Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Figueroa Project: A Casa Rondeña and Artichoke Café Benefit

The benefit for the Figueroa Project held last April 29 at Artichoke Café was special for many reasons. The food and wine were already guaranteed to be excellent. This is appropriate since the benefit is for Maestro Guillermo Figueroa, arguably New Mexico’s most celebrated musician. I have been enchanted and enrapt every time Maestro Figueroa has taken up the baton or bow. Whether conducting an orchestra or playing violin as part of a string quartet or quintet his musicianship is second to none.

John Calvin, the architect and proprietor of Casa Rondeña has been a long time supporter of both Maestro Figueroa and more recently, the Figueroa Project. We all owe John a debt of gratitude for helping to keep this musical treasure in New Mexico. I personally came to love his music from the many inspired concerts held on the grounds of Casa Rondeña; indisputably the most beautiful location in this state to enjoy wine and music.

Perhaps inspired by his playing, Artichoke Café put on an exquisite dinner, paired to the wines of Casa Rondeña.  Owner Terry Keene was on hand to make sure everything went smoothly, even helping clear the tables. The service was excellent and the food and wine divine. I will describe the dinner next - but spoiler alert! - don’t read this on an empty stomach. 

During the reception we dined on the signature artichoke tapenade in endive leaves, salmon tartare and European cheeses while sipping the Casa Rondeña Rose, a Cabernet Franc-based wine that combines old world charm with new world brashness with bright strawberry over a brooding dark fruit core.

The curried carrot soup needed a wine with good body and acidity to handle the spice and the Viognier, one of Casa Rondeña’s most popular white wines, filled the bill. The honeyed citrus flavors danced with the spiced soup. The Maple Leaf Farms white smoked duck breast was incredibly rich and needed a well-balanced red. Enter the Meritage, a classic blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and a dash of Petit Verdot. The emphasis on Merlot makes this more of a right bank Bordeaux blend.

The 1629 Founder’s Reserve is a blend of Spanish Tempranillo mated to earthy Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon which excelled with the beef tenderloin Rossini and foie gras mousse. This has become my favorite Casa Rondeña wine and I hear from John Calvin that the next release will be even better. Be still my beating heart as Sting would sing.

The chocolate truffle torte was a partner in richness to the Calvin Animante dessert wine. This port uses Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc to achieve elegance few domestic ports can match. Yum, maybe I shouldn’t be writing this on an empty stomach!

Bravo and thanks to the Artichoke Café for a wonderful dinner, Casa Rondeña for the wine and Maestro Guillermo Figueroa for the musical inspiration that made it all happen.

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