Brander Vineyard Winemakers Dinner at Tam O’Shanter Inn!

While Santa Ynez Valley Winemaker, Fred Brander, hails from Argentina and moved to Santa Barbara as a young child, he is no stranger to Los Angeles’ eclectic and historic, Tam O’Shanter Inn; “I came here in 1957. I was nine years old and the Tam was like Harry Potter to me!” explained Fred last Wednesday as Brander and the Tam hosted an incredible dinner event with the winemakers from Brander Vineyards.

Brander just happens to be the oldest winery in the heart of the Santa Ynez Valley, on Refugio Road. Over the course of nearly three hours, we were led through an incredible 4 course dinner with each course paired with one of Brander’s wines.

It’s no secret I have a soft spot for the Santa Ynez Valley. Living there for a good portion of my youth, I was the typical kid who didn’t really love where I lived. Now? I jump at the opportunity to head up the 101…and, since I have long been of age to drink, I can finally understand and respect the fantastic wines of the Santa Ynez Valley.

We began our evening sipping on Brander’s 2016 Sauvignon Gris. Considered to be a ‘cousin’ of Sauvignon Blanc, Gris delivers much more spicy notes than it’s cousin, respectively. While I often turn to Sauvignon Blanc when I need a bright, crisp wine, I appreciated the switch to a more acidity white, and the smokiness sealed the deal on the long finish. (Bonus: It retails at just $25 and would be ideal for these long Summer days, and brought to mind a mellow, white fish like mahi).

The vineyards of Brander. Photo: Brander Vineyard.
Wine coming down at Brander! Photo: Brander Vineyard.

For our first course, the Tam prepared a beautiful plate of bay scallops with watercress and mango. It was the perfect pair with one of Brander’s signature whites, their 2016 Mesa Verde Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc. While I could pick up some tropical notes upon my first sip, the magic to this glass was revealed after another taste of my scallops.The mango to my dish brought out all thoseĀ  Sauvignon Blanc bright notes I was just talking about. Suddenly, this Sauvignon was bursting with great, bright notes of white peach and green apples upon that second sip.

Next up, we were in for a treat with our first Brander red of the evening. “F-red’s Blend” (get it?!) boasts 40% Cabernet, 25% Cabernet Franc, 20% Syrah and 15% Merlot, while aged in neutral French oak. I appreciated the earthy tones to the blend, and loved the leather notes from the Cabernet, and that 20% Syrah added some spice that went extremely well with the ginger notes from our 2nd course, a Summer melon salad with a ginger lime vinaigrette.

For the main course, I headed to a newer territory for myself; a sirloin steak. As some of you know, I am currently calling myself a ‘Reluctant Carnivore’ and, while I am enjoying some incredible white meat dishes, red meat is not usually my forte. Now a fan of the Tam O’Shanter and Brander, how could I not pair my steak with the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve?! Aged for 12 months in 60% new French oak, this Cabernet Reserve is certainly something to write home about. My first sip, I smelled extremely strong ripe cranberry and cherry. Some more (or many) sips following the incredible sirloin, it revealed hints of clove, orange and even a touch of ceder.

A storybook cottage in Los Feliz! Photo: Tam O’Shanter.

The steak was prepared rare, and I can understand why Tam O’Shanter Inn, which is owned by Lawry’s, is considered one of the best restaurants for steak in Los Angeles.

Continuing with our Reserve, we moved into an interesting dessert to pair with a Cabernet; a caramel ice cream with passion fruit and a large shortbread cookie! While at first seeming like a bit of an odd pair, there were no complaints from me as this was some damn good ice cream, and, the rich cream strangely went well with my Reserve.

Our evening was hosted by Tam’s hospitable manager, Brian McNally. McNally is so full of life, and knows how to lead a wonderful time. As his events are limited at the Tam (he’ll be moving to Morro Bay come November), an attendee inquired as to where he is headed. Without missing a beat, McNally goes, “The Sizzler!” (which is located across the street from Tam O’Shanter, on Los Feliz Boulevard).

I cannot thank the Tam O’Shanter Inn for having my husband and myself to experience their decadent food and mingle with Brander Vineyard. Visit the Tam here and plan a visit to wine taste and meet Fred at Brander Vineyard here! xo

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