At a lovely Wine Country lunch this past week in Sonoma, I was transported to Chile with very unique dishes paired with Marques de Casa Concha single vineyard wines. Introducing us to the cuisine was Chef Ruth Van Waerebeek, consulting chef and culinary advisor to Concha y Toro, Chile’s largest wine producer.
I expected to dine on classic Mediterranean food but instead discovered delicious flavor combinations I’d never experienced before. The dishes were derived from local tradition but prepared with the Nuevo Latino flair that Chef Ruth acquired while cheffing and teaching in NYC. The wines only reinforced the unique personality of the regional fare.
For aperitif, we enjoyed a delicious ceviche with just the right balance of sweet coconut milk and tart lime. For this we had the fruit-driven Casillero del Diablo white wine ($11) from the coastal Limari Valley. The freshness of the Chardonnay and fragrance of Moscato in the blend matched the tropical ceviche perfectly.
The squeeze of lime added to the Latino flavors in this delicious crab dish paired with the 2011 Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay ($23) from the limestone soils of Llanura de Camarico Vineyard in Limari Valley.
Quinoa is an ancient staple for the regional Mapuche Indians. Chef Ruth transformed it into a crowd-pleasing risotto, deeply-flavored with dried mushrooms, smoked bacon and basil pesto. The dish was paired with a 2011 Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere, a more concentrated and structured style of Chile’s signature red grape grown in the deep alluvial soils of Peumo Vineyard in Rapel Valley. Chef Ruth likes Carmenere with vegetarian food, I thought the boldness of this particular wine matched the meaty, rich flavors of the risotto.
Here’s the link to the recipe for this delicious Quinoa Risotto including an accompanying video with Chef Ruth herself.
This lamb kabob with juicy sweet peaches looks simple but it’s complex and savory, marinated in yogurt spiced with dried and smoked local chilis, salt, ground coriander seeds, garlic and a little oregano and rosemary. I loved the addition of savory bay leaves on the skewer and the freshness of mint-cilantro pesto. In the background is delicious roasted eggplant prepared with tomatoes, smoked paprika and garlic. This was paired with the 2011 Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon from the famed Puente Alto Vineyard in Maipo Valley, source of fruit for cult wine Don Melchor, the wine that launched Chile on the world’s stage in the 1980s. The fruit that is not allocated for Don Melchor goes into Marques de Casa Concha and it’s a tremendous value at about $26 retail. I tasted many of the same elements of the vineyard (from a Don Melchor tasting just a week prior) in this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, deeply concentrated fruit of black currants and cherries, minerality and hints of cedar, mint and spice, bound together with savory tannins.
This very, very moist Tres Leches cake was too gorgeous to eat. Almost. It was paired with a beautiful 2009 Concha y Toro Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc that had just the right balance of botrytis complexity and late harvest fruit concentration. A bit of Riesling and Gewurztraminer added lovely floral notes.
Just the food and wine would inspire anyone to explore Chile but Chef Ruth’s warm and engaging manner gives further impetus to visit both Concha y Toro’s winery and her own guesthouse Mapuyampay about a 100 miles away in the foothills of the Andes. She gives interactive cooking classe there as well as wine tours and organizes all sorts of outdoor activities.
For more information on the wines, visit www.conchaytoro.com