When I was living in Michigan, I attended a wine dinner with pairings by two different sommeliers. It was a fun competition between the two somms, where we, the diners and drinkers, got to select the wine we preferred with each course, and at the end would be told which somm’s pairings liked. It was clear by the end of the tasting that one somm had chosen to select wines that ‘went’ with the food- they worked together and tasted the same; whereas the other selected wines that transformed the food or were changed by it. People attending the event also clearly had these preferences as most were strongly in favor of one somm’s pairings over the other.
When I attend wine pairing dinners, I want the latter- I want wine to be transformed, or the meal to be improved, or for me to experience both in a different way. This was the brilliance of the Rabbit Room’s Billsboro Winery Pairing Dinner.
The Rabbit Room at the Lower Mill
The Lower Mill, located in Honeoye Falls, was a grist mill built on the banks of Honeoye Creek, established in 1827. Now, the building has been divided by floors into dining, event, and gallery spaces. It has a bar and open dining area on the first floor, open area for events and smaller art galleries on the second floor, and on the third is a yoga studio, photography studio, and other small shops.
The restaurant on the first floor is only open to the public on Thursdays- the rest of the week they host special events. If you get the chance to eat there, go. The food is delicious!
As you probably know from this blog, I’m a fan of Billsboro Winery, so it isn’t too surprising that we jumped at the chance to attend a dinner pairing with their wines, especially when it was only a twenty minute drive from our house.
First Course: Pan Seared Jumbo Lump Crab Cake with 2016 Billsboro Sauvignon Blanc
Crab cakes are one of those things I’m usually disappointed by because they end up more bread than crab- not this one! It was loaded with crabby goodness and complemented by a slightly spicy curry aioli and citrusy microgreen salad.
The Sauvignon Blanc on its own had notes of peach, mineral, and gooseberry (think a tart green grape almost) with a lovely high acid and touch of creaminess on the palate. When tasted together, the citrus in the wine and citrus in the salad really popped, and it emphasized the overall brightness of the dish.
Second Course: Roasted Mushroom & Carmelized Onion Bisque with 2015 Billsboro Pinot Noir
The bisque was to die for. I was expecting something like a French Onion soup without the cheese, but oh no, this was a creamy soup of mushroomy deliciousness finished with herbed croutons and a pinot noir reduction.
The Pinot Noir was smoky on the nose, with notes of cherry, leather, red currant and vanilla with a medium lingering tannin. There was an earthiness to the wine when sipped, so I was expecting when tasted with the soup that this earthy quality would be emphasized. Instead, the wine became more cherry forward and fresh tasting, adding a lightness to the course. A very fun surprise!
Third Course: Seared Petite Tender with 2015 Billsboro Cabernet Sauvignon
Next was a hearty serving of sliced petite tender steak in a rosemary demi-glace, on top of a potato puree with a roasted vegetable soufflé on the side. It was so decadent and amazing.
The Cabernet Sauvignon had notes of black cherry, leather, raspberry, and hints of blueberry that continued on the palate with a nice chewy tannin and lingering fruit notes. When paired with the steak, the jammier, fruitier notes came out, lending some relief to the rich decadence of the meal.
Fourth Course: Apple Frangipane Tart with 2015 Billsboro Apres Late Harvest
We finished with a buttery tart filled with almond frangipane that was topped with poached apples and homemade whipped cream.
The Apres Late Harvest is a dessert wine made from Riesling that is picked late in the season, causing it to have dense sugary notes but also a bright acidity. On the nose it was tropical and citrusy, with some hints of nuttiness. The bright acidity prevented it from being overly sweet. When paired with the food, the pear notes of the wine came to the front and created some much needed acidic relief from the richness.
What I love about these dinners is that it gives you an opportunity to explore wine in a new way. Billsboro Winery does a great job at finding interesting restaurants and groups to do dinners with, and it provides a chance to travel to a new town and try something different. These types of pairing dinners are happening with lots of different wineries across the region at different places. Some even happen in Rochester. If you’re into wine, or looking to get into wine, I highly suggest trying these dinners. Yes, they can be a little pricey sometimes, but usually it is worth it.