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Ten Mercer hosts delicious,educational and gregarious wine tasting dinners
Ten Mercer hosts delicious,educational and gregarious wine tasting dinners
by E. Joyce Glasgow - SGN A&E Writer

Whether you are a wine aficionado or a novice, your knowledge and appreciation of wines, their flavors and origins will expand at Ten Mercer's monthly wine tasting dinners. I attended the August dinner, dedicated to the wines of Germany, featuring specifically a variety of wines made from Riesling grapes grown in the Mosel and Rhein River Valleys. Lacy Jackson, guest wine host of Billington Imports, inspired, educated and entertained us with her passionate appreciation and detailed knowledge about wine growing history of the regions and soil contents and their effects on the flavors of the wines. It was fascinating to taste the variety of characters achievable from the Riesling grape. All the wines served were delicious and worthy of pursuing at your favorite wine shop and surprisingly, four out of five of these fine wines served can be purchased for under fifteen dollars a bottle.

The wines were paired with delicious, creatively prepared and artistically presented dishes by Ten Mercer's chef, Doug Wilson. We started with '03 Schumann-Nagler Sekt, Dry Rheingau, a sparkling, champagne like wine with a dry flavor to start, evolving with many colors and changing, multiple flavors with a hint of sweetness and a citrus, crisp character of "minerality" nurtured by the shallow rock, shale and loam soil in which these grapes were grown on the Rhein River. This wine comes from a five hundred year old vineyard tended by twenty four generations. I found this wine to be exciting alone or with food and it was paired well with Ten Mercer's popular and flavorful appetizer, Grilled Dungeness Crab Cake with Garlic Caper Remoulade.

Our first course featured '04 Rudolf Eilenz Ayler Kupp Riesling QBA, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, a lightly sweet wine with a dry follow through and a semi-rich body. This wine is easy to drink with hints of melon. It is produced from extremely ripe grapes from Ayler, in the Mosel River area. This was paired with Wild Prawn Wrapped in Pancetta with Cucumber Linguine and a Citrus Soy sauce. This dish was delicious with unusual flavors. The succulent prawn and saltiness of the Pancetta and soy were a perfect pairing for this sweeter, melony wine.

The second course featured '03 Schumann Nagler Riesling Spatlese, Hattenheimer Wisselbrunnen, Trocken, Rheingau, a more full bodied wine with a bit of a bite. Trocken is "dry", and this wine is on the citrus side with a tangerine essence. These grapes are grown where they have the opportunity to have more Sun exposure and this additional "kiss" of the Sun, as Lacy Jackson put it, "is like being on the beach and feeling the blush of the Sun". This wine was paired with an intriguing blend of flavors in a Grilled Three Citrus Halibut with a Mango Salsa. This dish was very hot and spicy. The moist and tender halibut was covered with black pepper and while at first I found the black pepper content a little over the top, when eaten with the sweeter, gentler, fresh fruit Mango Salsa, the flavors of the food and wine married into a perfect and obviously well thought out combination. The peppery nature of this dish brought out a complimentary, subtle sweetness in the paired wine.

Our entrée wine selection was '04 Karl Erbes Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Spatlese, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, a "late" Riesling, with more sugar than a Kabinett, was by far the sweetest offering of the evening. I found this wine to be syrupy sweet and just too overpoweringly sweet for my taste. It was paired well however with a Cinnamon Rubbed Center Cut Pork Chop with Pan Fried Spaetzle. This robust and earthy dish had a hearty and savory sauce which contrasted the intense sweetness of the wine enough to balance the combined flavors perfectly. I had a taste of the pork but had previously arranged for a fish, chicken or vegetarian substitution for this course. The kitchen made me a delicious Seed Crusted Alaskan King Salmon with Homemade Polenta, Grilled Apple and Fennel Slaw and Red Pepper Vinaigrette, which was fine alone, but character wise was more delicate and not a good pairing for this demonstratively sweet wine.

Our dessert wine selection was '04 Johann Haart Piesporter Goldtropfchen Riesling Kabinett. The grapes for this wine are picked before the "late" Spatlese producing grapes. This wine is delicious with citrus tones, due again to the shallow, rock and shale content of the soil and has a rich texture and weight. The grapes are grown in Mosel, on a small area of thirty hectares, where the development and refinement of this particular wine has been 650 in the making since grape growing began on the property in 1337 A.D. According to our wine expert, Lacy Jackson, this land is considered noble land and this wine is characterized as having a great deal of "nobility". It was served with a scrumptious, refreshing, gently sweet and light Blintz with Fresh Local Peaches, which I've encouraged the restaurant to add to their regular menu because it is a perfect dessert choice, especially for an easily digestible late night treat.

If you would like to enjoy a lovely and memorable night out and want to meet new people or share an intimate and engaging dinner with friends, I recommend attending one or more of these special and festive wine tasting dinners. Everyone sits together at a long table that seats about twenty in the private dining room and as the casual and comfortable night progresses, the sharing of wine and food stimulates a relaxed and gregarious atmosphere. Brian Curry, Ten Mercer's owner and general manager, graciously oversees these evenings, taking great care that all the participants are enjoying themselves. The wait staff is professional, friendly, unobtrusive, alert and timely.

The Ten Mercer wine tasting dinners take place once a month, with different wines and foods introduced at each and are a good value at $65-75.00 plus tax and gratuity. There are five to six wines and food courses served per dinner. Reservations are required in advance as these dinners sell out quickly. The September tasting will feature red and white wines from J. Lohr Winery in California and the October tasting dinner will feature red and white wines from Terra Blanca Winery in Red Mountain, Washington.

Ten Mercer is open daily for dinner from 4 PM -12 AM. The bar stays open until 2 AM. It's a great place to go for a late night dinner after the opera or other events at the Seattle Center, which is only two blocks away. Ten Mercer is located at 10 Mercer Street (between First Ave. N. and Queen Anne Ave. N.), (206) 691-3723. For more information or reservations visit: www.tenmercer.com.

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