Saturday, February 7, 2009

Naples Winter Wine Festival Vintner Dinner 2009

The 2009 Naples Winter Wine Festival Auction brought in over 5 million dollars today, directly helping children in Collier County. Rich or poor, local or snowbird, everyone has been impacted by the economy. Charity, the lifeline for those in need, is needed now, more than ever. Those who can give, step up to the plate. Giving helps children's dreams come true.

Last night, just before today's February 7th Auction, nationally reknowned chefs and their teams cooked, and world famous vintners provided the finest wine and champagne for guests at seventeen homes. I met Winter Wine Festival Trustees Anne and Tom Wamser, and Therésa and Tom Wajnert at the Wamser's lovely home. Down to earth, warm and friendly, it's no wonder that they dedicate so much time and energy to enhancing childrens' lives.
First to arrive were Jacques Péters and Dominique Demarville, the former and current Deputy Cellar Master, respectively, of Veuve Clicquot. Yes, the fine bubbly in the beautiful mango-yellow labeled bottles. These gentleman donated a Veuve Clicquot package for the Wine auction, that brought in $35,000 at today's auction. I know what bubbly brand I'm buying for Valentine's Day!
Veuve Cliquot's Dominique Demarville and Jacques Péters, at the Naples Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort
We discussed the over 200 year old House of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, an incredible legacy left by the veuve, or Widow Nicole-Barbe Clicquot Ponsardin. Revered as "La Grande Dame de la Champagne", she revolutionized the champagne process, took incredible risks, and created a business empire with some of the finest of champagnes. The well known Yellow Label, the Rosé (Vintage and Non-Vintage) Brut, Demi-Sec and various Vintage champagnes are enjoyed at lunches, dinners and special occasions, such as this evening's Vintner's Dinner. I met elegant Vintner Alexandra Marnier Lapostolle,(left, in photo) from Santiago, Chile, whose Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta 2005 was selected as Wine Spectator’s Wine of The Year 2008. At only $75 retail, this is well worth the price! Madame Marnier Lapostolle is the great granddaughter of Alexandre Marnier Lapostolle, the founder of Grand Marnier, the famed French liqueur. She is dynamic, vivacious and expressive, passionate about her remarkable wines, the stunning winery and the Clos Apalta Lodge, located between the Chilean Andes and the Pacific Ocean.
Photo: Vintner Jacques Péters, Co-hosts Anne and Tom Wamser, Vintner Alexandra Marnier Lapostolle, Vintner Dominique Demarville, and Co-hosts Therésa and Tom Wajnert. I followed my nose to the kitchen, and met Executive Chef Linton Hopkins, sommelier wife Gina Hopkins, and their staff from Restaurant Eugene. Atlanta's representative at the Wine Festival, he is continuing Southern cooking traditions with new ideas that have made him well respected in the cooking community.
A fifth generation native of Atlanta, Hopkins sources many ingredients locally, and is active in the Southern Foodways Alliance and Slow Foods International. His dinner reflected his passion.

One passed appetizer was slices of Grilled foie gras terrine, topped with crabapple jelly and fleur de sel, on toasted brioche batons. This was paired with Veuve Clicquot Vintage 1995, Vintage 1998 Champagne, and Casa Sauvignon Banc 2008 by Lapostolle. Next was chilled crab with pressed apples and spiced almonds, topped with fried Jerusalem artichoke paper thin chips. A side dab of she crab roe and mayonnaise with fennel pollen, and some micro celery completed the plate. That's a deconstructed crab salad, if you were wondering, served with Veuve Clicquot Vintage 2002. When's the last time you cooked with a Jerusalem artichoke? Would you recognize it? (Hint: It looks like pregnant ginger.)

Corn milk poached lobster, awaiting its a whole grain mustard gratin, and a blood orange reduction.

The black truffle fondue with potato mousseline was next, served in an organic eggshell, with Veuve Clicquot Vintage 1995 champagne. The luscious black truffles come from Tennessee, not France or Italy. For some seafood, however, he notes "In Atlanta, we fly fresh seafood in every day via Japan Airlines from Tokyo's Tsukiji Seafood Market.They have a code with each fish where you can actually find the diet of your fish. they are so incredibly in control of their product."

Chef Hopkins amazed the guests with fresh foods, masterfully cooked. He then plated roast duck breast, confit leg, and small white beans, as a deconstructed cassoulet.
Talking about his creations and recipes at Atlanta's Restaurant Eugene, he clearly cooks Southern style comfort food, only beautifully plated, with with a sophisticated twist that raises the taste and enjoyment to a new level.
The “Pot au feu” braised shortrib in broth with marrow and root vegetables followed, paired with the Clos Apalta 2005. Dessert and Veuve Clicquot Rare Vintage 1988 Champagne capped the meal. The next day, hosts and guests generously bid,and raised funds at auction for Collier County’s neediest children.

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