Daring with Pairing – Passport 2017

Madrona Vineyards welcomes you to Passport 2017, where we have designed a food and wine pairing adventure for your enjoyment!

Wine and Food – the ultimate and decidedly rewarding puzzle.

So….are you willing to exceed conventional wisdom, question pairing taboos, and explore beyond your food and wine comfort zone? We have devised a progression of courses paired with a range of wines, designed to astonish and delight. Let us guide you on this culinary journey!

(Further down, we have also provided information on the ART OF THE BLEND, featuring our El Tinto and our Quintet).

Pairing #1 – Naan Bread Pizza and 2011 Syrah, Signature Collection

 The Recipe -A staff created recipe of chimchurri sauce with minced olive, fontina cheese and topped with a kale salad)

Why It Works:  the parsley, ciantro and garlic in the sauce accentuate the fruit character in the Syrah, without overwhelming the balance and texture of the wine.

Syrah – Chimichurri, Olive and Kale Pizza Recipe

Pairing #2 – Morrocan Beef Tagine with both the 2016 Riesling AND the 2014 Zinfandel

The Recipe – Beeef, beer and blood orange Tagine with ginger, cinnamon, coriander and diced pistachios – PDF Copy of the Recipe

Why it Works with the 2016 Riesling, Hillside Collection – The green apple, pear, melon fruit and bright acidity of the Riesling work well to meld the fruit and spice characters.  The sweetness of the dish complements the fruit characters in the wine, ad the acidity of the wine cleanses the palate perfectly.  Who would have thought – Riesling and Beef?

Why it Works wiht the 2014 Zinfandel, Hillside Collection – The layered dark and red berry fruit, along with the anises and black pepper spice, complement the fruit characters in the Zinfandel perfectly.

Riesling – Beef Tagine with Beets and Oranges Recipe

Pairing #3 – Bruleed Truffle Tremor and 2014 Malbec, Signature Collection

The Recipe – Well, there is not much of a recipe.  Mary uses Truffle Tremor, a creamy goat cheese with shaved black truffle, sprinkles it with coarse sugar, and carmelizes it with a hand torch!  Now that’s inventive!

Why it Works:  The Malbec’s dense and brooding dark cheers and blueberry fruit pair beautifully with the earthiness of the truffle.  The Bruelee also emphasizes the berr fruit of the Malbec, and the body, texture, and tannins of the Malbec embrace the creamy density of the cheese.

Malbec – Bruleed Truffle Tremor

Pairing #4 – Black Walnut Cake and 2010 New-World Port

The Recipe – Dense, subtly sweet/savory buttermilk cake with black walnut pieces.  Well, not so original, but always a favorite!  PDF Copy of the Recipe

Why it Works: The tannins in the walnuts and the earthy, slightly savory aspect of the cake show off the earthiness of wine, while the fruit and spice decorate the rustic buttermilk base notes of the cake.  The simplicity of the dish reveals the serious, complex, balanced nature of the New-World Port, which is often overlooked with more glamorous pairings (chocolate/cheese).

Port – Black Walnut Cake


The reason for blending wines together is to achieve a set of flavors or characteristics that aren’t present in a single wine. The winemaking focus shifts from emphasizing “pure” varietal characters of a single variety, to creating a wine that incorporates the strengths of multiple varieties into a harmonious amalgam. We have created two vastly different blends that serve two very different purposes in our El Tinto and Quintet.

The El Tinto is made with to be an everyday table wine that is both versatile with its food pairing abilities, and enjoyable all by itself.

The Quintet, one of our flagship wines, is designed to showcase the different but harmonious characters of the five classic Bordeaux varieties in a seamless way, and to have a cellaring potential of 5 to 15 years.

El Tinto

El Tinto is the wine we undoubtedly spend the most time and effort (in terms of actual man hours) in creating. The blending philosophy for El Tinto is distinct from any other wine we make in that the components of the blend are constantly in flux, and are ever growing in volume and number. It is the sustainability program for our winery. The base of El Tinto is made up of “orphan lots.” An orphan lot is a quantity – barrel, keg, etc. – of one specific wine, which does not fit within the parameters of the other wines we are currently producing. When you grow as many different grapes (29) and make as many wines (don’t make us count) as we do, you end up with a fair amount of orphan lots.

As such, this base component always varies greatly from year to year. It’s not unusual for El Tinto to comprise twenty or so different varieties. VERY different varieties – from Chardonnay to Nebbiolo – grapes that are not necessarily known for playing nice together. It is our job and privilege to craft – through the art of blending – the profile and set of characters we come to expect and enjoy in El Tinto. The finished El Tinto is designated by Lot (eg. Lot 36) rather than by vintage. This is necessary because there are always multiple vintages within the blended lots, and therefore El Tinto never meets the legal requirement of 95% of the same vintage. Not having this constraint also means we can blend wines from multiple vintages, giving us the ultimate freedom in the art of the blend.


Our Quintet represents an entirely different challenge than the El Tinto. Our intent is to create a Bordeaux-style blend that incorporates all five of the Bordeaux Varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot, and Malbec. Each of these grapes has individual strengths, and some weaknesses, contributing to the overall blend. Originating in the Bordeaux region of France, these varieties have a natural affinity for one another; the focus of blending the Quintet is to highlight and exemplify those harmonious characters, and make a greater whole.

In the cellar we make each of the wines individually. A few months before bottling, we get together with our consultant Hugh Chappelle (who was our winemaker in the 1990’s) to help formulate a Quintet blend. The conference room becomes a tasting laboratory, tables strewn with sample bottles of all of the wines, notepads, Riedel glasses, funnels, pipettes and graduated cylinders. Initially, we evaluate the strengths of each of the components of that particular vintage, and then begin by “ballparking”; an arbitrary benchmark blend that serves as a starting point. The goal is a wine that is a balanced full-bodied expression of what a blend of Bordeaux varietals grown in the Sierra foothills can be. In determining the percentage of each wine going into the Quintet, we take careful consideration that no one varietal dominates the blend. We then continue with trials with different blends, refining our blend literally glass by glass, working on balance, palate, complexity, tannin structure, aromatics, and spice.

When the percentages are finalized, we taste through each wine barrel by barrel, grading each one, and select only the highest quality barrels to use in our Quintet blend. The Quintet is a structured age-worthy serious wine that has a depth and complexity only achieved through the art of blending.

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