Several years ago, I had the pleasure of attending a wine dinner with Ken Forrester at L”Eiffel Bistrot in South Barrington, where I was the office manager and events coordinator. When I learned that my friend, Enoch Shully, owner of Bin 36 in Chicago was hosting another wine dinner with this South African wine icon, I simply had to attend. This time, the menu was totally South African- cuisine and wines!!
The evening began with a tasting of some of Forrester’s wines. Ken is an engaging, down-to-earth, smiling man. He makes you feel as if you were sitting in his living room chatting over a glass of wine! Our tasting/socializing time was brief, but rewarding. The wines left me ready to settle into the dinner…knowing there was more enjoyment coming my way. All the wines are from his vineyards/winery in the Stellenbosch region of South Africa.
Our 6 course meal began with Ting Panisse- similar to a polenta with beef “threads” (shredded beef jerky), tomato consommé, chili and lime paired perfectly with Ken Forrester’s 2013 Sauvignon Blanc. Grapes from 3 vineyards were hand harvested “over a progressive ripening curve”… highlighting the riper tropical fruit notes of Sauvignon Blanc. Up next was Cape Dutch Spiced Heirloom Pumpkin with puffed barley and sour cream. It was paired with the 2014 Chardonnay, Ken Forrester Petit. This unoaked beauty offered a lovely balance of fresh fruit- “white peach, grapefruit, and lemon zest”. I am a sucker for unoaked Chardonnays, so needless to say, I was thrilled. Our 3rd course was Smoked and Curried Goat Shoulder with golden raisins and ginger in a peanut soup. Rich, creamy, and earthy…the optimal partner for the 2014 Petit Pinotage. I have tried many Pinotage wines, but this was the most fruit forward, most delightful. No oak is used, which delivers greater fruit concentration with spicy, smoky notes… truly the best Pinotage I have ever tasted! Halfway through our meal and it couldn’t be more delicious.
Moving on to the 4th course- Braai Lamb Carpaccio with charred green cabbage, confit tomatoes, and benne seeds, superbly paired with a 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot Blend. Yum!! I am a lamb lover, so this was a true treat. I loved the blend, not to tannic to overwhelm the delicate carpaccio. This was a Cabernet blend I could enjoy again and again. Our 5th course demonstrated one of Chef Shane’s culinary skills- fresh, house-made Goat’s Milk Cheese!! This luscious, silky cheese, accompanied by red pepper jam and honeyed preserved nuts, was served with the Sauvignon Blanc from our first course. The tangy, grassy, tropical notes balanced the goat cheese perfectly. Last, but not least, we had our dessert. Malva Pudding garnished with Rose Geranium cream, frozen yogurt, native granola, and a delightful sorghum caramel! Dessert was paired with an elegant Rhône blend “Renegade”- Shiraz, Grenache, Mourvèdre- balanced, rustic, some spice, and soft tannins. The Malva pudding had the right density and just enough sweetness. The rose geranium cream was sinfully good, and the wine pairing…divine!
Throughout the entire menu I felt both the executive chef and the pastry chef of Bin 36 outdid themselves. Just when I thought the our scrumptious wine-paired dinner had come to its conclusion…Ken Forrester and Enoch surprised us with a final wine… from Alexander Valley, California, “The Bridge”. This wine is a collaboration between Ken Forrester and Jesse Katz. Purchasing many acres in California, planting them with Cabernet Sauvignon, and creating a decadent, creamy, round, lush, structured left our palates understanding why this “California-Forrester” beauty earned such high scores with critics! The wines made by Ken Forrester, whether in Stellenbosch South Africa or California, truly represent his passion, skill, and love of wine, as well as his joy of sharing with the world!