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Swanson Dinner


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We did a Swanson dinner recently in Vancouver, with Clarke Swanson attending.

2004 Rosato – made from Syrah, I found this rather deeply coloured (red with an orange tint) rosé to lack much in the nose despite taking care top warm it before passing judgement (many wines are served too cold at a dinner to allow proper evaluation). There was an initial hit of acidity but the wine tailed off swiftly at the end. It wasn’t flawed in the way that many Californian attempts at this sort of wine are; it has sufficient acidity, it didn’t have too much residual sugar. It just wasn’t very interesting. Things picked up from here.

With gratin of oyster and dried cherry sabayon (I had the good fortune to have sat at a table of non-oyster appreciators and instead of 3 wound up with 6 or 7 of these little gems). Haven’t hit it that lucky since I sat beside someone that refused to eat seared foie gras, and traded him my lobster for his little slice of heaven.

2004 Pinot Grigio – all right, I admit that I am predisposed to not liking Californian Italian attempts after struggling through so many things like Nebbiolos that were limp, atypical or just strange. This was a very pleasant surprise! Crisp mineral nose, crisp acidic entry, clean finish and excellent with the oysters.

With wild organic lobster (the description of which made me want to spew – presumably to set it apart from all that tame inorganic product floating around?), salmon boudin, daikon puree and vanilla cream (the latter took a bit of getting used to, but in the end was at least interesting).

2004 Chardonnay – I was flabbergasted to be told that this was a totally unoaked chardonnay as it exhibited a definite vanilla nose, perhaps from the fermentation sur lie, frequently stirred which one assumes gave it the same sort of complexity as oak would. Another good one!

With roasted rabbit loin stuffed with pancetta and mushrooms on a peach/ginger coulis (I thought the railroads were built by coulis – no idea why chefs seem reluctant to use the word ‘sauce’)

1999 Merlot – a ‘salon’ wine, meaning not available except at the winery. Half American and half French oak were evidenced in the smoky oaky nose. Still tannic, with good balance and quite tasty, it went with the food nicely, but as it warmed up a bit and aired, the tannins became a little more prominent, so I’d give it a few more years.

With roast suckling pig (why does that dish always make me think of the Wine Speculator…?)

2000 Alexis – they have been making this cab, cab franc, merlot and syrah blend since 1994 and this one was at least old enough to be coming ‘on line’. Dark, with a sweet, slightly hot cocoa nose, tight and big in the mouth, yet smooth for all that concentration, with very good length. Surprisingly this wine is drinking very well right now, especially with food, yet again, as it opened up, the tannins at the end seemed to get a bit harder and some time in cellar is indicated.

With oka cheese en croute.

2002 Petite Sirah – now I am a BIG fan of the old style unsubtle Californian PS, but I don’t see too many of them any more – I suppose producing that sort of vin de garde is a formula for commercial suicide these days. Another salon wine, this black/purple wine had a sweetish nose that was more Syrah in nature than anything else, particularly the floral element – so much so that I’d have been touting Northern Rhone – before I tasted it. Once it hit the palate, though, it was clearly a good old California PS, huge tight and tannic. I’d love to try this in 10-15 years, but as it is another salon wine, we can’t buy it in Canada.

With some frivolously named and inappropriate dessert.

1997 Fortified Muscat – this looked like an Amontillado, and had a typical sweet Muscat nose, but it wasn’t too sweet on palate and was fairly well balanced with acidity. Nice wine to end with.

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When I saw this topic, I thought you had paired wines with Swanson's frozen dinners! :shock:

Please tell us more about Clarke Swanson or point us to a thread where ignorant people like me can find out more about him.

Michael aka "Pan"


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I, like Pan, expected an amusing post about what wine pairs well with chicken ala king, mashed potatoes, peas&carrots and apple crisp (still froze in the center, as I recall) :wink: I don't think I have eaten a TV dinner since I've been old enough to drink wine!

And I have the same problem with suckling pig and the Wine Dictator.

Kidding aside, thanks for the intro to Swanson.

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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i want those alexis bonbons and both the pinot grigio and rosato sound absolutly wonderful. unfortunately i live in new jersey and the in-laws live in new york - neither on the ship to list :angry:

Nothing is better than frying in lard.

Nothing.  Do not quote me on this.


Linda Ellerbee

Take Big Bites

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