Grgich Hills Wine Dinner at Pleasantdale Chateau

Lowell and I wanted to give a shout out to the Knowles Family owners of the Pleasantdale Chateau in West Orange, located on 40 acres of woodlands, meadows, ponds and manicured gardens which date back to 1835 when it was owned by the industrialist Charles Walter Nichols. After Nichols’ death in 1959, the house was left to the board of directors of Allied Signal, for use as an exclusive corporate training retreat. Today it is owned by the Knowles family and is a very impressive event space.

We were thrilled to be invited to a Grgich Hills wine dinner last month which is the winery known as first gaining international recognition at the celebrated “Paris Tasting” of 1976. At this historic blind tasting, a panel of eminent French judges chose the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, crafted by Mike Grgich, as the finest white wine in the world. The results stunned the international wine establishment and earned Grgich a reputation as one of the greatest winemakers in the world. In attendance at the dinner was Violet Grgich (Vice President of Sales & Marketing) who regaled us with stories about her dad and the history of the vineyard.

Along with the spectacular venue the following menu was served:

Octopus terrine with braised celery and red and green Cerignola olives
(Grgich Hills Estate Fume Blanc, Napa Valley 2014)

Papardelle and rabbit ragout with Velvet Pioppini mushrooms, corn broth and rabbit confit frizzles
(Grgich Hills Estate Chardonnay, Napa Valley 2013)

Trio of beef : Bone marrow canoe with fried parsley and grilled country bread, fondant potato filled with braised short rib and port-glazed sweet bread with red chard
(Grgich Hills Estate Zinfandel, Napa Valley 2012)

Venison rib chop and confit shoulder with chick pea fries and black currant sauce
(Grgich Hills Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2012)

Plum and frangipane tart
(Grgich Hills Estate Merlot, Napa Valley 2012)

Our favorite wines of the night? While we drank all of these well regarded wines with gusto the Chardonnay was a favorite. This was a surprise to us as we gravitate to Sauvignon Blanc. Ditto for the Grgich Hills Estate Zinfandel with a touch of Petite Sirah which paired beautifully with the trio of beef. We usually drink Turley Zins but now have discovered this new option. The velvety Estate Merlot was also a revelation, as we never considered Merlot to be a dessert wine.

Our favorite dishes were the unusual presentation of octopus terrine, which was full of flavor, bone marrow (our favorite vegetable), potato filled with braised short rib and the gorgeous plum and frangipane tart which we would love to have the recipe.

For information on the Pleasantdale Chateau visit and for Grgich Hills visit their website. Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, founder of the winery has recently published his memoir “A Glass Full Of Miracles” in celebration of his 93rd birthday. The Knowles family also own The Manor and Highlawn Pavilion in West Orange and Ram’s Head Inn in Absecon.

Octopus terrine

Papardelle and rabbit ragout

Venison rib chop

Plum and frangipane tart
Photos courtesy of Lowell Saferstein
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