A seat at a Sawgrass wine dinner is highly prized. They sell out almost immediately, and Chalk Hill was no different. The tables were full of guests anticipating wonderful courses by Chef de Cuisine, Ben Brett, each paired beautifully with Chalk Hill wines. If you haven’t signed up for a wine dinner yet, look for opportunities on Foretees. They are normally on Wednesday and Thursday nights and possibly Friday if it’s a well-known popular brand. The dinners are a great way to taste wines, enjoy new dishes prepared especially for the dinner, and get information about the vineyard…all while relaxing with friends. Chances are you’ll leave knowing more friends than when you got there!
My guide and helper was our own Bo Cure. He is the Sawgrass in-house wine expert. His official title is Wine and Beverage Manager, but he is also a Sommelier and his knowledge shows it! His rapport with both guests and the Chalk Hill representative was confident and comfortable. Bo not only coordinates the wine dinners but he also determines what wines Sawgrass serves on each menu.
My husband and I got to experience our first wine dinner experience last night featuring four wines from the Chalk Hill Estate; Chalk Hill Chardonnay, Chalk Hill “Estate” Pinot Noir, Chalk Hill “Estate Red,” and Chalk Hill Red Wine. We’ll talk about the food pairings in a bit, but first a little background on Chalk Hill.
Chalk Hill Estate
Welcome to Chalk Hill Valley. Elevation: 450, Population: 2. This sign is proudly placed at the entrance of Bill Foley’s 1,200 acre Chalk Hill Estate. It speaks to their friendly and family oriented atmosphere. Chalk Hill is located between the cool Russian River appellation and the warm Alexander Valley. The diversity of the Chalk Hill topography creates a broad spectrum of different sites across which can be planted both red and white varieties. The lower, cooler sites are perfect for Chardonnay while the steeper, warmer, south-facing slopes are superbly suited to ripen Bordeaux varietals.
According to Marketing Director Denise Roach, “With over 150 accolades, Chalk Hill has earned its place as being one of Sonoma County’s iconic vineyards.” The vineyard manager, Mark, has been with the vineyard for 40 years meticulously managing the growing and harvesting process. He knows when to groom, when to water, when to taste, and finally when to harvest the different types of grapes to ensure a great beginning to wine.
Next the winemakers take over. Truly it is an art form. Their newest winemaker, Courtney Foley, is adding to the unique heritage that defines Chalk Hill. With an estate-wide, shared aesthetic, the winemaking process is light-handed, non-invasive, and sustainable, allowing each bottle to emulate the essence of the vineyard.
More than Wine
There is more to see at Chalk Hill Vineyards beyond the vineyard and wines. The Estate Pavilion is a gorgeous event space overlooking an Olympic-sized dressage riding arena. While this space is large and open, Meghan’s Chapel is a smaller, more intimate gathering space perfect for weddings and events.
In addition to growing grape varietals, Chalk Hill boasts gourmet produce, meats, and poultry. The culinary program is a natural extension of their agricultural heritage. The extensive organic gardens provide the Estate Executive Chef with a bounty of fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables including many heritage varieties – that are used in specially-created dishes designed to showcase their wines.
Chalk Hill Wine Dinner
First Course – Seafood Gocce Scampi. The dish included royal red shrimp, dungeness crab, snow crab, herb gocce, and basil butter. The small hand-made cheese-filled pastas were paired brilliantly with the shrimp. Everyone at the table loved the first course! It was paired with the Chalk Hill Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, 2017.
Second Course – Veal Marsala. The veal was tender and full of flavor! Florida trumpet marsala, arugula, truffle vinaigrette, and baby carrots accompanied the veal. The second dish was paired with Chalk Hill “Estate” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, 2015.
Third Course – 1855 Prime Ribeye “Eye.” This was my favorite course! The meat was seared in an 1800 degree oven and plated with roasted marble potatoes, chargrilled “Lini’s,” and topped with a cherry glaze. I believe you could top just about anything with the cherry glaze, and I would LOVE to see it featured on a menu item in the future. This course was accompanied by Chalk Hill “Estate Red,” Chalk Hill Appellation, 2015.
Dessert – The Chocolate Bomba. For dessert, Chef Ben went above and beyond. I wasn’t sure what the dessert was at first glance, but it was amazing! Imagine a scope of vanilla and chocolate mousse covered in hardened chocolate with a blackberry gastrique surrounding the dessert. It was pure heaven to crack the chocolate shell and dive into the cold soft creamy mousse. Dessert was served with the Chalk Hill Red Wine, Sonoma Coast 2016.
Want more access to wine?
The wine dinners are so fun! We had a ball getting to know the couples at our table and discussing some of our favorite wines and wineries we’ve visited. But if you’re not into wine dinners, there are other ways you can benefit from Bo’s expertise.
- Order from Bo directly – Is there a wine that you tasted and loved on date night? Call Bo, and he can order you a case. He’ll probably suggest another wine for you to try based on your order and overall palette.
- Uncorked – As a member of Uncorked, members receive a discounted price for all wine dinners. In addition, Uncorked members enjoy a list of phenomenal wines that are all $20. Bo chooses the wines on this list. He’s also available for consultations for uncorked members. Are you hosting a Christmas party and want to chat about which wines to serve? Call Bo. Do you want to host a wine tasting at your house, call Bo. He can recommend wines and appetizers that will add to the flavors of the wine.
- Chairman’s Club – If you need even more access to great wine, join the Chairman’s Club. You probably saw an email go out about it recently. There are two levels of membership, two bottle per month or four bottles per month. All bottles are premium wines picked by Bo for our members.
Wine is meant to be enjoyed with friends, and wine dinners are the perfect setting if trying new wines and featured dishes is your thing. We hope to see YOU at the next wine dinner!