Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Legal Sea Foods Features the "Wines of Sonoma County" with Insights from VP of Beverage Operations and Master of Wine, Sandy Block!

One of the perks of living in sunny South Florida is the 24/7 access to fresh, fabulous seafood. If you also happen to prefer a glass of wine with your fruits de mer, let me introduce you to a local restaurant dedicated to the pairing of fine wines and seafood that's currently offering a delicious, vinous promotion.

From May 14 - June 10 Legal Sea Foods in Boca Raton will be showcasing the "Wines of Sonoma County" featuring selections from producers including Terlato, Benziger, Sonoma-Cutrer, Patz & Hall, DeLoach, Dutton-Goldfield, Seghesio, Kenwood and Silver Oak. In addition to their Wine Spectator award-winning Sonoma selections by the glass and by the bottle, they will be offering both red and white tasting flights, giving customers the opportunity to try three wines at a time. I also had the chance to speak with the restaurant's Vice President of Beverage Operations and Master of Wine, Sandy Block, via telephone, who expressed the goal of the promotion as, "to highlight the diversity of Sonoma and give guests the opportunity to taste as well as compare and contrast the different AVA's of the region." As far as pairing these wines with the restaurant's menu selections, Block added, "because of Sonoma's cooler climate, the wines have higher acid levels, minerality and structure that go remarkably well with seafood."

Sandy Block, VP of Beverage Operations
Legal Sea Foods has been setting the bar for quality and freshness in the seafood industry for over 60 years and with 30 restaurants dotting the East Coast, their commitment to quality also extends into the realm of wine. Block, just the fourth Master of Wine from the United States, joined the company in 1994 and has done much to grow the wine program which includes a strong emphasis on educating the staff that sells it. "We really invest alot in training our staff. People don't come to restaurants to read; personal interaction is most important. Our staff needs to make the wine come alive for our customers." When it comes to food and wine pairing, "We try not to be too dogmatic," Block says, "having fun is the main goal." His favorite part of the job? "Passing on knowledge to the team and the feeling of having touched people and gotten them excited about something, whether its guests or staff."

Sonoma County Whites
Selecting wines for the restaurants' lists occurs during twice yearly blind tastings to prevent the tasting panel from being biased by labels, prices or producers. The end result is a user friendly, well-rounded selection of wines with some highly recognizable names (i.e. Cakebread, Silver Oak) as well as new and exciting offerings for customers to explore. What wine is Block most excited about these days? "I've fallen in love with South Africa and am obsessed with Chenin Blanc! There has been a dramatic improvement in South African wines in recent years." When pressed for the name of a producer, "I'm most excited about the De Morgenzon Chenin Blanc which is barrel fermented and dry and works well with crab and lobster. I've also always liked the Kanonkop Pinotage and the 'Petit' Pinotage from Ken Forrester which goes well with medium-bodied fish such as tuna."

Sonoma County Reds
As part of this promotion, Block has added the first Pinot Grigio to the wine list at Legal Sea Foods. What makes the 2010 Terlato Family Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Grigio so special? Block explained this wine is, "Very good and distinct from an Italian Pinot Grigio. Coming from the Terlato family, who are responsible for bringing Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio into the world, the wine has a great bloodline as well." When asked about guests' vinous preferences over the past few years, Block added, "Over the last few years people have been much more versatile in what they've been drinking. We used to sell one glass of red for every 5-6 glasses of white. Now it's more like one glass of red for every 2 glasses of white."

Lamb with Cucumber Sauce
Following a tasting of the lineup of wines featured in the Sonoma County Promotion and a delicious assortment of some of "Legal's" signature dishes, it was evident that indeed, excellent pairings abound! Some not-to-be-missed favorites included:
  •  The Double Stuffed Baked Shrimp featured a jumbo shrimp wrapped in a delicious, buttery crabmeat stuffing and paired deliciously with the crisp, fruity 2010 Terlato Pinot Grigio, Russian River Valley.
  •  The classic Grilled Scallops, adorned simply with salt, pepper and a very light butter and herb sauce, paired beautifully with the creaminess and acidity of the 2009 Benziger Chardonnay from Carneros.
  • Legal's Signature Crab Cake, chock full of jumbo lump crabmeat and served with a delicious, creamy mustard sauce and arugula salad, was positively divine with the citrus and spice of the 2010 Patz & Hall Sonoma Coast Chardonnay.
  • The Thai Style Crispy Montauk Calamari with pineapple, peanuts and  a delightful subtle heat were mouth-watering paired with the ripe fruit and spice of the 2010 Dutton-Goldfield "Dutton Ranch" Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.
  • The Wood Grilled Steak Tips with Mashed Potatoes and Braised Greens were delicious paired with the juicy berries and black pepper of the 2010 Seghesio Family Vineyards Sonoma Zinfandel.
  • A new item on the Happy Hour Menu was the flavorful and delicious Lamb with Cucumber Sauce, a take on a traditional tzatziki, that paired perfectly with the rich, velvety 2007 Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. If you're in the mood for a splurge - it's delicious!
Legal's Signature Crab Cake
I couldn't end my interview without asking Block for his personal favorite food and wine pairing on the menu. After adding that money was no object, Block admitted that, "I'm a lobster fan, and on a special occasion I'd prefer it paired with a minerally Louis Latour Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru 'Les Folatieres.' Its richness and body with just the right amount of oak it make it a wonderful yet subtle accompaniment. I might also select a dry Riesling such as the Trimbach 'Cuvee Frederic Emile' from Alsace. It has alot of minerality, high acidity and verges on the oily side which works beautifully with lobster."

What's not to love about that?

Legal Sea Foods is located at 6000 Glades Road at Town Center in Boca Raton. Please call 561-447-2112 for reservations and for more information, visit www.legalseafoods.com.


1 comment:

  1. looks great and they really sound passionate about what they do


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