One of my more enjoyable adventures at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market earlier this month was hanging out with the Redwood Creek Wines gang at their lodge just outside the Salt Palace. It was an outdoor cafÃ©/wine bar filled with picnic tables, a place to relax and sample the wines from California’s Redwood Creek amid the otherwise chaotic trade show.
During an especially fun campfire dinner sponsored by the Redwood Creek folks, I had the pleasure of meeting Brad Mollath, director of corporate style for E.&J. Gallo Winery, which distributes Redwood Creek wines. How great is that'to have the title “director of corporate styleâ€! Mollath and his cohorts do have some of the coolest jobs around: They travel the country staging special events for the family of Ernest and Julio Gallo wines. They are drivers, roadies, art and stage directors, designers, producers and choreographers all rolled into one. The campfire dinner at the Redwood Creek Lodge was a total hoot'a crisply choreographed affair'with Redwood Creek’s wines on stage alongside winemaker Cal Dennison’s favorite campfire dishes.
The dinner included Dennison’s fireside potatoes, his camper’s beef tenderloin with cherry port sauce and onion confit, and an incredibly tasty apple and bratwurst campfire chili. If you’re beginning to get the idea that the great outdoors plays an important role in the Redwood Creek Wines’ story â€¦ well, you’re right.
You see, Dennison is a rancher, rodeo organizer and avid outdoorsman. He also recently learned to fly a plane. The graphics on the Redwood Creek Website (RedwoodCreek.com) look more geared to campers, bikers and hikers than to wine geeks'Dennison sees his wines as especially outdoor-friendly. Redwood Creek wines, as he describes them, are “great, quality wines that are affordable'something that’s accessible, that you can have on your table every day.” And, according to spokesman Jeremy Soinet, they are about to begin selling Redwood Wines in lightweight, disposable and recyclable Tetra Paks.
One of the more creative'not to mention useful'slants on cork technology I’ve come across is Redwood Creek’s synthetic wine-bottle cork called an Adventure Tool. Each cork can serve a practical purpose for the outdoor adventurer. For example, one cork can be used as a fishing bobber. As the directions on the cork state: “1. Insert eyebolt. 2. Thread fishing line. 3. Cast.” Other Adventure Tool corks carry GPS hiking coordinates for places like the Grand Canyon’s Point Sublime and Yellowstone’s Old Faithful. Wish I’d thought of that!
But how are the wines? Well for starters, Redwood Creek wines are generally much better than I’d expected for $8.95 a bottle. A while back, Redwood Creek Sauvignon Blanc was on sale here for $4.95 per bottle, and I scooped up a couple of cases. The rich, cocoa- and black cherry-infused Cabernet Sauvignon from Redwood Creek is soft and juicy, with a nice hint of vanilla. It was terrific with Dennison’s camper’s beef tenderloin and I thoroughly enjoyed a number of glasses of Redwood Creek Pinot Grigio with Dennison’s sensational apple and bratwurst chili. It’s light-bodied and crisp, with pretty melon and peach notes, a good choice for sipping by the campfire while the fresh lake trout sizzles.
These are versatile wines'so versatile, in fact, that Dennison was challenged last year to pair “adventurous” foods with his Redwood Creek wines for the Explorers Club annual dinner in New York City. Some of the matches included scorpions on endive with herb cheese and Redwood Creek Sauvignon Blanc; rosemary rattlesnake and Chardonnay; Redwood Creek Syrah and antelope pastrami; and North American crickets served with Redwood Creek Pinot Noir. Now that’s what I consider a wine adventure!