Thankful: A Billsboro Winery & Bejo Seeds Dinner

This year marks Billsboro Winery’s 10th year. If you’ve read my ‘love letter‘ to Billsboro, you already know that they hold a special place in my heart as the winery that really started my passion for the Finger Lakes, demonstrating that the region makes amazing dry wines, particularly reds. I think we’ve  visited them every single year since they opened, and we’ve only grown to love their wine (and them) more.

As the final celebration of their 10 year anniversary, Vinny and Kim Aliperti of Billsboro partnered up with Karen and Dennis Ferlito of Bejo Seeds, a local experimental farm that tests new vegetal seeds, for a Thanksgiving-inspired vegetarian dinner.

What was so fun about this dinner (beyond the fact that everything was amazingly delicious) was that the wine and food pairings were a little untraditional, but totally worked. That’s why I’m using this dinner to inspire me to change up my own Thanksgiving dinner pairings and try something a little different.

Course one: Cocktail and a Crostini with Chaser

We began the night with a delicious sparkling cocktail, which included primarily Billsboro’s sparkling Riesling called Mousseaux, a splash white cranberry juice, a sprig of rosemary and a single fresh cranberry. It was a perfect start to a holiday dinner, and I’m totally going to steal this idea for my own parties (I suggest you do as well).

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Next, we sat down at beautifully decorated tables to begin our meal. The first course was a crostini, made with fresh bread made by Karen, roasted brussel sprouts, champagne-vinegar reduction, cranberries, and ricotta. This was paired with a 2009 Cabernet Franc, that tasted of ripe plum, cherries, pepper, and leather, with notes of bright cherry on the palate, a big chewy tannin, nice clean acid, and lingering vegetal, earthy notes. When sipped and eaten together, the peppery notes of the wine came out, giving the food a nice kick.

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This was also paired with a shooter of fresh from the tank, unfermented Cabernet Franc juice (which will someday turn into their 2017 Cabernet Franc). The juice was sweet cherry and grape juice, with hints of the vegetal notes you get from this wine. With the food it was super fun- emphasizing the bright fruity notes.

Course Two: Tomato Soup

I’ll never look at tomato soup again- this was rich and savory, with asian-inspired hints of miso, tahini, sesame oil and soy sauce. It was so delicious on it’s own, and when paired with the wine became bright and fresh, balancing the richness of the soup.

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The wine selected for this course was the 2015 Rosé of Merlot, which had notes of strawberry and cherry, almost aged like if they were in a fruit leather or intense jam, and when sipped it still had a great acidity and brightness, with the strawberry notes coming forward. This was one of our favorite Rosé wines when it was released, so it was fun to try it again and see how it was aging.

Course Three: Taco

This dish was by far the fan favorite- it was so good that almost everyone forgot to take photos of it… so you’ll just have to use your imagination! The corn tortilla was filled with tomatillo, cabbage, onion, garlic, black beans, feta, coconut oil, cilantro and other spices. So simple, yet so delicious.

This pairing was unexpected- a 2013 Chardonnay, that was made partially in the same style that you make orange wines. One third was skin fermented, one third was aged in barrels, and the last third was aged in stainless. This created a wine with notes of apple, pear, vanilla, and hints of tropical fruit like pineapple, with enough oakiness to create a silky, oily mouthfeel, but enough fresh acidity to balance it out. With the food, the wine became earthy and spicy, with lingering hints of apple freshness. So freaking good.

Course Four: Kale Salad

I like kale, but it always seems to be so bitter that it doesn’t pair well with my wine. I’m glad now I have two options for when I eat kale! Also, we learned from Karen and Dennis that we should be massaging the kale before eating it to help with the bitterness- who knew!

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The kale salad was made from curly, dinosaur and purple kale, with dates, chili butternut squash seeds, roasted pumpkin skins, parmesan, lemon, shallots, olive oil and honey. The pairing was with a 2008 Riesling, that had notes of honey, key lime, petrol, and slate, with a nice oily texture, clean acid, and honey and citrus peel notes lingering. The notes of the Riesling calmed the bitterness in the salad and the kale emphasized the citrus notes in the wine.

At this point, I also had my red wine glass filled with my second sample of the 2009 Cabernet Franc from Course One (because I loved it so much), and I had been trying a little sip with each following course to see if it went. The 2009 Cabernet Franc was delicious with the kale, leaving great notes of cherry and smoke when it was sipped.

Course Five: Gratin

Our main course for this meal was a butternut squash gratin with leeks, hazelnuts, cream, chèvre, and sage. It was beautiful and filling- a perfect main for a vegetarian feast.

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This was paired with a 2009 Sauvignon Blanc that at first had notes of starfruit, pineapple and peach, but changed to gooseberry and cut grass as it opened, with a nice acidity and lime peel on the palate. When enjoyed together the wine was bright and emphasized the sour notes of the cheese and the savoriness of the squash.

Course Six: Custard

To top off the night, we ended with a rosemary custard with a cranberry on top- it was fun having the night bookended by rosemary and cranberry, and it was the perfect final taste.

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Another fun pairing was done for this course- instead of dessert wine or sparkling, they selected a 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, that had notes of smoky cherry, cassis and blackberry, with hints of pepper and leather, and a chalky-chewy tannin that was balanced by the fresh acid.  When sipped with the food, the custard became even richer and more delicious, with savory hints of rosemary and pepper.

Final Thoughts

This was an incredible evening of wine, friends and food, and am I so thankful that I got to attend. It was also a great opportunity to try some unique pairings and rethink the “food and wine” rules. I’m definitely going to experiment a little with my own Thanksgiving pairings. Usually we go with a Pinot Noir and Riesling, but this year we’re going to bring Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay!

Congratulations once again to Billsboro Winery for 10 amazing years of wine!

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