Scott & Cherie Curry owners of the Crossing in Soldotna host Rodney Strong Vineyards director of winemaking Rick Sayre for a gourmet pairing last week.
At the top of the Baby Boomers ten most popular retirement fantasies are of course fishing in Alaska, and wine making in California. Recently a veteran winemaker from California combined those two fantasies into a wonderful pairing at The Crossing in Soldotna. Rick Sayre is the director of winemaking for the well known Rodney Strong Vineyards in Sonoma Valley, California, and was welcomed to Alaska by Alaska Distributors of Anchorage. The Vineyard was founded in 1959 by Rodney Strong, one of the pioneers of the modern wine industry in California, and a fourth generation California agriculture family. For Sayre becoming a wine maker was not a retirement dream, but a passion, “It was a long haul, I’ve been doing this for 37 years and I got to tell you the first 10 was a lot of blood sweat and tears, shoveling tanks, weighing trucks, crushing grapes. It’s really been only the last 15 years that I’ve had the enjoyment of getting credit for what I’ve done and getting out on the road and sharing my passion with other people, and that is the joy to me because I love wine, I love sharing it with good company and talking about what makes a wine so enjoyable to share,” said Sayre.
The Crossing, recently opened at the bridge in Soldotna by Scott and Cherie Curry, provided the perfect setting for Sayre to share his joy. The evening featured five delicacies excellently prepared by The Crossing’s chief chef Steve England paired with five Rodney Strong wines. With each course Sayre told the history of the wine and why it was selected to enhance the course, “Everyone has different tastes and I learned to recognize that early on when making pairings. For instance my passion is Pinot Noir but I also enjoy a good Sauvignon Blanc, and with salmon it depends on how it’s prepared if it’s a little bit smoked or grilled the Pinot Noir matches the flavor wonderfully because of the barrel that the Pinot is aged in, but if it’s a more simple preparation with a little dill you might prefer to do a Sauvignon Blanc, with a cream sauce a Chardonnay is nice, and they all work nicely so that’s what makes wine so much fun to experiment with and while it might be perfect for you it might work differently for someone else,” explained Sayre.
The evening was a great success according to Curry and enjoyed by all, “The tickets sold out the second day we announced the event, and we’ve had many inquiries about when we plan to do it again,” said Cherie, “That’s why we call this a gathering place we want to offer what people love and enjoy sharing.” The wines featured for the evening were all available to patrons through Alaska Distributors.
With California temperatures in the triple digits while Sayre was visiting Alaska he wouldn’t venture an opinion on what the effects the heat may have on the 2006 grape harvest, but added, “We won’t know what is happening until it is all said and done and we have the grapes harvested. It may be a great year for Cabernet and a bad year for Pinot Noir, we still have a month and a half before harvest and we have no idea what nature will deal us right now.” And in the end is wine making magic, luck, art or science? According to Sayre, “It’s a science and it’s an art and I pray every day that the Lord will give us the fruit that we need to make great wines because indeed it is all in his hands.” For more information on the Rodney Strong Vineyards go to www.rodneystrong.com.
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