Zinfandel Dinner at the Lake Elmo Inn

Delicious.  Amazing. Delectable. Scrumptious.  And a lot of fun!  Just a few words I can think of to describe the dinner we had at the Lake Elmo Inn a few nights ago.  Several times a year the Lake Elmo Inn hosts dinners with wine pairings.  This evenings selection of wines were all Zinfandels, one of our favorite wine varietals.

The dinner was supposed to be held the week before but the lovely (read that not so lovely) Minnesota weather caused a postponement of the dinner.  Because of the change in date, some very unfortunate souls were not able to make the dinner.  Those of us with minimal social lives were able to reschedule and therefore were lucky enough to enjoy the dinner in the veranda!

Our host for the evening, Erik Forrest, was delightful as always.  Erik has as much fun as his guests at these events and even though the timing between the kitchen and the dining room started off a bit off, he took it all in stride and had great fun with it.  We wouldn't have noticed if he hadn't asked the wine expert for the evening to "talk for 5 more minutes" because "10 minutes in the kitchen must be different than 10 minutes in the dining room."  We still didn't care, we had wine in our glasses and were sitting in the beautiful veranda enjoying the company of our table-mates!

The wines selected for the evening were from Steele and Michael David wineries.  The wine sales representative for the evening was Jane Greenheck, from Paustis Wine Company.  To most of you that name probably means nothing but as soon as she said her name Dave and I looked at each other and said "could it be?"  Dave went to grade school with a Greenheck family in Wabasha, MN.  So when there was a break Dave asked Jane if she was of the Wabasha Greenhecks.  Small world she was and she is married to Pete Greenheck, Dave's gradeschool classmate!

That out of the way, let's get on to dinner and wine!  The first wine was from Steele, their Pacini Zinfandel.  This is an old vine Zinfandel, with vines planted in 1940.  For me, this wine was good, not fabulous but a good Zinfandel.  My favorite zin, Home Ranch from Seghesio, didn't have to worry about competition from this wine.

The first course was an Apricot and Goat Cheese salad with Frisse and Cherry Vinaigrette.  This salad was a perfect compliment to the wine.  The hit of this course, however was literally the cherry on top.  On top of each salad was half of an Amerena Cherry.  I had never heard of an amerena cherry before but I knew I would be finding some.  This cherry, well half a cherry, was delicious.  It was sweet but not overly sweet and had a unique flavor, not like any cherry I've had before.

Of course I had to find the cherries!  I figured either BuonGiorno or Cossetta would have them.  I called BuonGiorno first and they had two jars left.  They didn't mention the size of the jar, just that they would be $11.99.  Yes please set one aside for me!  Dave actually picked them up.  When I got home the jar was on the counter.  It was TINY!  I joked that there were only about a dozen cherries in there so they are a dollar a piece!  No wonder we only got half of one on the salad!

The next wine was again from Steele, their Catfish Vineyard Zinfandel.  This one was drier than the first so I liked it better!

This was served with one of the best courses of the evening.  Every course was amazing but everyone at our table raved about this one!  It was a Duck and Wild Rice Pasta.  Chef David Grass explained what a work of love this dish was.  The wild rice flour was purchased from a woman who grinds it herself with a stone.  Of course he had made the week prior only to have the event moved.  Actually he made a couple of batches before he thought he had it right.  For our dinner he had made a batch and thought he would dry it.  He made a drying rack that he thought would hold the pasta.  Well, it didn't!  And he ended up making it again!

As I mentioned, this was delicious.  The wild rice pasta was perfectly cooked, combined with duck, slivered carrots, sliced pea pods, cashews and mushrooms.  The duck was moist and not gamey (I don't generally like duck) and the carrots and pea pods gave the dish great texture.  There was a nutty flavor too, that I thought was coming from the pasta, not just the cashews. I couldn't figure out the sauce.  I thought maybe it was just a simple olive oil.  I asked Chef David what the sauce was, browned butter!  That was the flavor!  Amazing.

The next wine was from Michael David, 7 Deadly Zins.  I've had this wine before and it's not one of my favorite Zinfandels.  We learned that the 7 Deadly Zins wine is sourced from seven different vineyards in Lodi, CA.  Michael” and “David” are Michael and David Phillips, two brothers whose family has farmed in the Lodi region since the 1850’s.  They are sixth generation grape growers!  On the back of the 7 Deadly Zins bottle is a prayer of sorts.  Erik read this to us and the room became a revival!  At the end of each stanza the room cheered "Oh Lord, forgive me for my Zins."  So much fun!

The 7 Deadly Zins was paired with a Tuna Dragon Roll.  I'm not really a sushi fan but these were really good!  I loved the sriracha aioli on top.  The tuna had great flavor, the seaweed was soft, the sticky rice was sweet and whether you dipped them in the soy sauce or the wasabi, with or without the pickled ginger, this was a delicious course.

Our second Michael David wine was their Earthquake Zinfandel.  Next to this one on my menu I wrote "YUM."  Yes, I take notes.  I have absolutely no tolerance for alcohol so by the end of the evening I don't remember anything!  Unfortunately this dinner was on a "school night" so I had to be extra careful on my consumption but I took notes anyway!  This wine I loved.  Home Ranch love?  I don't know but this is a really good Zinfandel.  It's "big" and spicy and just amazing.  The vines that produce the grapes for this wine were planted in 1906, the year of the big earthquake in San Francisco, hence the name of the wine.

The course served with this wine is one of the main reasons we signed up, Kobe New York Strip with Roasted Beets, Mustard Greens and Fontina Cream.  The beef was cooked to a perfect medium rare and it melted in your mouth.  I am not a big beef eater.  Dave lives for steak.  We both loved this beef!  The mustard greens had a horseradish flavor that paired perfectly with both the beef and the beets!

And finally, our last wine was Michael David's Lust Zinfandel.  Next to this one I wrote "OMG! Amazing."  Yes, this one competes with my favorite Seghesio Home Rance.  And for $60 a bottle I guess it should be pretty amazing.  I didn't get a picture of this bottle!

The final wine was served with Mixed Berries Sabayon.  This was a perfect ending to this fantastic meal.

We love that they have the wines for sale too.  Yes, a case came home.  They were offering $2 off per bottle if you bought a case, we had to!

We had so much fun.  We love going to these dinners!  Next time though, we're taking the next day off!  The next dinner will be in April so check out the Lake Elmo Inn website and like them on Facebook so you can enjoy one of these evenings too!

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