Monthly Wine Experience: Class & Pairing at 827Ray’s Kitchen+Cellar
Disclosure: I attended a complimentary Wine Experience and Food Pairing at 827Ray’s on Dec 5, 2017. All opinions are my own.
827Ray’s is a charming Hill Country eatery that offers delicious French inspired cuisine and has an extensive wine list. They house over 100 different wines by the bottle, ranging in price from $32 to $195. Selections are very global and include vintages from California, France, Spain, New Zealand, and South African. Wines by the glass range in price from $8 to $15. Chef Brooks embraces the farm-to-table and seasonal approach to food, including using responsibly raised meats. The menu changes often and Chef often creates titillating specials, so be sure to always ask about off menu items.
The restaurant also offers a monthly two hour “Wine Sensory Experience” (first Tuesday of every month, except January 2018 it will be held on the second Tuesday). Hosted by in-house Sommelier Tatiana Short, you will sample four wines from various regions chosen by Tatiana and small plates masterfully prepared and paired by Chef Brooks.
On the evening of my first “Experience” (yes, there will be another), the focus was on the North American West Coast. Wines enjoyed included in succession with each food course included two Pinots and two Cabs: 2014 Nielson by Byron Pinot Noir (Santa Barbara, CA), 2015 Anne Amie “Winemakers Selection” Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley, OR), 2014 Atlas Peak Winery Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley, CA), 2014 Powers “Sheridan Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon (Yakima Valley, WA). [All shown below, including region information provided]
The evening began with introductions and a couple minute “wind down” time with the room dimly lit, eyes closed, and focused breathing to release the stresses of the day (well needed) to allow each person to relax and stimulate their senses of sight and smell. In addition to being a sommelier, Tatiana is a Neuropsychology Ph.D. student and has blended her two passions into a very creative and informative event. In order to fully understand how the “Sensory Wine Experience” at 827Ray’s is different from some other tastings you might attend, I asked Tatiana to expand. According to her, “My hope with this Sensory Wine Experience series is to bring the storytelling behind wine’s evolution back to the wine industry as a whole. The history of human evolution through food and wine is expansive and in my opinion fascinating. To drink wine means (to me!) to be engulfed in World history and human sciences, to experience the workings of a brain so capable of connecting scents, flavors, and memories. Throw in the dynamic ways in which our bodies’ design has evolved over the centuries in order to better take in this neurosensory information and you have more than just wine but a story that I think all wine drinkers must be a part of!” She continued, “During this tasting I really wanted drinkers to hone in on the beauty behind terroir; that is that beyond how the wine is made is the environment its born from that can really differentiate two Pinot Noirs, or any varietal for that matter. I fully expect the expert drinker to learn more than they expected upon walking in, as well as lighten the intimidation factor that wine carries with it for the novice.” And the class was indeed not intimidating, It was quite entertaining and interactive, both of which elevated the overall experience.
The wines were poured and the eating, drinking, and learning commenced! I found the first Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara to be very smooth, with floral tones. Paired beautifully with the elegant Duck Carpaccio with a blackberry aioli and served with lightly dressed Watercress and crustini. The subtle earthiness from the wine complimented the buttery, slightly peppery thin sliced duck breast.
The second Pinot Noir from Oregon was paired with a hearty Roasted Mushroom and goat cheese Bruschetta drizzled with a sweet and slightly tangy Balsamic reduction. I found the Oregon Pinot to be more robust, with dark berry and tobacco flavors that stood well beside the meaty mushrooms and crispy bread.
The third pairing started with a peppery Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that had nuances of plum and went really well with the Roast Beef Tenderloin, a slightly sweet Madera jus and lightly steamed broccolini. The perfect combination of a complex, deep flavored wine and perfect cut of meat in my humble opinion.
The final course, dessert, included a second Cabernet Sauvignon (this time from Washington State) that I found to be fruity (think dark cherries and berries), yet balanced by a lingering light peppery finish. Really enjoyed it with the rich, creamy Dark Chocolate Spice Cake with a glistening dark cherry compote and fresh, fluffy whipped cream.
I am not a complete novice at tasting wines, nor am I an expert by any means. I knew of couple of tasting “rules;” however, Tatiana’s class was very informative and fun. She indeed instructed the full room to “see, swirl, sniff, sip, and swish each wine” as promised. Slurping was highly encouraged, as were any questions. I would not take my “reviews” of the wines enjoyed as highly “educated.” I simply tried to employ as much as I could from the class to discern different nuances and describe them. According to Tatiana, “Above all I want our audience to have fun in a stimulating learning environment while also getting an idea of how serious we are at 827Ray’s about a good glass of wine!” All was great fun! While very educational, there was absolutely nothing pretentious about the event. The setting was stunning and the wine pours and food course presentation progression was very well executed by 827’s friendly staff. Cheers and brava!
“Wine Sensory Experience” – Every first Tuesday of the month (except January 2018 will be on January 9th) from 6:30-8:30pm-ish. Only $40 per person. Includes four course progression with wine pairing and instructional class. Pre-purchase tickets here. The event is getting more and more popular so do not hesitate.
3519 Ranch Road 620N
Austin, TX 78734
Regular restaurant hours:
Lunch 11am – 3pm; Dinner 5pm – 9pm Sun-Thur, 5pm – 10pm Fri & Sat; Weekend brunch 10am – 3pm.
Happy hour: 3-6pm Mon-Fri & ALL DAY on Tuesdays.