

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