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Pabulum Bash - Côte Bonneville

Tuesday, 19 March 2019 12:53

By Rachael Lucas

Titillation of my palate is basically what gets me out of bed in the morning. 

Cote Bonneville rose PicmonkeyCôte Bonneville Cabernet Franc Rosé 

Whatever the opportunity to challenge and entertain my senses, I’m on board.  Most recently, I attended a wine dinner at Cutters Crabhouse near Pike Place Market in Seattle.  This popular dining destination is situated on the waterfront, so I knew that the ambience aspect would be one of the best in the city.  At Cutters, you will gaze at determined tugboats and leisurely ferries crossing Elliot Bay, with the Olympic Mountains shouldering a most spectacular sunset, and, as nighttime approaches, a mesmerizing light display on the waterfront ferris wheel.  As for the victuals, innovative Chef Kaelon Sparks meticulously paired seven courses with the revered DuBrul Vineyard’s Côte Bonneville wines.  It was utter elegance, a sensorial gala.

Côte Bonneville wines are made in intimate quarters.  In fact, the place is run by a mom, a dad, and their daughter—the one who has taken over winemaking for the last decade—Kerry Shiels.  Kerry is passionate about their wines; her enthusiasm had me electrified that evening, and, admittedly, I was overbearing with inquisitiveness.

Kerry dismissed their winemaking moxie as if any person could do it.  She was emphatic that the quality of their wine is contingent upon the toil that is undertaken by the viticulturists at DuBrul Vineyard, as well as it is dependent upon the make-up of the soil, the vines, and terroir in general.  It seems that this Yakima Valley vineyard has peculiar and diverse microclimates that have enabled them to strategically produce a shocking variety of grapes that optimally respond to their respective environments.  Besides a significant difference and fluctuation in temperature from plot to plot, the topography was also coated with an inch of volcanic ash when Mount St. Helens erupted.  Not surprisingly, there is a high level of basalt in the soil.  The wines that are subsequently produced at Côte Bonneville are a clear expression of this.  Imagine the minerality!

Kusshi oysters PiicmonkeyKusshi oysters to enjoy with Cabernet Franc Rosé

As such, Chef Sparks had the perfect accompaniment for what Cutters is known for—fresh, fresh seafood.  While the dishes were extraordinary, and thus, each pairing had lip smacking qualities, there were certain pairings that organoleptically elevated me.  They sing to me still.

While the 2017 Cabernet Franc Rosé boasted of floral, starfruit, and young melon notes, with the fresh Kusshi Oyster it tasted like a brined watermelon.  It was summer in a slurpy, squidgy mouthful.  It’s something that I am going to look forward to on the warm days to come.

The dessert pairing was an unorthodox, yet glorious mouthful.  The 2016 Riesling is a German spätlese style. It exhibited a little funk with whiffs of leather and young, dewy pear.  I found the Nashi pear tarte-tatin with Roquefort and toasted sumac to be rather savory, and (bless it, Roquefort!) piquant and saline with some heavy umami.  The Riesling softened the bold assertions of the tarte-tatin, just so.  I kept asking, “what the hell is this?”, as I shoveled another mouthful into my gullet.

My favorite pairing was the one that I thought could have been a total bust.  The seared scallop on tarragon pomme purée, with bread and butter carrots and Syrah-macerated Medjool dates was one for the books.  The course itself was mouthwateringly round and balanced.  Paired with the herbaceous and creamy 2012 Syrah, however, it was game changing.  I was spontaneously wrapped in a warm blanket, munching on currants and buttered tarragon.  The scallops allowed the wine to flow vicariously through it to cooperate with the components of the dish.  I have never tasted a Syrah quite like this, and to be paired with scallops felt satisfyingly naughty.

Nashi pear tarte tatin PicmonkeyNashi pear tarte-tatin to pair with the Riesling

The only criticism that I have is purely subjective, as I am growing to learn more each day how everyone’s palate is personal and based on individual experience.  I typically pair wine from lightest to boldest.  The dessert pairing was brilliant, and the Riesling deserved to be the Grand Finale.  However, I would have paired the 2010 Carriage House (Chef coupled it with ultra-fresh New Zealand seared salmon, which worked swimmingly) with the ultimate savory dish: the unctuous brined duck, earthy mushroom kufteh and brussels sprouts with a 24-hour roasted tomato.  His reasoning was that the 2010 Côte Bonneville, a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot, had layer after layer, which should be concomitant with a dish of such complexity.  I found the Carriage House to be punchy and audacious, though, so I would have liked to see it stand up to the duck.  Nonetheless, I left feeling sated, thoroughly educated, and with a yearning to visit the vineyard.

If you haven’t made it to a wine dinner like the intricate feast that I recently attended at Cutters Crabhouse, I encourage you to do so!  Not only is it crucial to keep our senses nimble, it is equally valuable to be with people who share our interests and to absorb the experience of tasting collectively.  It is a communal activity.  It is a reminder that we’re all in this together, and, dammit, we can enjoy ourselves!


Editor’s note:   Rachael Lucas is an American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional (CCP).  You can most often find her cheesemongering in the Seattle area.  When she's not working with cheese, she's eating it, talking about it, reading about it, writing about it, and dreaming about it.  She can be reached with inquiries about fromage and food excitement in the Seattle area at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Last modified on Tuesday, 19 March 2019 14:06


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