Feb. 17, 2022, Memphis – Considering the title, The Relic Wine Dinner, one could think that this is a bunch of “old” people enjoying a nice wine dinner. While many of us might be considered “relics”, this was not what the dinner was about. Our Bailliage became familiar with Schatzi Throckmorton, General Manager/proprietor of Napa Valley’s Relic Wine Cellars, who happens to have family in Memphis, and invited her and her husband Michael Hirby, winemaker/proprietor, to come to Memphis and showcase their wines at one of our Chaîne dinners.

Relic Wine Cellars was started in 2001 when two people, Michael Hirby as Winemaker and Schatzi Throckmorton as General Manager, took their mutual passion for wine and embarked on their mission to make world-class wines that have ultimate complexity, aromatics, nuance and personality, using grapes sourced from some of the best sites in Napa Valley and the Sonoma Coast.

Some of the early arrivals, Ellen Meyer, Vice Chargée de Missions Pamela Hauber, RELIC Wine Cellar winemaker/ proprietor Michael Hirby, Chevalier Joey Waters and his fiancée Donna Mulhern.

It was our pleasure to welcome them to share their story and let us experience some of their quality wines. This evening was of mutual benefit as we were not familiar with their wines and they were not familiar with the Chaîne de Rôtisseurs. So, at the end of the evening, we built a nice relationship with them and had a special night with foods that were specifically prepared to showcase their wines.

L-R front: Guest Holly Ford, Bram Bors-Koefoed; back: Dame de la Chaîne Gigi Bors-Koefoed , Vice-Conseiller Gastronomique Valerie Morris-Bearup.

The evening started as guests arrived with Bailli George Chandler offering each their choice of a glass of Champagne or several selections of apéritif wines from the Chaîne cellar. Hors d’ouevres of smoked trout, horseradish crema and crispy leeks as well as a “BLT” on brioche toast small bite were enjoyed.

The word is getting out about the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs – Memphis Bailliage, evidenced as Bailli George Chandler welcomed three new members – Dames de la Chaîne Kathy G. Kelley, Bonnie M. Thornton, and Chevalier Joey S. Waters.

Bailli George Chandler also had members introduce nine guests, which included Steve and Tracy Balton, Holly Ford, Kelli Ratton, Austin Simmons, Russell and Debbie Peck, Cindy Gambriel, and Tim and Cathy Dalfiume. We like to think of them as future Chaine members.

Our Bailli also introduced and presented Chevalier Steve Young with his ribbons as he was unavailable to attend our Induction ceremony in December. And, coming as a complete surprise to this writer, Bailli George Chandler presented yours truly with the Bronze Star of Excellence for service to our Memphis Bailliage in my role as Vice Chargé de Presse.

Bailli George Chandler and RELIC Wine Cellars winemaker/ proprietor Michael Hirby.

Now that all the preliminaries were over, it was time to get down to the three-course dinner finishing with dessert. Napa Café owner Glenda Hastings and Schatzi concocted the pairings to showcase both the food and the RELIC wines selected.

The first course was a sea scallop on roasted butternut squash risotto, with preserved lemon oil and a petite “wintry mix” salad. A 2019 RELIC Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay was paired with this course. The grapes were sourced from the Hyde Vineyard in Carneros, Napa Valley. The wine is 100% chardonnay grapes and was barrel fermented on 33% new French oak on native yeast with 100% malolactic fermentation. James Suckling said about this Chardonnay, “Pretty nose of apricots, peaches, honeysuckle, cream, and salted butter. It’s full-bodied with bright acidity and an elegant, saline touch. Buttery yet fresh and with a sleek, delicious finish”.

The second course was pork tenderloin slices on spoon bread with hot bacon dressing and a cherry cola/root beer reduction and roasted haricot verts. It was paired with a 2018 RELIC Kashaya Pinot Noir. This is 100% Pinot Noir grapes from Dijon clones 115 and Old Wente from the Fort Ross-Seaview area of the western Sonoma Coast. It was 33% whole cluster fermented with native yeast fermentation, unracked on lees for 11 months and aged in 30% new French Oak. The palate is medium-bodied and very finely constructed with soft, elegant tannins. Michael of RELIC Wine Cellars provided a summary of this wine’s development and clearly showed once again his passion and love for this business and his wines.

Napa Café owner Glenda Hastings, Chef de Cuisine Victor Williams and Bailli George Chandler.

The third course included braised beef short ribs, with pommes purées, blackberry infused sauce marchand de vin, and tobacco shallot rings with glazed carrot. Bringing the course to the table, one could tell how delicious it was going to be as the flavors reached your palate before the food did. Needing a bigger wine to complement the beef, a 2018 RELIC La Place Cabernet Sauvignon was selected. Grapes were sourced from La Place Vineyard, located at the southern end of the Calistoga AVA. The wine consists of 97% cabernet and 3% Petit Verdot. Fermentation occurred in French Oak puncheons and aged in 100% new French oak for 21 months where it remained unfined and unfiltered. James Suckling defined its notes as “Fragrant nose of blackberries, spiced cherries, tea leaves, nutmeg and some gingerbread. Full bodied yet sleek and refined with supple tannins and fresh acidity, seamless with a pretty finish”. Michael and Schatzi again discussed the development of this wine, clearly showing their passion for what they do so well.

If the three courses were not enough, a dessert of Belgian chocolate pâté with a dollop of whipped cream accented by an Astroemeria flower bloom was presented. The temptation for this dessert was so strong that we failed to take a picture of the dessert. This was paired with a small glass of N/V Graham’s Reserve Porto, Six Grapes.

Following the clearing of plates, Bailli George Chandler introduced owner Glenda Hastings and her staff, along with Chef de Cuisine Victor Williams and her production manager Kaelee Baker to receive the appropriate appreciation from those in attendance. A job well done all around!

Napa Café owner Glenda Hastings with Chef de Cuisine Victor Williams and Production Manager Kaelee Baker and her staff.

So, with the evening ending, I for one realized that being a “relic” is a good thing when we will all think of the quality Relic Wine Cellars’ wines we tasted this evening.

Vive la Chaîne!

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