As I entered Pacifico Restaurant in downtown New Haven on a chilly Thursday night in November, it was the coziest of settings; the warmth of candlelight and dimly lowered sconces in the upstairs room was so lovely and welcoming. As I was escorted to my seat and saw the menu, I knew I was in for a treat.
I took off my coat and was about to settle into a seat when Margaret Ruggerio-Mena, one of the owners and winemakers of Paradise Hills Vineyard & Winery in Wallingford, saw me and came over to give me a hug. She is the one who had been so kind as to invite me to attend this Tapas dinner to enjoy great food and wine. I am honored to be able to share this experience with all of you, so you will be sure to mark your calendars the next time these two culinary friends have an event.
The invitation for this wonderful dinner at the restaurant was so kind and appealing, but the most enticing part of the invitation was to get to taste more of Paradise Hills Vineyard’s wine selection.
I was not disappointed. The attendees gathered in the dining area while Margaret and her husband Marcelo Mena, general manager and winemaker at Paradise Hills, both made the rounds to greet everyone who had come to the dinner.
As they were saying their hellos, the first course was brought out. This course – Ceviche de Salmon & Camaron – consisted of shrimp, salmon, mango, pineapple, red onions and citrus juices. The ceviche came served in a martini glass; the presentation was beautiful. The citrus, mango, and pineapple blended with the salmon, shrimp, and onions made for a unique and delicious taste. The dish was paired with Paradise Hills’ 2016 Washington Trail White, a blend of Seyval Blanc & Chardonnay. The pairing worked so nicely. The wine was very light and fruit-filled with a refreshing taste and hints of green apple and citrus that combined well with the spicy dish.
The second course – Quesadilla de pato – was made with shredded duck, roasted peppers, smoked Gouda cheese, roasted corn salsita, and jalapeno aioli with a pomegranate reduction. The flavor pairing again with the Paradise Hills’ 2015 Nostra Tradizione, a Chianti style blend, really brought out the taste in the food and picked up the great tones of a smoky flavor in the quesadilla. The name, Nostra Tradizione, means “Our Tradition” in Italian and the wine made you feel like you were experiencing that true winemaking spirit with each sip.
Next, we were served Sea Bass prepared with quinoa, sweet plantains, roasted pepper, orange, and a coconut jalapeno-ginger mojo. The pan-seared fish was paired with Paradise Hills’ 2016 Chardonnay, which had a crisp smell and slight richness that melded so nicely with this course. It was not full of overpowering oak as some Chardonnays are, and it worked well together with this dish.
The fourth course was a Steak a la Parilla, which was a grilled NY steak, with yucca fries and an aji amarillo chimichurri that was paired with Paradise Hills’ 2015 Nero D’Avola. This wine has a cool heritage and is named after a mythological story out of Sicily. Be sure to stop into Paradise Hills Vineyards and ask to hear the entire story to learn more about this wine and all of its delicious flavor and history.
To round out the dinner, Passionfruit Flan was served as the final course of the night. It was paired with Paradise Hills’ new Notte Di Amore CT Sparkling wine. Notte Di Amore translates to “Night of Love” and is made from their estate-grown Cayuga grapes in a Sparkling style. It paired so perfectly with the light flan, fruit, and cream. It made for a sweet ending to an all-around delicious meal.
Not only was the entire meal and wine paired perfectly, but Margaret and Marcelo both were so attentive to all the guests at the dinner and spent a lot of time engaging with everyone, answering questions and explaining about the components and details of their wine. If you’ve ever wanted to have an intimate dinner with winemakers who will help you to understand and appreciate wine more, you need to attend a Wine and Tapas dinner with Paradise Hills. You will not be disappointed.