Northstar’s Grand Tasting

By Lou Phillips

092415-BytheGlass_2Dawn Bertsch pours the Failla Chard with Sunnyside’s Cindy Burnham on the left.

If you put the word grand in the title of your event you better be, well, grand. This year, event director Whitney Wall and her crack-crew at Northstar California may have exceeded expectations at the annual Autumn Food and Wine extravaganza.

It doesn’t hurt to be in a region that is so attractive to top flight wine-directors and chefs. These dream teams have brought food and wine experiences in the Tahoe-Truckee area to what is unquestionably an all-time high, and when they got together at Northstar on Sept. 13 magic was in the air.

The final component at any great food and wine event is the winery partners, and again, this was an all-star lineup. With so many luminaries it is impossible to name them all, but here are some highlights.

Northstar’s own Petra wine bar served up rich Moroccan lamb meatballs and Sequoia Chappellet brought her family’s 2012 Mountain Cuvee. This Bordeaux Blend is full of savory berries and mountain spices that made for a rich romance with the cumin-spiced lamb.

Kathleen Dale of Wolfdale’s served caviar over fresh, seasonal melons, and as if that wasn’t bubbly enough Gruet Winery poured its crisp, creamy and complex Brut Sparkling Wine from the mountains of New Mexico.

092415-BytheGlass_1Revelers Brent and Wendy Von Twistern from Incline Village.

Pianeta’s wine director Thomas Beckering and Chef Bill Arnoff teamed with Pride Mountain Vineyards to match pan-seared duck breast with a cherry and olive enhanced pan reduction with the 2012 Pride Cabernet Sauvignon. Pride Cab is known for the same dark cherry and savory olive characteristics that the food featured, and had its usual dose of dusty, silky mountain tannins to cut the richness of the duck.

Jeff Hill of Jake’s on the Lake brought his great smile and decadent pan-seared diver scallop spoon to pair with Frank Family’s oak-toasty and voluptuous 2013 Napa Valley Chardonnay.

As usual, Sunnyside brought the A Team, with operating partner Jeff Oxandaboure and Chef Robb Wyss plating duck confit and salsa on house-fried chips complemented by Failla Wines 2013 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay that was a mouthful of fresh, white peach, citrus and a lick of limestone.

The brilliance of wine and food pairings like this doesn’t just happen. The above-mentioned wine gurus and chefs have to be committed to excellence, as well as being in synch.

We are blessed with a myriad of wonderful celebrations of wine and food locally, and they all have been improving year after year. Cheers.

Lou Phillips is a Level 3 Advanced Sommelier and his consulting business assists in the selling, buying and managing wine collections. He may be reached at (775) 544-3435 or [email protected] Visit for more wine columns.