I’ve been working on the report for Kathryn Kennedy wines for some time. As they are not open to the public, it was not possible to taste the wines at that time so a small selection was taken for tasting with food. I will blog the winery specifics later and link it back to this report but wanted to at least get the food report up. Marty Mathis, Kennedy’s son and winemaker agreed that the wines are best sampled with food and I could think of no better way to taste the wines with a variety of foods. And there is no better place in Napa than Zuzu for tapas.
To a get a broad variety of the styles of wine that Kennedy offers, we chose a 2004 Sauvignon Blanc, a 2001 Tempranillo (sadly, now discontinued), and a 1999 Maridon Vineyard Syrah. I have to admit, I specifically asked for the Tempranillo when I saw it in a case box. Marty admitted that the last of it was being sent to their wine club members only at this point and the vines are being budded over.
One of the many things I like about Zuzu is that their menu changes with the seasons. I have dined their often enough to not be bored and this time was especially thrilling as the spring/summer menu is brand new to me. Giving us time to peruse the recent offerings, a selection of olives and spiced almonds were ordered to stave off the desperate hunger that was setting in. Fortunately, there were four of us to work our way through the menu which promised to be compelling with the wine choices. I started sipping the Sauvignon Blanc which was very pale straw in color. Immediately, I found it tart with lemon and grapefruit notes. There was a heightened green apple in the mid-palate with a luscious, melon and litchee finish. There was a sweet hint to the wine when tasted with the olives, and spicy notes when paired with the almonds.
I frequently forget to order salad in restaurants as they are usually blasé and uninteresting. This one was not, studded with salami, hard-boiled eggs, sliced pepperoncini, miniature tomatoes, and a creamy, enticing dressing. Another sip of the Sauvignon Blanc produced stunning melony flavors that were downright creamy next to the tang in the dressing.
But the reason for this evening as to taste with wines, so the Tempranillo was also opened. I am
truly sorry this wine is no longer being made as the initial aromas of
plum hides hints of earthiness. A swirl or two later, and orgasmic
coffee and chocolate aromas develop.
Next came a variety of fish courses. The first was bay scallops, broiled with Jambon Serrano and bread crumbs. These did not last very long as the contrast of the salty bits with the crunchy bread crumbs enlivened the sweet scallops. With the Tempranillo, hints of a floral bouquet with highlights of minerality and perfectly balanced tannins.
Bacalao is the Spanish word for dried salt cod. Here, it is taken to a new level. There is much debate about the over-use of truffle oil, but with the saltiness of the puréed cod, I think truffle oil is a perfectly fine application. The tang of the salt showed considerably more grapefruit with in the Sauvignon Blanc, while in the Tempranillo, a depth of butter was evident in the bacalao preparation.
Not wanting to wait any longer, the Syrah was opened. Dark and inky purple in color, candy shop aromas were immediate but subsided to show an intense, elegant smokiness. Plum and dark black berries played against tantalizing meaty barbecue flavors and hints of roasted Brazilian nuts and pepper. I immediately tasted this again a roasted octopus salad with harissa dressing and shredded greens. The harissa was spicy and brought out the fruit-bomb nature of the freshly-opened Syrah.
With our two red wines, heartier dishes were a necessity and house-made chorizo with French lentils was the perfect choice. The chorizo was slightly smoked and very tender and the dark, baby lentils produced depth and contrast, especially with the Tempranillo which heightened with more dark chocolate flavors.
A showcase of Zuzu’s menu, and one that does not change, regardless of the season, is their paella. Here it is served with four mussels, four clams, chorizo, and a hefty dollop of aïoli. In the past (or perhaps when they are fresh), there have been shrimp in the paella as well. This was an amazing accompaniment to the Syrah, which was opening and blossoming with that hefty, chewy tang found in dark molasses and elegant port-like on the finish.
Feeling a bit overwhelmed with the heavier courses, I ordered some roasted fennel with caramelized shallots. Incredibly tender and sweet, the licorice hints in the fennel brought out the mineral tones in the Tempranillo but emphasized the smokiness of the Syrah. Getting full and winding down, there was a bit of wine left and room for one last course.
The Zuzu tortilla is legendary in my eyes. Well, they call it a tortilla but I look at it more as a miniature potato soufflé as it is prepared and served in a miniature cast-iron skillet, all puffed up and hot with a side of aïoli. The perfectly carb-nature of this last dish perfectly accentuated the last remaining glasses of red wine, a few rapturous tastes of both the Syrah and Tempranillo that were left…
Zuzu ~ 829 Main Street ~ Napa ~ CA ~ 707-224-8555