It has been a rough Spring for me because of my allergies. I had been looking forward to attending the Buffalo Gap Food & Wine Summit at Perini Ranch since January (the Summit was April 23-25). Four days before I was supposed to go, my allergies turned into a sinus infection. The last thing you need to go wrong before going to a food and wine event is your sense of smell, taste and stomach.*
* side note…for those of you who have read my “Surviving Napa”, do you think it is a bit of deja vu? But I did NOT get food poisoning. I REPEAT…I did NOT get food poisoning!
I was feeling better by the time we were supposed to leave, so Dear Hubby and I hit the road and I was giddy with the prospect of meeting winemakers from Texas and California and Master Sommelier, Guy Stout (a fellow Texan & one of less than 200 Master Sommeliers in the world). What I love about this event is that it is not a “festival”, it is an educational summit. Tom & Lisa Perini, along with Fess Parker & Dr. Becker, wanted to create an educational venue about wine and food and help promote Texas and the California connection. What a winning combination; an outstanding “cowboy chef”, a native Texan who created one of the best wineries in the Los Olivos, Ca. area, then throw in Dr. Becker, who has one of the best wineries in Texas and you’ve got one “Hell of a Summit!”
As we approached the Abilene city limits, I could feel my sinuses closing up and my breathing becoming raspy because all I could smell was ragweed, Mesquite trees and dirt. The high winds did not do me any favors. Abilene is my hometown and the 2 things I do not miss is the dust and high winds.
I wish we could have gone to the Friday night dinner because Stephan Pyles was the featured Chef and my husband and I love his restaurants, “Stephan Pyles” and “Samar” in Dallas. But I needed to be “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed” for Saturday morning because I was going to be helping at the 10:30 am seminar, “Wine, Why You Like What You Like” with Master Sommelier Guy Stout. This would be an opportunity to learn about setting up a blind tasting while listening to a Sommelier and winemakers discuss wine and the wine making process.
I got to the tasting tent at 9 am and thank goodness it was in a tent because the wind was awful and I really thought wine glasses were going to be tossed around as well as a couple of Longhorns! A few of us were having sinus issues and my medication did not help my counting skills. I was helping Connie, my new best friend for the weekend, count paper bags to put over the wine bottles so none of the participants could cheat and know what they were drinking. I think I had to recount my stacks several times but Connie never said anything negative and was suffering from the West Texas wind too. The next thing I got to do was open wine bottles….a lot of wine bottles. The most difficult bottle to open was a dessert wine that had a wax seal on top of the cork. The wax was so hard that I felt like I was drilling through tile. I’m beginning to think that screw tops are the only way to go. I guess I was the most menacing looking person in group because I was wearing my black hooded sweat shirt with a skull on the back that read “Badboy Vettes”, so while the seminar was going on, I got to “guard” the wine and then “unveil” the bottle after each one was discussed. I loved doing that! I also got to sample some of the wines. There were 17, but I only did about 5, and my favorite was Stewart Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley.
After the tasting, we cleaned up and set out everything for the next seminar, but I could not stay for that. I was not feeling well and I needed to get out of the wind and dust and get a nap because my long-suffering but supportive husband and I were going to be pouring wine that night at the “Cowboys, Cuisine & Cabernet” party.
Sully & I arrived back at Perini Ranch and were assigned to pour Stewart Cellars Pinot Noir and our station was next to Chef Tim Love, who owns 2 restaurants in Ft Worth, “Lonesome Dove” & “Love Shack”. We have eaten at the Love Shack in the Stockyards and definitely recommend it, so we were thrilled to be “paired up” with him. Plus he is just a “hoot” anyway and very nice.
I love the concept of the Saturday night party because it features fantastic Texas and California wines with Texas chefs who push the “culinary edge”, especially when it comes to cooking meat from all kinds of animals.
Tim Love had Lamb BLT’s on rosemary bread & the Stewart Pinot Noir brought out a lovely herbaceous quality to the sandwich and I was surprized how delicate the lamb tasted.
Tim Byres from the Dallas restaurant “Smoke”, had rabbit sausage and again I tried it with the Stewart Pinot Noir and a mild dark fruit, brown sugar quality came out of the meat.
Tom Perini had his famous peppered beef tenderloin and I paired it with Becker Reserve Cabernet. The dark fruit and meaty quality of the wine was a great match. It made the dish heartier but did not overpower the spices.
Gerard Thompson, from Rough Creek Lodge in Glen Rose, did a roasted quail that had subtle smokey flavors, and I went back to the Stewart Pinot Noir because it has enough body and light fruit layers to stand up to smoked meat. YUM!
Stephan Pyles (actually he was not there Sat. Night) had a short rib tamales paired with Fess Parkers Syrah “The Big Easy”. This is a lovely Syrah with beautiful fragrance and dark fruit. It enhanced the smokiness of the tamales.
My husband could not resist the strawberries dipped in chocolate by Vletas. I’m so happy that this Abilene institution is still going strong and the strawberries are as big as your fist!
We did not get to sample everything, and it was just as well, because I over did it. I FORGOT that I was on antibiotics and later that night my stomach reminded me!
It really was a beautiful evening. The wind died down and it was almost a full moon. Sully and I got to meet some old friends and make new ones. I also got to see a Master Sommelier “boogie down with his bad-self” on the dance floor with his vivacious wife! We also met Ashley Parker Snider; Fess Parker’s daughter, who was gracious and lovely and enjoyed the story of how I looked next to her Brother Eli, who is 6′ 6″ (I think) and I’m 5′ on a good day.* If you want to see the photo of Eli & me; go to the Category “Sommelier Stuff” of my blog & you will see it titled “Sommelier Class Homework”.
The next morning, just like the trip to Napa; my poor suffering husband loaded my sickly carcass into the car to get back to Dallas in time to see Jeff Beck in concert. I was NOT going to miss that! I actually willed myself out of bed.
I really want to thank Tom & Lisa Perini for being such fantastic hosts and Susan Cannan for coordinating a wonderful event and putting up with all my questions. And thank you Connie for being so nice to me when I couldn’t count.
P.S. you can find web links to all of the participating wineries and chefs on the Perini Ranch website. (www.periniranch.com) Sorry about being lazy, but like I’ve said before; it has been a rough Spring….