Out in the Northwest section of Reno, right next to where the second Peg’s Glorified Ham n Eggs opened up, is a charming and sophisticated little shop that specializes in selling cheese and wines. The name of this shop is Fine Vines Cheese and Wines and Tom Stevenson, the owner, will happily engage any customer who is interested in passionate discourse about wine and cheese (oh and he has a nice selection of dark chocolate truffles as well).
Tom enjoys helping his customers pick out the perfect bottle of wine, gently guiding them to new wines to try, or inquiring about the meal they are planning to prepare in order to help them pick the perfect pairing. The offerings of the shop are perfect for those customers that are looking for the quality wines that hide behind an affordable price tag. This is a task that I always find daunting, but Tom has done the work of sorting through these wines for you so that you don’t have to worry about figuring out which wines are quality and which are horrid, as you must when you go to the big grocery stores.
Now, before I go any further I must extend the caveat that the owner is my Father. So I’m definitely biased in his favor. Still, the fact that his business has weathered the recession while other businesses collapsed around him, is a testament to his dedication and passion for his craft.
I didn’t fully appreciate how much of an art wine pairing is until I went to an event that was put on at the shop entitled, “The Last Dinner on the Titanic”. Once a month Tom teams up with Jane Townley to put on a wine and food tasting and demonstration. Jane Townley used to teach the Culinary Arts program at TMCC and now does catering and these special dinner events for Fine Vines.
This particular event was inspired by the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic and the purpose was to recreate a menu similar to one that the first class passengers might have enjoyed.
Some of the attendees really got into the theme, as with this couple that came prepared with floaties.
The event lasted a couple of hours and came with a seven course menu. Examples of some of the menu items included a Smoked Salmon Pate with Mustard Cress Sauce
A Pheasant Consumme
An asparagus salad with Champagne-Saffron Vinaigrette
And a delightful Earl Grey Blackberry Sorbet (all I can say is…yum)
Filet Medallions in a Mushroom Demi-Glace and Duchesse Potatoes
Peach Shortbread and Ice Cream with Chartreuse Chantilly (truly delightful dish for which, sadly I do not have a picture) and to finish up the meal a plate of assorted Cheeses, Chocolates and Port
As each course came out the diners learned about the Titanic, about the food of the era, and about the wine. Each guest receives a copy of the recipes prepared that evening. The food was delicious and the wine lovely, but the exciting part for a wine novice such as myself was discovering what happens to the palate when a well prepared dish is paired with just the right wine to create an entirely new experience than either could possibly produce on their own.
At the end of the event I felt like I finally understood what all the fuss was about. I asked Tom to elaborate on the process of pairing and was surprised at the amount of consideration that goes into it. Before each event Tom and the Jane (the chef if you remember) sit down together and discuss all aspects of the meal that is planned, including the various ingredients and spices that will be used, and then carefully evaluate the wine options as to how the wine will shape the taste profile and ultimately determine the diner’s experience.
If you are interested in seeing more of this particular event here is a video that we took.
Pictures by Michael Christian (of Reno, NV)