Wine Cooperative & Ruffino Wine Dinner; Washington, DC

A couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to attend the Ruffino Wine Dinner at the Ronald Reagan Building & International Trade Center. The event was hosted by Ruffino’s National Sales Director Daniel Burgio, the meal prepared by Chefs Xavier Deshayes and Todd Gray, and sponsored by DC International Wine and Food Festival’s Wine Cooperative.

For those not familiar with the Wine Cooperative, it’s the same group of people behind DC’s International Wine and Food Festival, with the goal of providing a cozy atmosphere to share your passions for food, wine, and spirits while learning how chefs and sommeliers pair beverages with food. Their goal is to provide both a social and a learning experience, while affording you the opportunity to mingle with industry folk as well as others who share similar passions. What more could you ask for? Great food, great drinks, and great company.

This event was amazing. The cocktail hour was held downstairs at the Reagan Building and included an assortment of Hors d’oeuvres paired with Ruffino’s Prosecco NV ($12.99) and Unoaked Chardonnay 2011 ($10.99). The Chardonnay, despite being unoaked, had some interesting characteristics. Aromas of fresh apple, with a dab of apricot and an ever so slight kiss of caramel were capped with bright fresh flavors of apricot and apple, similar in style to a Virginia Viognier.  This was very aromatic, well balanced, and finished with round, slightly creamy, debonair and has an excellent price point.

I mingled for a bit at the cocktail hour, then it was on to the dinner. After sitting down with some fellow enthusiasts, including the owner of Assaggi Osteria in McLean, VA and his wife, I familiarized myself with the dinner menu. I almost hit the floor. The menu was extravagant. The first course consisted of Cavatelli pasta with roasted wild mushrooms, Indian sweet corn, thyme roasted lobster, and pancetta and was paired with Ruffino’s Aziano Chianti Classico 2009 ($14.99) and Santa Dame Chianti Classico 2008 ($27.99). This dish had a creamed texture with a touch of sweetness from the corn, balanced by the saltiness of the pancetta, with succulent lobster just lightly seasoned in fresh thyme. I could have literally ate this dish for all four of the courses. My favorite wine of the evening was paired with this dish in perfect harmony in the form of the Santa Dame Chianti Classico. The Santa Dame had structure and balance of a reserve with floral and fruity aromas dancing on the nose while plum and dark fruit (touch of cherry) make their way across the palate blending with velvety tannins, and notes of fresh coffee beans lingering behind on the lengthy, soft and smooth finish. My favorite wine of the evening hands down. The price point of $27.99 is well worth every penny.

Up next was a dish of Icelandic arctic char, patty pan squash caponata & chickpea coulis with red wine garlic jus, paired with Ducale Chianti Classico Reserve 2007 ($23.99). I’m not a big fish fan, but this was perfectly prepared, seasoned, and garnished enough that I could not sense a single overly-fishy quality in this dish. The main course of the evening was a chestnut and porcini mushroom stuffed pork loin, braised endives, roasted fingerling potatoes with red wine sauce paired with Ruffino Modus 2009 ($29.99). The Modus was decent for a big bodied and rich wine.  If you are a fan of big tannins, this wine is for you.

The evening and dinner was capped off with an array of desserts and a fresh fudge station, accompanied by Ruffino’s Vin Santo 2007.  Aromas of fresh flowers, dried fruits, and ground sugar laid the foundation for the dried apricot and bold sweetness on your palate, with a honey like syrupy finish. Also setup for dessert was a Sabayon station offering prepared Mixed Berries with Frangelico, Fig with Mascarpone and Grappa (my favorite), and Strawberries with Crystallized Basil and Ice Wine Reduction. After the dessert was served, (2) Magnum sized bottles of Ruffino Chianti Reserve were raffled off and all attendees were sent home with complimentary bottles of Olive Oil. Overall, the food, wine selections, and event as a whole was amazing. I’m patiently waiting for the next Wine Cooperative Event sometime in early 2013. Be sure to give some of these Ruffino wines a taste and be sure to keep your eyes open for upcoming Wine Cooperative Events, including the International Wine and Food Festival in February 2013. Special thanks to the entire Wine Cooperative, Ruffino, and Candice Barnes at the Ronald Reagan Building & International Trade Center.

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