I'm glad you found your way to The Wine Ship! I am a Denver-based Sommelier with a passion for discovery and teaching through experiences. My blog captures wines I'm loving, virtual experiences, travel inspiration, food pairing guidance, and information on clean, sustainably-made products.
Now, can I get you a drink?
~ Montana Rae, Captain
Fine dining at home is now a thing! Once a foodie, always a foodie, right?
The team at Restaurant Olivia took the at-home wine dinner experience to the next level with their amazing Master Sommelier Smackdown last week. Three courses, six wines, a cocktail and an amuse bouche. Best of all, the proceeds went to Feeding Colorado Heroes and Food Bank of The Rockies. Doing good while eating good, how gangster is that?
I’ve done a little marketing support work for Olivia via my role as Director of Marketing at Maverick Wine Company , but when it comes to the flavor experience they provided, I didn’t get it til I got it. My first experience with their food was off the charts! Handmade pasta was on another level. Essentially the ultimate carb fest that was so delicious, especially after weeks and weeks of quarantine. Zero regrets.
Combine that with two dynamic, battling Master Sommeliers and it was as entertaining as it was satisfying! Masters Doug Krenik and Damon Ornowski blew my mind with creative and incredibly diverse pairings that took the already out-of-this-world food to another level.
COURSE 1 - SOUP: This is one of the best soups I have ever tasted, and so easy to prep. Just reheated it on the stove and dropped in the handmade noodles. Aroma frenzy. Reminded me of something they’d serve on Game of Thrones. Hearty and rich with flavors of slow roasted meat. The fat, rich, meatballs melted in my mouth.
Wine 1: Golden in color with a nose I thought might belong to a sweet wine. The palate was off-dry in the end with the juicy acidity of SB. The combo made the dish so beautifully balanced as the acid cut the fat. I’d love to have this in my picnic basket this summer!
Wine 2: Ruby hue — almost opaque. I thought it might be sweet from sight, but the nose implied a dry wine. I double-checked I hadn’t pulled the wrong wine, as this was so much more robust than the other. On the palate, I immediately tasted blood, and oddly, I was again transported to another time in the distant past. This intense, rustic beauty highlighted the versatility of the dish with such grace. This is a totally different experience! For me, that’s how a dining experience like this ought to be!
COURSE 2 - PASTA: Fluffy clouds of dreamy, cheesy wonderfulness atop a bed of stupid-good noodles. The texture of the pasta? Unmatched. Prep was again beyond easy with a 30 minute spell in the oven. A heavenly sauce of meat and tomato with a little kick of spice caressed the noods.
Wine 3: Baked fruit aromas with a slightly tawny color. Fruity though, with excellent acidity and flavors of baked earth. I immediately thought of Italy. The structure balanced the richness of the dish just right. “Really fucking good” came out of my mouth at least 3 times…
Wine 4: This guy has sweeter fruit, and definitely a warmer origin. Purple in color!! Almost a medicinal cough syrup thing going on, which sounds bad, but was outstanding with the dish. The wine was intense for sure. I wrote a note about fruit leather twice…
COURSE 3 - CROSTATA: From the time I peeked into the box, I was anticipating the hell out of this thing… It was just so pretty! I perfect little halo of crust hugging a melange of pretty pink and red fruit. Impatient as it reheated in my over, I stuck my fork in the whipped cream and delighted in the slightly herbaceous character, maybe mint, that was added ever so subtly. When it came out, I surrendered to full carb commitment. Flaky, crisp outer crust meets gooey strawberry, rhubarb inside meets slightly drunk me. So, so happy.
Wine 5: A sweet, sexy sip of peach nectar with notes of orchard fruit. More acid than many counterparts, and an outstanding choice for the dish.
Wine 6: A bit oxidative and nutty, but also sweet. This was a different approach, as all pairings have been. It was also insanely delicious.
Each round was judged by the crowd live of Zoom. Votes we cast by holding an adorable hand-drawn voting card (guessing the restaurant’s namesake, Olivia, was behind this?) up to the screen. Master Ornowski took to home by a sliver. I couldn’t make up my mind though to be honest!
Wondering what the hell the wines were?? Don’t worry about it. I don’t know either. Yes, they were revealed, but I rather enjoyed the not knowing! As my mentor, Doug Krenik says, you can analyze the joy out of anything. Wine is a major one that this happens to. For this night, I chose FUN, pure and simple, and caught myself when I got too distracted by my own memory of what a food and wine pairing “should” be. Live a little, right?
Bonus moment: the entire 100 person group howling together for our first responders Colorado-style at 8:00pm.
Thank you so much to Olivia, Matt Armitage, Masters Krenik and Ornowski, and all of the attendees. I can’t wait for the next one! I’ll be sure to share the details as they come.
If you would like to try some of the incredible menu being offered at Restarant Olivia, have a look at their to-go menu here. I can't wait for my next meal from this kitchen!
Montana Rae Neiley