Steamboat Wine Festival: The Beast or the Bottle?


Which comes first: the food or the wine? Master Sommelier Damon Ornowski led an excellent seminar as part of the 11th Annual Steamboat Wine Festival. Ornowski’s discussion of food and wine pairings filled restaurant bistro c.v. in downtown Steamboat Springs, Colorado, with wine- and food-lovers eager to learn and enjoy memorable food and wine.


Ornowski introduced the seminar by describing how most people order a glass or bottle of wine at a restaurant, then choose the food. He offered pointers on how to consider what food to order with what wine, then promptly turned it on its head by pouring wines that may not have been aligned with people’s perceptions of them.


* Leeuwin Riesling Artist Series, 2012, Australia. Ornowski said most people hear Riesling and think sweet. This wine from the maritime climate in the Margaret River region had very little appreciable sweetness. It smelled of fresh star fruit and grapefruit, must, and only slightly of WD40 or petrol, common in the nose of many Rieslings. Its zesty taste was a surprise, with a lot of lime, mineral, and slate. Tablemates agreed this was not a wine for sipping on a porch. It demanded food.


bistro c.v.’s owner-chef Brian Vaughn and his team presented Green Tomato Carpaccio vacuum-sealed with oil (sous-vide) topped with Burrata and Roasted Colorado Peaches, and finished with sea salt, olive oil, and cracked black pepper. Like magic, the astringent wine softened to showcase its citrus, while the subtle sweetness brightened the natural sweetness in the tomato and ripe peach. This was a great example of how the food made the wine taste better, and the wine made the food taste better.

* Ken Forrester Reserve Chenin Blanc, 2013, South Africa. Ornowski said this wine comes from a cool maritime climate near the ocean. It had a fragrant nose of fresh peach and apricot, and a bright taste of lime – “lean and tart.”


Chef Brian Vaughn paired it with Scallop Crudo, or raw scallops sliced thin and “cooked” in lime juice and peppers (think ceviche), and topped with Colorado Peach Salsa, Edible Pansies grown in front of the restaurant, and extra-virgin olive oil from Umbria. The pairing was amazing. The acidity cut right through the richness of the scallops, making them taste creamy and lush, while the peaches and red onions in the salsa emphasized the fruit in the wine.

* Potel-Aviron Beaujolais Villages, 2012, France. This is another wine that comes with a load of preconceptions, mainly a fruit bomb that finds its way to a Thanksgiving table. However, aged Beaujolais offers beautiful fruit and earthiness. It comes from Burgundy, like Pinot Noir. It smelled of a container of fresh blueberries and toasted almonds. However, it tasted of unripe strawberries –unexpectedly tart, with a sour finish.


Guest chef Charles Hays from Vin 48 Restaurant and Wine Bar in Avon, Colorado, prepared Colorado Lamb Tartare with Shaved Black Summer Truffle and Carrot Olive Oil Purée, served with Brioche Toast Rounds. This was my favorite pairing. The earthy wine was an excellent complement to the earthiness of the truffle, while the acid in the wine was a good match with the fat in the olive oil. This pairing even had a bit of umami to savor, and the purée of carrots and olive oil was a big hit with the room.

* Canine Menhir No Zero Salento IGT, Italy. This wine comes from the Salento peninsula in Puglia. It smelled of leather and plum and tasted of earth and cherries. It was dense and delicious.


Chef Charles Hays paired it with Wild Mushroom Risotto made with fresh Porcini mushrooms from the Vail Valley, mushroom stock and butter, and finished with fried onions. Hays said the fresh Porcinis were too tempting. He and Ornowski compared them to meat because they are so dense and rich. The combination of the mushrooms and wine seemed to create an additional taste of pepper that was not a discrete element in the dish. This was an excellent way to finish the seminar and it wasn’t even dessert!

A number of seminar attendees had the same idea: dinner at bistro c.v. that night. It is a terrific place to eat, and we approached it with a new appreciation after deconstructing their dishes earlier in the day. Kudos all around.


Until our next adventure in wine and food…

Steamboat Wine Festival
Multiple Venues in Steamboat Springs
Steamboat Springs, CO

bistro c.v.
345 Lincoln Avenue
Steamboat Springs, CO 80487
Neighborhood: Downtown

Vin 48 Restaurant and Wine Bar
48 East Beaver Creek Boulevard
Avon, CO 81620
Location: Boat Building
Short drive from Arrowhead, Beaver Creek, Eagle, Edwards, Minturn, Red Cliff, and Vail


Read more about the Steamboat Wine Festival:

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