Chef-Proprietor Josiah Slone carries many fine wines on his wine list at Sent Sovi in Saratoga.
But his unabashed favorites are definitely the ones by Varner, a boutique winery in Portola Valley. The winery, run by twin brothers, Bob and Jim Varner, specialize in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. They are wines that marry well with Slone’s cooking, and the ones that he and his wife most like to kick back with in their down time.
I was lucky enough to sample the wines with Slone’s food when I was recently invited as a guest of the restaurant to a Varner wine dinner.
The first course was a refreshing cured artic char with the zing of preserved Meyer lemons from the chef’s backyard tree, which paired with the 2007 Varner “Home Block” Chardonnay. Slone made use of every bit of the rich fish, including frying the skin to make “chips” and scraping the flesh of the head to form a chopped fish salad of sorts.
That was followed by what was one of the juiciest white meat chicken dishes I’d had in a long time. Cooked “sous vide’’ to keep the bird moist, the chicken was accompanied by caramelized fennel and a dice of sweet, spicy pears, which picked up the lush, complex quality of the 2007 Neeley “Holly’s Cuvee” Chardonnay that’s also made by Varner.
Braised monkfish followed, cooked with Herbes de Provence, bacon and red wine until it all reduced to form a sticky, thick glaze. It heightened the balanced fruitiness of the 2008 Varner “Three Blocks” Pinot Noir.
Next, “flattened’’ roast duck that was reminiscent in texture and taste of Chinese barbecue spareribs with a sweet, peppery bite from harissa. The richness of the duck complimented the earthy notes of the 2007 Neely “Picnic Block” Pinot Noir.
Dessert was apple tarte tatin made with Granny Smith and Pink Lady apples that would have been perfect had it been served warm, rather than chilled. But that’s a forgivable lapse, given how tiny the kitchen — and oven space — is here.
Varner is not readily available at many South Bay restaurants or wine shops. But Chef Slone is so enamored with the wines that he will go out of his way to make sure more folks get to enjoy them. Find out how in my accompanying post on DealPop.com.