Il Fornaio Palo Alto Wine Dinner Featuring J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines

Scenes from Il Fornaio Palo Alto Wine Dinner Featuring J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines

Il Fornaio in Palo Alto hosted a memorable wine pairing dinner last week.

The menu was created by Il Fornaio Palo Alto Executive Chef Michele Godina.

The event featured J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, whose 2016 Arroyo Vista Chardonnay greeted guests upon arrival.

First up on the menu: Chicken skewer with fresh mangoes…

plus tofu vegetable gazpacho…

and tuna tartare.

The small bites were a refreshing start to the dinner.

Chef Michele greeting guests.

2013 Frog’s Reach Pinot Noir…

paired with Quaglia con Polenta: Braised quail over a polenta fondue with a wine glaze.

Each component was excellent; the wine glaze was a particular standout – richly delicious and sweet, pairing well with the savory quail and the pillowy polenta. Notes of black cherry jam from the Pinot further complemented the reduction.

Il Fornaio’s Renira and Giancarlo welcoming guests to the dinner and raising awareness on behalf of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

Freddy of Rock Steady Boxing spreading the word about improving the lives of people with Parkinson’s through boxing and exercise.

Chef Michele playfully describing how these pairing dinners came about.

Jeff Meier, J. Lohr’s down-to-earth director of wine making and president/COO, eloquently providing the winery’s story and mission.

Manager Giancarlo checking on our table.

Next up: Risotto alle Capesante – Pan-seared U10 fresh scallops over a saffron risotto paired with more of the aforementioned 2016 Arroyo Vista Chardonnay.

The Chardonnay, with its notes of apple and baked pear, possessed a crispness and acidity that balanced the scallop and risotto, while its slight buttery mouthfeel complemented both.

Raffles held throughout the dinner were a fun highlight, as generous prizes were up for grabs.

2016 October Night Chardonnay…

paired with Merluzzo Nero alla Asiatica – Alaskan black cod in ginger, bell pepper sauce over rice pilaf and steamed bok choy.

Expressions of citrus, stone fruit and oak from the wine complemented the black cod and the sauce wonderfully.

2014 Carol’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon…

paired with Anatra alle Amarene – Pekin duck breast in wild cherry sauce over mashed celery root and braised baby squash.

Complementary perfection.

Last course: Vulcano al Cioccolato – Lava cake over a crème anglaise paired with 2014 Tower Road Petite Sirah.

The wine and dessert were sublime.

The wine pairing dinner was truly outstanding, thanks to the elevated quality of the dishes and pairings; expert, friendly hosts and service; and the warm, inviting setting.

Chef Michele’s fun disposition certainly belies a heightened culinary sophistication.

Plus, he’s a beer fan, as evidenced when I asked him if he enjoyed beer.

He answered, “I drink wine for my profession. I drink beer personally. I drink beer every day.”

Look for Il Fornaio Palo Alto’s next special pairing event to take place on April 21. The dinner will feature San Jose’s Strike Brewing Company and a tapas-style menu. More information to come shortly.

Cheers! Prost! Gunbae! Salute!

~Andy