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Tasting Notes: August Briggs & Romililly Wine Dinner @The Foundry

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The motto of Russian River Valley winemakers and brothers Jesse and Aaron Inman of Romililly is "Live. Laugh. Love." which is precisely what an evening of smart pairings of their wine, along with the wines of their uncle Joe Briggs of August Briggs Wines, is all about. On a recent trip to Los Angeles, the winemakers held a dinner at The Foundry on Melrose, to introduce diners and oenophiles to their small-batch selections as served alongside Chef Eric Greenspan's food.

Of the five-course hosted meal, the last four courses were the strongest, showcasing four beautiful red wines with progressively more successful dishes from Greenspan. Here's a look at each of the four reds we sampled:

2008, Romililly, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley
Paired with an earthy duck confit and gnocchi, this unfiltered third release of their Pinot Noir has a detectable zing as sipped alone, which is cut nicely with the fat of a protein like the duck. This wine is lush but light, with just the right balance of robust ruby fruit (cherry) and oak. The Pinot Noir is, in fact, the only wine the brothers make, and they take special care with what they produce. "We use a slow fermentor, cold tolerant single yeast strain, Assmanhausen which tends to lend spicy, fruit aromas to Romililly. The yeast is originally from a small Rhineland-area town in Germany that is used in beer, Pinot Noir and many Zinfandels," they explain. Their 2008 produced just 350 cases, and was bottled in July 2009.

2006, August Briggs, "Frediani Vineyard," Charbono, Napa Valley
Charbono is a grape that is found in California, but rarely grown; wine lovers may know it better as Argentina's Bonarda, which is the nation's number two produced wine, but not frequently exported. About 15 wineries in the US make Charbono, and August Briggs is proudly one of them. This wine is big, ripe, and spicy, with low tannin and a remarkable versatility. We tried it alongside a grape glazed pork belly, and the pork elevated the spice of the wine, and brought out hints of cocoa and blackberry.

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2007, August Briggs, "Page Nord Vineyard," Syrah, Napa Valley
One of the table's favorites of the evening, this Syrah has an especially "jammy" nose, and sips as spicy, syrupy, and fruity. Alongside a Hanger Steak with the strong flavors of mole, blue cheese, and pumpkin, the wine stood up beautifully, making for a perfect pairing of bold, but not competing flavors.

2006, August Briggs, "Monte Rosse Vineyard," Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Valley
For the last course, Greenspan gave us a rich, stinky cheese (epoisses with prunes and walnuts done as a clafoutis) dish instead of a sweet dessert, looking to round things out with the most successful pairing of the evening. This rich, soft Cab has a stunningly different nose than its taste; neither is problematic, but the difference is striking. The wine is supple and effortless, and becomes almost dangerously drinkable alongside a strong cheese as we were in we could have gone on drinking this for hours.

Curious about these wines? Check your favorite wine-seller who specializes in working with distributors who rep smaller batches (Wally's and Silverlake Wine are two suggestions from the winemakers), or order online.

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