On our way home from the Wine Blogger Conference (WBC10) in Walla Walla, we had an amazing experience at Desert Wind Winery in Prosser in central Washington. Our hosts, Desert Wind owners Greg and Amber Fries, rolled out the red carpet for three couples: Dave and me; plus dear friends Melanie (Dallas Wine Chick) and John, and Barbara ( ) and Jason.
It was the hot sunny Monday after WBC10. We left Walla Walla that afternoon, and arrived in Prosser to lounge on the winery deck with a refreshing glass of Desert Wind 2008 Sauvignon Blanc. (Greg is the winemaker for both Desert Wind and his family’s Duck Pond Cellars in Oregon.)
After relaxing in our gorgeous luxury suites, we were treated to an outstanding 5-course dinner prepared by Chef Frank Magaña from Picazo 7Seventeen. Each course was accompanied by a variety of Desert Wind wines, including some library wines. The food fest continued the next morning with a bountiful breakfast delivered to our rooms – we enjoyed it on our balcony overlooking the Yakima River. Wow!
If you ever want to really appreciate the wonders of Washington wine country deluxe-style, Desert Wind is the place for you. Four luxury suites are each so stylish and comfortable, it’s hard to choose one.
We stayed in the Jean Baptiste room, with a southwestern decor so appealing and attractive that we decided we want to copy in our house one day. I particularly loved the pillows that looked like envelopes with brown leather flaps. When I asked Amber if they were for sale in the winery’s incredible gift shop (which I blogged about a couple of times in the past), she was very amused. The answer was no, unfortunately!
And then there was the food and wine. Desert Wind’s Mojave by Picazo is open noon – 3 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, when Chef Magaña works his magic for the lunch crowd. I had heard (too many times to count) about the wonders of Frank’s meals, but when he prepared a feast for us at Mojave, it was the first time we experienced it ourselves. Each of our courses had the wow factor – not surprising, when he describes himself this way:
“Chef Frank Magaña, a passionate young man with a talent to tantalize and a spirit to dream; a culinarian that has no limits to create the perfect pairing with the fruit of his neighbors and a glass from a winemaker down the street.”
So true! The first course was a casual, sit-at-the bar-and-chat, array of appetizers – Dungeness Crab Cakes with Chipotle Aioli Firecracker Prawns, Patatas Bravas, Marcona Almonds and Olives, paired with Desert Wind’s 2008 Sauvignon Blanc and equally refreshing 2009 Viognier. A couple of the guys (including John, who is a foodie) said they could have easily consumed all the firecracker prawns but were being polite to make sure everyone else could also enjoy them.
After about a half hour of summer sippers and incredible appetizers, we sat down at the beautiful table, where we were served Proscuiutto-wrapped Mixed Field Greens with Ancho Chile Vinaigrette, paired with 2009 Dry Rose’ and 2008 Semillon. I found the Dry Rose’ a perfect accompaniment to the tasty second course and never looked back!
And I must mention the lovely and lively dinner conversation – we were joined by assistant winemaker Scott Siver and his guest, Anita, Catherine and David, and another excellent Picazo 7Seventeen chef, Darren Dewalt.
The third course was one of my favorites, although it is really hard to determine a favorite when every course is marvellous: Basil-Stuffed Salmon with Tempranillo Pan Sauce, Blue Prawns & Trumpet Mushrooms with Cream. Naturally, we sipped on 2008 Tempranillo in addition to 2006 Duck Pond Cellars ‘St. Jory’ Pinot Noir. I was pleasantly surprised to experience how well the 2006 Pinot paired with salmon. The wine was big and bold and brought out the flavors of basil and salmon, while matching the mushrooms. Sigh.
By the time the next course was served, I didn’t think it was possible to eat or drink anything more. But the aromas from the Fillet of Beef Tenderloin (with Savory Ruah Sauce), Black Truffle Risotto, and Grilled Lamb Chop (with Ruah-Garlic Marinade) were impossible to ignore. A vertical of Ruahs (2004, 2005, 2006 and 2008) was available to pair with the scrumptious food. Seriously, I didn’t think I even liked lamb chops until I tasted Frank’s masterpiece. And Desert Wind’s Ruah is award-winning, as I’ve written about before, and a smooth touch to the rich food. Yes please, I said.
And finally, there was dessert. I almost passed on it, because I haven’t treated myself to dessert in months. Thankfully, I didn’t this time. We were still talking about the dessert plate for days after the dinner! Yes, I said plate!
If you haven’t tried Espresso Creme Brulee, you’re missing out on a heavenly experience. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Oh, and also thinking about the Gorgonzola Truffle. I can’t even describe how delicious those two desserts tasted. Oh, and by the way, the dessert plate also contained Chocolate Creme Brulee and assorted dark chocolates, matched with the perfect pairing of 2004 Desert Wind Syrah or 2004 Duck Pond Port.
Regular readers of this blog know that I rarely write long posts. This one is a tribute to our hosts, Greg and Amber, for such a marvellous and memorable experience. Thank you so much – and special thanks to Frank, too.