Rafters, Mammoth CA: Steven Kent Tasting–Lola & Dutton Chardonnay

Last month, after a bluebird afternoon on the slopes at Mammoth Mountain, I participated in a fantastic Twitter Wine tasting featuring Steven Kent Wines hosted by The Rafters Restaurant at the Sierra Nevada Resort 202 Old Mammoth Road, Mammoth Lakes, CA. Established in 1967; Rafters was recently reborn as a world class restaurant with a 7000 bottle wine list!

Sommelier Chip Irmish had glasses ready and the wines chilled perfectly for me when I dashed back after a few quick turns on the slopes. (I thought I had a photo of Chip with the glasses and all but I guess not! I promise to post one when I get a chance to spend more time with him!)

When I realized I’d be in Mammoth on the day of the Steven Kent tasting and would need a place to do it, Christie Osborne of Visit Mammoth connected me with James Demetriades, owner of the Sierra Nevada Resort which provides lodging, recreation, and three restaurants for their guests. Jim offered to host me and to provide food to pair with the wines.While I’d driven by the Rafters Restaurant on many trips to Mammoth (because it is on the way to the grocery store!), I knew nothing about it and I’d never been inside.

Honestly, I was not expecting Rafters to offer such amazing food, generous hospitality, and gorgeous venue! If you are looking for an exceptional dining experience in Mammoth Lakes, CA, look no further! I’m looking forward to going back over Easter weekend!

The Rafters Restaurant is part of the The Sierra Nevada Resort which has been undergoing quite the make-over during the past few years; it had become quite run down and dated since it was built in the late 1960s. James Demetriades is in the process of turning that image around to provide for guests a first class resort experience complete with exquisite dining for breakfast, lunch or dinner with North American cuisine and an extensive wine list at Rafters; with excellent and authentic Greek cuisine at Jimmy’s Taverna using his family recipes and passion and specializing fresh seafood; and with the Asian inspired Red Lantern which features all fresh ingredients.

This all comes together for a first class experience because the three restaurants share the services of sommelier Chip Irmish, the creative expertise in the kitchen of chef Kerry Mechler, and the capable management of Jack Carter. While they focus on Rafters, they are available to support and supervise the staff at the other two restaurants ensuring a high quality dining experience whether a diner is in the mood for steak, lamb, fish, or a vegetarian stir fry.

When I saw the menu that Chef Kerry had put together to pair with the wines, it was clear I was in for a special evening. I was so excited that I had to blog the menu!

I couldn’t have asked for a more scenic restaurant to host a tasting or to enjoy a meal. The staff set me up in a back room which they wouldn’t need until the evening dinner rush. The fire in the fire place and the afternoon sun pouring in gave the room a rosy glow that would warm the coldest heart –or the coldest feet after a day on the mountain!

I was grateful to have wireless access, wine glasses, and some food to pair with the wine. But what I experienced was PHENOMENOL–beyond any expectations I could have had. As you can see from the photos below, the food was beautifully presented. What you can’t see, you will have to imagine: the food was so delicious, so incredible, I could barely stand it.

2011 “Lola” (Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon Blend)
Japanese Hamachi Sashimi, Ruby Grapefruit, Avocado, Watercress, Soy Citrus Broth

Not only was each and every dish that came out of the kitchen delicious and delightful with the wines, but the presentation was beautiful and inspiring.

As you can imagine, the crisp citrus (lime, grapefruit) in the “Lola” was fabulous with the rich, smooth textures of the sashimi and avocado. But it was the soy citrus broth that truly showcased the chef at work!

A blend of mostly Sauvignon Blanc with 35% Semillon with a light straw color,  these Bordeaux natives obviously do great in the Livermore Valley under the expertise of the Steven Kent Winery staff.  In addition to lime, as the wine warmed up, we delighted in the white peach,  pear and floral notes. Easy open screwtop, close to 14% alcohol,  well balanced with lots of acidity and minerality. At $24, worth every penny.

As the tweet mentioned, I wanted to linger with Lola; this wine would be awesome with my favorites: a ceasar salad, pesto, goat cheese…it has plenty of acidity and power to go with a wide range of meals from seafood to chicken to picnic cheeses and meats. This would be a great choice poolside, beachside, or on the deck on a warm spring or summer afternoon! (Can you tell I loved this wine? In fact, it was finished first because it was so friendly and versatile! And for a white, it had excellent longevity–it was still very very good on Sunday night

Course Two:

2010 La Rochelle Chardonnay, Dutton-Morelli Lane, Russian River Valley

Mushroom Risotto Stuffed Piquillo Pepper, Arugula Pesto

The profusion of rich flavors made this course remarkable; both my son and my husband wanted more more more! Personally, I am not a fan of peppers–they don’t mix well with my palate or my digestion. But these peppers were simply a mild, flavorful base to hold the risotto, and the red against the green pesto was gorgeous! If you aren’t a pepper fan, don’t be afraid of these–they might change your mind! The flavors in this course went well with the chardonnay…but actually, I preferred it with the pinot noirs (to come!)

This is not your typical oaky, heavy, tropical fruit California Chardonnay. Using only 40% new French oak, the wine is well made, balanced, rich but not too buttery, full of fruit and body. While it has some pineapple, it is more green apple bright. Plenty of minerality and acidity to enjoy with a wide range of food choices–as this pair showed! (The next night we had it with roast chicken…delicious!)

This wine shines at cellar temperature–not refrigerator temperature! I am grateful to Chip at Rafters for making sure the sauvignon blanc was nice and cold while the chardonnay was not too cold!

Part 2: On to the reds! 2 Pinot Noir from La Rochelle
Part 3: On to the reds! Petit Verdot, Cabernet from Steven Kent
Part 4: Back to the  Sierra Nevada resort–for Easter and to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary!

Please note: These wines were media sample provided by the winery for an on-line twitter tasting event. Rafters generously provided the food.

PS No, Mammoth is NOT the land of the midnight sun! I don’t know why the time stamps on the tweet are off! It looks like they are on UTC instead of Pacific Standard Time. I’ll try to address this but right now, know that the times are about 8 hours off–which would explain the sunlight in the images!

6 thoughts on “Rafters, Mammoth CA: Steven Kent Tasting–Lola & Dutton Chardonnay

  1. FYI pg doesn’t exist for Rafters, I saw my littlest brother from Park City UT down south, had a great time. Sorry to miss twitter. Love Anne


  2. Pingback: Part 2: Rafters, Mammoth CA & 2 LaRochelle Pinot Noirs | wine predator

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