The most memorable evenings are when wine, food and friends are in perfect harmony. That precisely describes my dinner last week at The Waverly Inn with winemaker, Carrie Sumner from Domaine des Enfants from Roussillon France. It was truly a magical night from start to finish.
It had been a while since I had been back to The Waverly Inn and was immediately reminded of the neighborhood charm of West Village with cobblestone streets lined with trees and townhouses (made mental note to myself to come back here more often). The Waverly Inn is tucked away in a nineteenth century building in a quiet quaint corner of the city. Upon entering I was greeted with a crackling fireplace and a warm friendly bar. I was excited when I was invited to the event because The Waverly Inn is one of my favorite dining spots in NYC. The food is downright exquisite and the wine list curated by Beverage Director Jeff Harding is thoughtfully put together to match the menu.
The wine pairing dinner was hosted by Carrie Sumner, co-operator and winemaker of Domaine des Enfants. This special evening featured a line-up of their Roussillon estate’s beautiful wines that were expertly paired with a multi-course menu. The event transported everyone from the cold, wintry vibe of New York City, to a lovely warm place in an elegant setting with an exquisite menu and fabulous wines. The wine dinner was in the garden room which was draped in greenery and ivy and was so warm and romantic.
Carrie kicked off the dinner by introducing her winery. Domaine Des Enfants was started by her husband Marcel Bühler in 2007, The winery is located in Roussillon, a region with a long history in winemaking. Roussillon as a region has had its ups and downs. During World War II Roussillon was known to sell boxed wines to soldiers, which gave the region a tainted past of selling cheap wine. On the other hand, Roussillon is also renowned for making Vin doux Naturel with Maury, a delicious fortified late harvest wine. The region is changing and more and more you find foreigners buying up old vines in the region(anywhere to 35 to 100-year-old vines) as they are recognizing the uniqueness of the land and the vines. These new producers are starting to make high quality wines with the fullest expressions of the soils of Roussillon.
Marcel is from Switzerland and comes from a banking background. As a child he wanted to be a gardener but being from Zürich he was steered towards a career in banking. He did not enjoy banking so he left Zürich and headed for Roussillon to become a winemaker. When he was a child he had always wanted to work the fields and garden. Marcel thus named his winery Domaine des Enfants, as it means finding your inner child and living your childhood dreams.
Carrie shared her personal story where she started in the restaurant industry and ended up in Napa Valley where she met Abe Schoener(Scholium Project). Abe sent her to France for harvest where she met Marcel and the two fell in love, and as they say the rest is history. Carrie said “The foundation of Domaine des Enfants is the realization of a dream – to be one with yourself, others and nature”. I was instantly enamored with their story, as it is always heartwarming to see people following their dreams and passions.
With the first sip, I was convinced that there was something special about the wines, the land and most notably the winemaker. We started off with a glass of 2016 Le Jouet Blanc paired with Vegetable Bagna Cauda, a beautiful mix of colorful seasonal vegetables with a delicate dipping sauce. The Le Jouet Blanc is made with 100% Macabeu grown on schist soils of the Roussillon. Bright acidity and fruit on Le Jouet Blanc made it a wonderful aperitif.
The first course was Razor Clam Crudo that was elegantly presented on the shell, with cucumber, lime, cilantro and chili to top off. This dish was inspired by Domaine des Enfants’ harvest tradition where they celebrate with a grand harvest party and make razor clams on the grill. The two wines were just a fabulous pairing. We had the 2016 Le Jouet Blanc and 2015 Tabula Rasa. “Tabula Rasa” means “white sheet”, a term first developed by Aristotle and then taken further by British philosopher John Locke, standing for the immaculate status of a new-born child.” This white wine is a cuvee from Grenache Gris, Grenache Blanc, Carignan Blanc and Macabeu, It was fresh with nice zippy acidity and notes of honeysuckle and white flowers.
During harvest the Domaine des Enfants’ team is mostly Spanish, thus having a dedicated Spanish chef. The second course served was a Spanish Paella with andouille, shrimp, mussels, clams and chicken, this dish was a tribute to their Spanish harvest team. The paella was paired with 2015 Le Jouet Rouge and 2014 L’Enfant Perdu. Le Jouet Rouge comes from vines with an average age of 35 years, and is a blend of 40% Lladoner Pelut (ancient Grenache relative), 40% Grenache, and a bit of Syrah. Lladoner Pelut is a regional variety that has floral characteristic, low alcohol and nice acidity. Many winemakers in the Roussillon are ripping out Lladoner Pelut vines and replacing them with Syrah and Grenache. So this wine is rare and very special. The 2014 L’Enfants Perdu, translates to finding the lost child and is made with 15% new oak with 1/3 Grenache 1/3 Syrah and 1/3 Carignan. The wine was rich, voluptuous and full of layered textures.
The main course, also inspired by Domaine des Enfants harvest party was Braised Short Ribs with sherry, cippolini onions, polenta and beef jus. The dish was paired with the 2010 La Larme De l’Ame, which is a premium blend of Grenache, Syrah and Carignan from their best vineyard sites. Such a treat to have the 2010 vintage. It was full-bodied and concentrated with beautiful floral and perfume aromas. The tannins were just right to pair with the Braised Ribs.
Lastly we ended with a 2014 Vin Doux de Maury from La Coume du Roy. The Maury was a perfect ending served with a Walnut Fig Cake drizzled with truffled honey and topped with whipped cream.
Everything about the evening was just harmonious. I admired the food, the wines and the friendships shared in the room. Jeff Harding and his team did a fantastic job executing a magical evening of wine and food. The wines were fantastic and can be purchased through The Wine Cellarage.