Last Friday night, I had the distinct pleasure of attending the first ever Pairings event, hosted by the Nashville Wine Auction. This wine auction and dinner event was a prelude to the Nashville Wine Auction’s (NWA) many wine-related events, including the big one, L’Ete du Vin set for Saturday July 20, and offered a more accessible ticket price than the summer event while still raising much-needed funds for organizations that serve cancer patients throughout Middle Tennessee.
Pairings took place at the Noah Liff Opera Center and while the room was packed, it only added to the thrill of the auction events and the fact that the NWA had gathered such an exciting and talented group of wine makers (and chefs) into one room for the night. The silent auction put dozens of small lots out for the taking – including several that had me ready to plunk down the checkbook, like a selection from Au Bon Climat and a group of French Bordeaux. As the minutes ticked by, auction sections would close down, elevating the silent bidding process to a fevered pitch. Meanwhile, a host of winemakers from spots like Ilsley Vineyards and Cliff Lede Vineyards were pouring tastes for guests as they browsed the auction items.
At 7:30, the party moved in to the dining room where NL contributor Chris Chamberlain took the stage as emcee and introduced the many sponsors and beneficiaries who were in attendance. At the table, we were treated to a parade of outstanding courses that were created by a string of James Beard award-winning and nominee chefs who, in the spirit of the evening, were paired together to collaborate on a dish.
Table 3 chef Will Uhlhorn was paired with chef John Fleer of Canyon Kitchen located inside Jennings Barn (Cashiers, N.C.) to create a brandade dish that was neatly wrapped in prosciutto; chefs Tandy Wilson (City House) and Nate Appleman (former executive chef of A16 in Chicago) put out a plate of unbelievably tender wine-braised octopus over semolina and grit farinata; the smoked and braised short ribs were melt-in-the-mouth delicious thanks to chefs Tyler Brown (Capitol Grille) and Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman (Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen and Hog and Hominy in Memphis); and for dessert, chef Tandra Watkins (Ashley’s in Little Rock) finished things off with a wine tart with poached pear. If I’d known there was a vegetarian option, I might have chosen it since it was prepared completely by Roderick Bailey of the beloved Silly Goose.
Side note: Several of these chefs were honored as semi-finalists and nominees for the 2013 James Beard Awards: Tyler Brown, Tandra Watkins, Tandy Wilson, Andrew Ticer, and Michael Hudman were all on the list; this week, Wilson, Ticer, and Hudman found out that they are on the short list of nominees. Congrats to an outstanding team (and to Pairings for pulling together an A-List team in the kitchen)!
Photos by Jim Cook
As for those pairings, the kitchen was chock-a-block full of kitchen genius, as captured by Chris Chamberlain.
And in the glass, a selection of Stag’s Leap wineries had poured four lovely pairings that perfectly captured California in the glass. The 2010 Solo Cabernet by Silverado stood on even footing with that octopus, while the 2006 Chimney Rock Tomahawk Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon was sturdy finale paired with Watkins’ pear tart.Photo by Jim Cook
I’ll admit that I didn’t take part in the live auction madness but those who did enjoyed an entertaining display as wine experts Elise Loehr of F. Scott’s and Table 3 stood alongside Brett Davis, MW from Louisville to offer peanut gallery commentary about each auction lot while David Allen of Music City Auctioneers brought the house down with his lightning-fast auction calls. It was hard to tell where the all of the winners landed but hearing a few auction lots fetch well over $2,000 per prize had me hopeful that the event had done it’s duty of raising a pile of money–more than $165,000–for several well-deserving local cancer facilities. It was a job well done and certainly put me in the mood for what will surely be a summer of wine-friendly fun.Photo by Jim Cook
A few more Nashville Wine Auction events to look forward to:
Thursday, June 20 – Grand Cru
An elegant cocktail party offering an Auction Preview. ($250 per person).
Wednesday, July 17 – A Year In Burgundy
The Nashville premiere of Martine Saunier’s documentary shows at the Franklin Theater. ($30 per person).
Thursday, July 18 – Vintner’s Tasting
A tasting featuring Taittinger Champagne and the French wines of Martine Saunier at Hillwood Country Club. ($135 per person).
Friday, July 19 – Patrons’ Dinner
A gourmet wine dinner prepared by guest chef Sean Brock of Husk, Charleston with Chef Tyler Brown of The Hermitage Hotel featuring the best of Taittinger Champagne and French wines of Martine Saunier. ($1,000 per person).
Saturday, July 20 – 34th Annual l’Ete du Vin
An evening at Loews Vanderbilt Hotel beginning with a Silent Auction and wine sampling followed by dinner and a spectacular Live Auction. ($275 per person).
For tickets to these events and more information, go to nashvillewineauction.com.
— Erin Byers Murray, Managing Editor