Hotel Viking Wine Festival: Benovia

When boredom strikes on a Saturday night, what better way to combat it than with a wine tasting? Having mentioned how much she enjoyed the Hotel Viking Wine Festival when she attended last year, it didn’t take much convincing to get my mother to accompany me for a second go-around.

The evening consisted of a four-course meal with six wine pairings in total. The winery’s owner and VP of Sales & Marketing spoke in between courses to provide education on the vineyard, its varietals, involvement with the community, etc. Overall, it was a relaxing evening filled with good food and good company…and of course, good wine.

About Benovia

Benovia is located in Santa Rosa, CA (i.e. the heart of wine country). The name is derived from the first names of the fathers of the winery’s owner and his wife (those being, Ben and Novian). Owner Joe Anderson abandoned a career in healthcare and purchased his first vineyard in 2002, thus pursuing his passion for winemaking.

The winery specializes in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but don’t be fooled by these otherwise common varietals; They’re not your typical bulk-produced Yellow Tail or Mondavi pinots and chards’. I’d invite you to visit Benovia’s website for more information on their winemaking process.

hotel viking wine festival 2017
Chef Barry Correia and Benovia owner Joe Anderson

Reception Wine: 2013 Russian River Valley Chardonnay

Without further ado, let’s get into it. The first glass of wine was served as a “welcome” toast. I have to say that this was my least favorite glass of the evening. Nothing about this Chardonnay was exceptional in comparison to others that I’ve had. It certainly had depth of flavor, with notes of citrus and a slight spiciness, but had a sour aftertaste that overpowered the palate.

hotel viking wine festival 2017

First Course: 2014 Fort Ross-Seaview Chardonnay

In contrast to the reception wine, this Chardonnay was phenomenal! It hardly resembled any Chardonnay that I’ve ever tried before. The mouthfeel was much more refined, and the wine itself more aromatic. The flavors I picked up on were vanilla and peach. The owner also suggested that this varietal produced the flavor of lemon custard, which I tasted as well. This wine completely changed my view of Chardonnay.

The appetizer served during this course was seared scallops with lemon-pepper arugula and lime sea foam (whatever that means). These were delish. The scallops were perfectly cooked and tasted extremely fresh, not needing any heavy seasoning.

The arugula was an ideal green to pair with the scallop. And that sea foam – bomb. It was a sort of fishy lime mouse. Sounds gross, tastes great. Trust me.

Second Course: 2014 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

This particular wine is Benovia’s “main blend.” To me, it was similar to every other glass of Pinot Noir I’d had before – lots of berry notes, a little smokey, sometimes a little spicy. Needless to say,  I wasn’t too impressed. Until I had a sip of it with the food.

This course consisted of a lamb chop with charred raspberry compote and cherry orzo. The berries were obviously included to compliment the wine, but what took things to the next level was the lamb. Never before have I understood what it means to correctly pair a meal and a wine. After every bite of lamb I took, I needed a sip of the wine. And that cycle continued until there was no more wine or lamb to indulge in. I was just in awe of how well the two married together.

That being said, despite this righteous pairing (compliments to the chef), the lamb itself was a bit dry. However, the raspberry compote had the perfect sweet-sour punch to stand up to the meat, and the the cherries and orzo provided a great sweet-savory bite.

Main Course: 2014 La Pommeraie Pinot Noir & 2014 Tilton Hill Pinot Noir

The evening’s main course was accompanied by not one, but two, glasses of Pinot Noir (yay!). The La Pommeraie was the best of the three pinots served, in my opinion. It was rich and complex, but had a smooth mouthfeel. You could definitely taste the dark berry notes characteristic of a Pinot Noir, but with more woodiness and notes of chocolate as well. I was able to draw parallels between this wine and my favorite Italian red, Barolo.

The Tilton Hill, instead, kept true to the fruitiness of Pinot Noir and was brighter than the La Pommeraie. I tasted strawberry in this one, along with spices like coriander.

The main course was a venison steak au poivre with raspberry glacé (i.e. sauce), grilled black plums, and tarragon mashed potatoes. This portion of the meal was the biggest disappointment. I’m a sucker for black pepper and know it’s the basis for meats au poivre, but the steak was overpowered with it. Even worse, the venison itself was well-done and dry. The plums complimented the wine well, but seemed like an after thought to the dish and didn’t mesh harmoniously with the venison and potatoes.

Dessert: 2014 Sonoma County Zinfandel

I thought this last glass was lovely. It was more intense than the pinots previously served, and had flavors of boysenberry, blackberry, and cinnamon. A surprising, but delightful, choice for dessert. My only complaint is that it was not memorable enough.

For dessert, we enjoyed chocolate mocha cherry pot de crème, topped with an espresso bean. Chocolate was definitely the right route to take with this wine. The pot de crème was reminiscent of a standard chocolate mousse with the addition of tart cherries, and was topped with a chocolate-infused whipped cream. The petit dessert was a perfect sweet treat to the end of a savory meal, without being overly sugary.

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