After attending my first South Market Bistro wine dinner in January (see earlier post), and then missing the next one in February, I’ve vowed to attend all subsequent dinners if at all possible. And since the good folks at the Bistro are kind enough to accommodate my (and this time my friend’s!) desire for a vegetarian meal, it really can’t get much better. The current theme was Australian and New Zealand wines, which was, in a way, perfect for me. For some reason, I have a somewhat unfounded bias against Australian wines. This is mostly grounded in the fact that I think a lot of their wines are overblown and unbalanced, but this is negated by the several great Shirazes I’ve sampled, as well as the excellent Fire Block Riesling from Clare Valley that I enjoyed just last week. Anyway, I was prepared to be more open-minded about wines from Down Under, and I was also eager to try a NZ Pinot, as I had only tried 2 before. Our vegetarian menu was quite delicious, with mostly reasonable portions – until the final course. (I personally would have done portion sizing/timing of pairings differently, but that is because I’m a judgmental snob. 🙂 ) The first course was fresh goat cheese crostini with sauteed Killbuck Valley mushrooms, paired with De Bortoli Brut Sparkling Wine. The food of course was lovely, and the wine was pleasant, although a bit fruitier than the Brut designation would have indicated. But at about $10/bottle, you really can’t go wrong! Course 2 brought what I thought of as a good pairing, even if I couldn’t eat it all – citrus-marinated olives (with itty-bitty cubes of cheddar) with Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough). I love the wine, as for me it is a perfectly-balanced NZ-style SB – grassy and grapefruit-y without sucking the life out of you with it’s acidity and herbaceousness. The next course was divine, food-wise – ravioli stuffed with broccoli rabe and ricotta in a fresh pea sauce. A-MA-ZING! The wine – Nautilus Estate Pinot Noir (Marlborough) – was certainly pleasant, but maybe not one that I’d return to again and again. Oddly enough, the wines continued to get heavier (even as we got more full). The next course paired the Shingleback (unfortunate name – McLaren Vale) Shiraz with a sweet potato and black bean burger. Yet again, the food was delicious, and perfectly seasoned. I also truly liked the Shiraz and would recommend it – it wasn’t too alcoholic, and it was full of black and red berry flavors and aromas. The final course – while delicious – was perhaps the most bizarre. It was the largest and heaviest – the Mitolo Jester Cab with spring risotto, and the carnivores had rack of lamb and mashed potatoes! As delicious as my food was (same entree I had on my birthday), I literally ate about 3 bites before transferring it to the to-go box. While the Cab was pleasant – apparently, about 20% of the grapes are dried in the Ripasso style – I found it a bit jammy; full of red raspberry preserve flavors/aromas. Again, good, but perhaps not one that I would recommend for Cab lovers. I was initially disappointed that there would be no dessert course – I do love my sweets! – but the Bistro came through for us with two cookies – one ginger and the other chocolate, which also had some spice to it. Perhaps my favorite aspect of the evening was that it stretched over 3 hours, and this is what I think an ideal gourmet dinner should be. Great company, delightful food, wonderful wine – why rush it?!