For nearly 35 years, Fromagerie has been a landmark in Rumson and on this bright sunny February Wednesday afternoon, Mimi Casteel, Co-owner and General Manager of Oregon’s Bethel Heights Vineyards led a delicious tasting of her wines paired to the Fromageries wine tasting menu.
With a background in horticulture and forest ecology, and a strong commitment to environmentalism, Mimi is now working with her father, Ted Casteel to learn everything he knows about viticulture, while taking over the day-to-day business management. Ted Casteel is fond of saying that sustainability is a journey, not a destination.
Mimi said that “It sometimes makes us uncomfortable to say that our wines are “certified sustainable” when it is so clear to all of us that there are many aspects of sustainability that we have not even addressed yet, let alone achieved. On the other hand, we are proud of the progress towards sustainability that has been made at Bethel Heights and in the Oregon wine industry since we arrived here in 1977. When we say “certified sustainable,” the commitment to continual improvement is of the essence, and the commitment to certification is what keeps us from trying to fool ourselves along the way.”
Mimi welcomed everyone with a glass of Bethel Heights Pinot Gris, 2009. (around $16.00) The bright, crisp flavors of this Pinot gris was an inviting palate cleanser, with its pear, apple and melon flavors. The crisp acidity and minerality added to the texture. Sipping it with the first course of Charred Octopus with celery, fennel, black olive yogurt with a tangerine glaze the wine just shone.
While Mimi expained the viticulture of the vineyards and the wines, she suggested trying the first course with the Bethel Heights Estate Grown Chardnnay, 2008 as it has a touch of sea salt on the palate. When paired with the olive yougurt and charred octopus, it paired beautifully. In addition to the aroma and flavor of sea salt, the Chardonaly is full of minerals, lemon zest and autumn fruits—a perfect foil for seafood. There were exuberant, yet focused green apple and Asian pears, bright framing acidity, and a long steely finish. This wine is delicious now but it will benefit from 3-4 years of cellaring. (around $25.00)
When the second course of Serrano ham wrapped monkfish with clams, white beans and salsa verde arrived, she suggested tasting it first with the Chardonnay before moving on to the Pinot. Courtney Rose, owner of the Wine Bar ( in Atlantic Highlands whose eyes lit up at the pairing, commented “I can’t believe how delicious they are together!”
Then it was time to pair the course with the Bethel Heights Pinot Noir Estate, 2008 It was exactly as Mimi described it: aromas of earth and forest floor, mushroom, moss, and damp earth. As the wine opened, these aromas gave way to brambly raspberry and spice. The palate offered deep minerality, bing cherries, orange zest and currant, but it was the taut core of acidity that paired so beautifully with the monkfish. This wine is perfect for drinking now, and can contribute to a well-rounded cellar. (about $30.00).
The third course, Loin of venison with celery puree and black trupet mushrooms, was paired with Bethel Heights Pinot Noir Casteel Reserve, 2007. The bright aromas of Asian spices, incense, black cherry, and black raspberry lead to a layered wine that complimented the gaminess of the venison. It was easy to taste why this wine was rated 92 points by the Wine Advocate (about $50.00)
The last wine, rated 90 points by Steven Tanzer, the Bethel heights Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, 2008 offered pungent scents of dried fruit star anise alspice and an itty bitty touch of cocoa. The sweet raspberry and cherry compote flavors led to a juicy, seductively sweet and very long finish. This was paired with a cocolate trio dessert of a flourless chocolate soufflé cake, bittersweet ganache and chocolate gelato.
Mimi Casteel was informative and a delightfull luncheon companion, not to mention an accomplished wine maker in her own right. The wines of Bethel Heights Vineyard can be found locally at Shop Rite Liquors of Freehold and Shop Rite Liquors of Neptune.
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