A winemaker's dinner

As Eric Weisinger slowly takes over Weisinger's of Ashland from his father, he is thinking about the winery's past to make decisions about its future.

He sees the wine label, with the telltale image of an American kestrel, as representing his family, the region's history and terroir.

The fourth pillar is quality, and to improve the taste and ageabilty of his wines, he has to evaluate what the soil, sun, rain and a series of winemakers, including himself, have produced before.

On Friday, Sept. 13, people attending a winemaker's dinner at the tasting room, at 3150 Siskiyou Blvd., will have the opportunity to enjoy seven courses paired with estates wines, some of which have not yet been released.

Limited tickets cost $65 ($60 for club members) and are available by calling 541-488-5989.

Chef Douglas Todd of Wine Country Catering (www.chefwinecountry.com) will prepare a first course of Israeli couscous salad with grilled peaches, curried cashews and tarragon. It will be served with an unreleased surprise, says Weisinger.

The second course will be Ras el hanout, a North African spice blend, pan-seared halibut served with Moroccan Chermoula sauce on a bed of corn and potato risotto and paired with 2012 Estate Gewurztraminer.

The third course will be a wild mushroom and Gruyere cheese tart with mushrooms (hen of the woods, oyster, cremini and porcini) sautéed with fresh herbs, caramelized onion and Gruyere. It will be served with the 2011 Estate Pinot Noir.

The fourth course will be an Asian-spiced braised pork belly with sweet potato mash and warm arugula salad, paired with the 2010 Estate Tempranillo.

That will be followed by an amuse-bouche of Sous-vide duck breast with dried fruit compote and duck crackling and the 2011 Estate Tempranillo.

The sixth course will be braised beef short rib ravioli with applewood smoked tomato ragout with the 2006 Petite Pompadour, a blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot and malbec.

The final course will be Bing cherry and goat cheese panna cotta with tomato liqueur drizzle and the Weisinger port.

For 25 years, the Weisinger family has been making wine, some of it from a tiny patch of gewurztraminer grapevines Eric's dad, John Weisinger, planted in 1979.

"My dad handed over the reins this year and he likes to say he's retired, but I still keep him in the loop on current activities and future planning," says Eric Weisinger, 44, who was underage when he tasted his dad's first vintage, a 1988 gewurztraminer. "He likes where things are going."

After graduating from Ashland High School, Eric Weisinger took classes at the University of California at Davis, surrounded himself with reliable mentors and spent three years learning New Zealand's wine production techniques.

Newly married, he's home for good now and facing a hard chore.

He's making improvements on the property. The original 1900 farmhouse has been used as a one-bedroom cottage rental.

Newly renovated and with a hot tub that has views of the pinot noir vineyard, it rents for $225 a night May through October, $180 November through April. More information is at http://weisingers.com/cottagepage/cottage1.htm.

To determine future decisions about the wine, Eric Weisinger spent a week in July tasting about 100 different bottles from the wine library. He then rated each on whether to age, sell or distill it.

While wading around stacked cases of vintage wine, he picked up a bottle of 2001 merlot that captured an impressive 89 points from Wine Spectator.

The merlot was made with the old winery equipment and a yeast carefully selected to bring out the flavor.

"This is the best wine I've had in here," he says.

He may create a special event at the tasting room to celebrate it being released from storage.

"We will do something fun with it," he says. "Right now, though, I'm going to take a few bottles home."

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