wine in heels

one pairing, two pairings, three pairings, four

I was recently invited to attend a wine pairing events called Wine in Heels. Originally started in Aspen by advanced sommelier Vilma Mazaite, Wine in Heels is meant to give women a chance to learn more about wine in a fun, relaxed, and- well, non-male-dominated atmosphere. Vilma recently moved to Austin with partner chef Allison Jenkins to open laV, a French Mediterranean restaurant set to open on East Seventh Street this fall. Until then, Allison has been serving seasonal small plates from her food truck Say  laV, and the two will continue to host pop-up Wine in Heels events at private residences...

Sommelier Vilma and Chef Allison make a great team!

Vilma was not only incredibly well-informed, but she made learning about wine really fun. She has the ability to speak to a small group and make you feel like she's a good girlfriend chatting with you over a glass of wine at a cafe... I suppose her exciting tales of world travel and comparison of each wine to various guys she has dated helped too :) "Wine is my boyfriend and I change it all the time," she said with a coy giggle. "I think the only time you could call me a whore is with sparkling wine. I wish I could drink champagne everyday!"

eggplant goat cheese red pepper crostata paired with a  Vouvray Brut

So it was quite appropriate that we were greeted with Domaine D'Orfeuilles Vouvray, a sparkling chenin blanc from Loire Valley which Vilma calls her go-to sparkling wine. She explained that she prefers drinking her sparkling wine out of white wine glasses because it allows her to smell the bouquet so much better, rather than masking its scent and flavor with bubbles. (Noted!) Allison paired this with a delicious eggplant crostata. The buttery richness of the dish balanced quite well with the effervescence of the sparkling wine, and the slight pungence of goat cheese seemed to draw out honey-like qualities within it. Each bite and sip tasted like summer!

carrot fennel scallop ceviche paired with a Vermentino

When pairing food and wine,"I try to think about the texture of  the wine and the food and I always try to make sure the wine doesn't overpower the food," said Vilma. "A big, tannic red wine isn't going to go extremely well with your oven roasted, clean fish. You want something with lemon, something crisp." 

The next pairing was one of my favorites of the night. Vilma chose a coastal, Italian white from Sardegna to go with Allison's Maine diver scallop ceviche. Argiolas Vermentino is bright and filled with citrus notes that paired beautifully with the orange, fennel, and carrot juices used in the ceviche. The ginger in it brought out honeyed profiles in the wine and added a general sunniness to the entire package.

white almond garlic gazpacho with white grape and
 crab garnish, paired with a Manzanilla sherry

The next pairing was another favorite of mine, and quite unexpected (on my part)! Firstly, the white Spanish-style gazpacho you see pictured is made primarily from almonds, white bread, and water, then garnished with a bit of crab and white grapes! Vilma chose a manzanilla sherry (Bodegas Hidalgo "La Gitana") to go with it; she said the salty minerality of this sherry is reflective of the Andalucian coast where it is made. "The area is captured in this bottle, no doubt."

I thought the sweet and sour bite of the white grapes really held their own against the light acidity from the sherry. The soup was shockingly thick and creamy for something completely dairy-free, and the higher alcohol content of the sherry cut right through it cleanly. I also thought the fragrant sherry paired very nicely with the sweet and savory garlic in the soup. Even more amazing-- Vilma said she still hadn't tried the pairing and was about to taste it with us for the first time! "But in my head it made sense!" she assured us. This dish was simple decadence!

veal schnitzel with warm mustard potato salad, paired with a Zweigelt rose

Last, but certainly not least, came veal schnitzel, a dish Allison was known for at her last restaurant in Aspen. Vilma chose a peppery Austrian rose to pair with it, which I thought magically matched the warm potato mustard salad atop the dish. The 2012 Sattler Zweigelt rose was light bodied with spice profiles that worked really well with this herbacious schnitzel, and a squeeze of lemon was a great finishing accompaniment... unfortunately this wine is no longer available, but I look forward to exploring more Austrian roses this summer...

Bravo, Wine in Heels! Pretty soon, they will be opening these events to the public and hosting them at the Say la V eastside trailer. I urge you ladies to check it out and learn a new thing or two about wines from charming Vilma while pairing the dishes with well-executed dishes from the talented Allison! I assure you will not be disappointed, though you will probably be just as excited as I am for laV to open up!