Pepper Bridge – Amavi Winemaker Dinner

Posted by David Bowles on Tuesday, May 2, 2017


Our “Year of Walla Walla” continues as we host Pepper Bridge Winery and Amavi Cellars winemaker, Jean Francois Pellet, for an evening of tasting truly world-class wines together with unique and insightful food pairings. There will be six wines to taste, five courses of brilliantly crafted food and loads of fun. Wine will be available for purchase the day of the event for a substantial discount. You really shouldn’t miss this dinner!

Five Courses – Six Wines – Great Conversation: $85 plus gratuity 
May 18th – 6 PM

Register by clicking here or call the restaurant at 503.614.0267

The Winery

Janet at AmaviSeven years after Leonetti Cellars opened in 1977 there was just 60 acres of vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley. In 1989, Norm (Stormin’ Norman) McKibben had retired from the construction industry and planted his first vineyard, a mere 40 acres. In 1996, Norm partnered with Gary Figgins (Leonetti) and Marty Clubb (L’Ecole No. 41) to increase vineyard holdings to 200 acres. Norm joined forces with Ray Goff in 1998, later recruited winemaker, Jean Francois Pellet, and together the team and partners comprising the top-tier who’s who of Walla Walla have grown their vineyard holdings from the initial 40 acres to more than 2,800 acres of premium vineyard.

All of that horsepower is focused on producing the best of the best, the iconic wines that you will be smelling, sipping and savoring at dinner with winemaker, Jean Francois.

The Winemaker 

Blonay, Switzerland

Jean Francois (JF) grew up in Switzerland, working alongside his father who managed the same vineyard for thirty years. His path was clear to him, though one can safely guess he had not imagined his career trajectory would land him in a place like Walla Walla, Washington. His first winery gig was actually near the village of Blonay, Switzerland (photo on right) Janet’s Swiss heartland. To make his dreams possible he set out to earn degrees in both enology and viticulture and then interned in Switzerland and Germany as well as Napa Valley before managing vineyards and making wine in Switzerland and Spain. It was in Spain that he blossomed holistically, managing 500 acres of vineyards as well as designing a new winery and developing product for market.

Jean FrancoisWhile working in Spain JF caught the attention of Heitz Cellars in Napa and it was there that he set up shop in the New World. After four years, he was recruited to Pepper Bridge to create the wines that have established Pepper Bridge as a top-flight, world-class winery. Soon thereafter he formed a partnership with Pepper Bridge owners, Norm McKibbon and Ray Goff, and formed sister winery, Amavi Cellars. JF continued to set down deep roots as he became a creative and cultural figurehead in Walla Walla Valley. He spent years on the Board of the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance, participated in instruction in the enology program at the community college and is a founding member and Vice President of Walla Walla Valley’s sustainable agriculture organization, VINEA.  JF is a vibrant and engaging personality and the evening is sure to be extremely entertaining as well as educational.

The Wines

2015 Amavi Semillon  Semillon (88%) and Sauvignon Blanc (12%) are the two most prominent white Bordeaux grapes. You will be greeted with the younger sister of this wine, the 2016 vintage that is brighter, maybe slightly more playful. The 2015 Semillon that Janet took on to pair with a starter is a serious, soothing and refreshing wine that does this grape proud. The 2015 growing season continued a trend of warmer and warmer seasons, with cooler days and nights coming on as the fruit ripened. Harvested ripe in late August, the wine is richly structured with ripe fruit and deep floral notes presenting toasted almonds with a touch of honey.

avsynv-for-web_w2014 Amavi Syrah The bouquet of plum and clove tease you, then you taste currant and blackberry, but it’s the hint of fig and olive that deepens the character and lengthens the finish. This is a sophisticated wine with rich tannins and a gentle, long finish. Janet fell in love with this wine.

We were going to do just four courses but we simply could not leave any of these big boys out of the lineup, so the Merlot, the Cab and the Trine are all included.

Trine2013 Pepper Bridge Trine  This is the ultimate blend of Bordeaux red varietals grown in some of the finest estate vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley. A perfect growing year allowed each of the five grape varietals to ripen perfectly while an ideal, cooler September enabled the development of acidity that brought a perfect balance to the wine. This wine was barrel aged for 17 months in French oak, 38% new and the rest neutral. The tannins are perfectly polished; it’s a world-class wine.

2013 Pepper Bridge Merlot  The Walla Walla Valley is producing some of the best Merlot in the world. The folks at Pepper Bridge are too classy to say so, but I can say this: This Merlot stands up to the structure and power of the finest Right Bank wines of Bordeaux. The base notes are earthy and dusty, the fruit is opulent and spicy as it fills your mouth with flavor, holding it with grip and power. With the freestyle flair that will someday make her famous, Janet has paired this wine with – what else – Mac & Cheese.

pbcabno-vintagecropped-1_w2013 Pepper Bridge Cabernet Sauvignon  This flagship wine delivers on the Pepper Bridge promise. It is one of those wines that you find yourself raising the glass to your mouth, taking a sniff and forgetting to drink, satisfied. The wine is finely crafted using  83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% merlot, 4% Malbec, 2% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. It was aged in French oak for 19 months, 44% new and 56% neutral.

The Food

Bethany's Table Event SpaceFor a starter Janet is creating a panzanella salad to pair with the Semillon. The deep structure of the wine allows her to add some zing with spiced pepitas, balsamic red onion, crisp prosciutto, chervil and arugula.

For the Syrah Janet asks you to “think French/Moroccan ramen” with spiced garbanzo beans instead of noodles. She will make a rich, earthy mushroom broth with meaty mushrooms, grilled Meyer lemon, and a little heat with mint, cilantro and a thin slice of pork belly.

The smooth, full, rich Trine screamed to Janet for Cassoulet. Her version of this classic dish is rich and rustic. It changes on whim, as Cassoulets tend to, but typically includes flageolet beans, duck, sausage, rabbit… you get the picture.

As mentioned above, the Merlot strangely inspired Janet to make mac & cheese. Sharp cheddar and smoked Gouda show off the flexibility of this powerful but inviting wine. The caramelized onions and beer sausage are nicely framed by the wine’s earthy grip.

Janet took the easy way out here when she decided to pair the Cabernet Sauvignon with ribeye. Who can’t do that? She adds value with a thoughtful concoction of fried, baked potato wedges treated with crème fraiche and slow-roasted baby carrots.

Five Courses – Six Wines – Great Conversation: $85 plus gratuity 
May 18th – 6 PM 
Register by clicking here or call the restaurant at 503.614.0267




Categories: Restaurant News, Wine

Leave a Reply

Please complete this simple math problem (also known as a captcha)
before submitting your comment : *