Flavors: Savoring Moments At Food, Wine Festival

Jun 21, 2016

Marc Mondavi and Joy Merrilees were the featured winemasters for the 2016 MSUB Foundation Wine and Food Festival's Winemaster Symposium. Mondavi and Merrilees chose the wines, some seldom seen outside their respective wineries, to illustrate the subtleties of their art.
Credit Tony Smith

 The 2016 MSU Billings Wine and Food Festival Winemasters Symposium brought together winemakers Marc Mondavi of Charles Krug Winery and Divining Rod Winery along with Joy Merrilees of Shannon Ridge Family of Wines, and Executive Nick Steen of the Northern Hotel. For the symposium, Chef Steen created a menu that partnered with the wines provided by the festival’s winemasters.

The dinner menu, created by Chef Steen, is at the bottom of this post. To begin, Steen and his staff first tasted a wine to pick up flavor notes and then paired that wine with the food. Steen thrives on putting a playful twist in his dishes. For example, he developed an Apple Canape. The fruit and creamy soft cheese filling was baked in a buttery puff pastry that matched the apple and buttery nuances he tasted in the Diving Rod Chardonnay. 

The Northern Hotel's Executive Chef Nick Steen was one of the featured chef's last year at the MSUB Foundation's Wine and Food Festival. He returned to Billings earlier this year after serving as the executive chef at Lone Mountain Guest Ranch in Billings.
Credit Stella Fong

 The burnt cheese then complimented the smokiness in the wood of the barrel the wine fermented in.  In June’s Flavors Under the Big Sky, Steen talks about the Duck Breast and the Banana Pancake. The Shannon Ridge Sauvignon Blanc evoked such wonderful memories of the tropics that he did something unexpected with his dessert. Needless to say Jack Jackson’s Banana Pancakes song has become the theme music for this dish. Though Steen has taken the pairing process in a thoughtful manner for this class, his belief is really to savor the moment and enjoy.  

BUT the message is to not make such a big deal about making sure food is “perfectly” matched with the wine.  Marc Mondavi, wine royalty in Napa Valley, shares that “wine is an experience.” Food and wine should just go together and your palate will know if you like the experience or not. I call this the “yum” factor because your taste buds will tell you when you do not like something. Mondavi grew up enjoying wine with food as it was part of his heritage and culture. His father, Peter who passed away at 101 years old earlier this year, fought to preserve Charles Krug Winery for the family. Now Marc’s children and his brother’s Peter Jr.’s kids are active in the business.

Joy Merrilees, the Director of Winemaking and Production at Shannon Ridge in Lake County, talks about how women have the innate ability for flavors and memories. She says women can taste nuances that men perhaps cannot. Merrilees says as a a result, her wine making may add unique characteristics and finesse. She continues by pointing out that our past can influence how we identify tastes. In the show, Merrilees provides hints on how to taste wine.

The takeaway from speaking with these three experts is to savor the moment and let your senses tell you whether you like a wine with food or food with wine. Trust your taste buds to tell you whether something is delicious or not. Cheers to you all.

Credit Stella Fong

  2016 Wine Symposium Menu:

2014 Divining Rod Chardonnay


Puff pastry, soft cheese, thyme, miso, burnt cheese

2014 Diving Rod Pinot Noir


Blackberry Gastrique, warm spices

2012 Charles Krug Reserve Generations Red Blend


Sweet Potato Croquet, currant

2012 Charles Krug Cabernet Sauvignon


Bittersweet Chocolate Rosemary Demi, savory cream

2013 Shannon Ridge Zinfandel


Flathead Cherry “pie”

2013 Shannon Ridge Petite Syrah


Cranberry Cherry Chutney, clove, molasses compound butter

(Lamb provided by Shannon Ridge Vineyards and Winery.)

2012 Ye Old Buck Shack Red Blend


Shaved crouton, egg, fried capers, watercress, lemon

2014 Shannon Ridge Sauvignon Blanc


Coconut Meringue, bruleed banana, pistachio pesto, mango coulis