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Chef Sean Kelley and Temper Grille host Penfolds wine dinner

I have eaten at Temper Grille a number of times but never attended one of Chef Sean Kelley’s wine dinners until this Penfolds’ tasting. I picked this rather pricey (pricey in our market, at $225 per person) wine dinner to attend for several reasons:

First, I have learned personally that Sean Kelley is a very kind person, who under a sometimes rough exterior has a very generous heart. He is the kind of person you want to support because of his generosity.

As an example of this generosity, when Chef Kelley learned that my grandson, Adler Bear Carris wanted to be a chef someday, he organized a “Chef for a day” event for Adler at Temper Grille (1213 E. University Drive, Granger, Ind., 574-273-0443). Sean even went so far as to have a special chef’s jacket made for Adler in commemoration of this very special day.

Secondly, it isn’t often in a market the size of ours that you get the opportunity to taste Penfolds wine, especially the famous Penfolds Grange. And to get to meet renowned sommeliers such as DLynn Proctor and Robert Ord, Penfolds Winemaking Ambassadors for the Americas, is something even more special.

Penfolds is widely known for production of its world renowned Penfolds Grange red wine. It is primarily a blend of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon and considered one of Australia’s “first growth” wines. It is often compared to French Bordeaux wine. Many of its vintages are considered collector’s items.

The 2008 vintage (not the vintage we tasted at the dinner, but one that I want to use for an example) was just one of those very special vintages sought after by collectors. It is considered one of the best Grange vintages ever produced. The 2008 vintage received a 100 point rating from both Robert Parker and Wine Spectator magazine. The price of the 2008 vintage ranges from $475 to $800 in the United States and has drinkability to 2060. Is it worth the price? You’ll have to be the judge of that.

Suffice it to say, the quality of Penfolds wines is simply world-class. To promote the reputation and position in the world of fine wine, Penfolds has a unique program featuring Winemaking Ambassadors.

Learn more about the Penfolds Winemaking Ambassadors in the full version of this blog at

I asked Robert Ord, one of the ambassadors present that evening, for his thoughts on the dinner and he responded by saying, “It was really a treat to be a part of the dinner at Temper Grille. Sean’s food was spectacular and I thought the use of kangaroo in the ravioli was inspired. I truly do like pairing our Penfolds wines with great food, whether it is classical or non-classical in style. I am glad that everyone was able to enjoy our wines paired with such fantastic food.”

I would be remiss in not mentioning and giving credit for all the hard work and efforts of the Southern Wines & Spirits team that represents Penfolds wines in our market. They played a major role in getting the Penfolds team to participate in the dinner. Thanks to our local Southern Wine & Spirits friends Meghan Kirwan and Dan Peña for all their efforts to pull this event together with Sean Kelley and the Temper Grille team.

Personally, I was anxious to see how Chef Kelley approached the food pairings. When I asked him about the dinner afterwards here is what he said:

“I thought the food and wine pairing was one of my best,” Kelley said. “I was worried on two of the wines, the Grange and the 707. I went blind into the pairing and the only thing I could do was a lot of research on them. I was really skeptical on the Kangaroo ravioli, but everyone talked about how great it was. So it came out better than I thought.”

You’ll get no argument out of most people, and certainly not me, that Penfolds makes great wines. Its wines are made in the style of Old World wines which require a good deal of aging. The red wines that started with the second course of the dinner were all very young and will require another two to five years of aging to begin to reach their potential.

In several of the courses I believe the youngness of the wines was a deterrent to making the food and wine pairings perfect. This condition, however, certainly didn’t prevent me from eating or drinking.

For the reception, we all sipped the 2012 Penfolds Bin 51 Riesling which was paired with artisan meats and cheeses. Personally I am a big riesling fan, perhaps due to my German heritage. This riesling was really tasty.

The nose was full of aromas of oranges and peaches. This was a light bodied wine with tastes of green apple and a hint of lime. The finish was dry, crisp and of a great length and provided a nice mouth feel. This wine reminded me of, and perhaps could pass for, a French Sémillon…also a favorite of mine.

First Course
Chef Kelley’s salmon crudo (in Italian, crudo means raw) with a peach salsa and blood orange vinaigrette was paired with the 2013 Penfolds Bin 311 Chardonnay. This was a light chardonnay which needed a little aeration to get it to open up.

When it did open, the nose threw off hints of apples, peaches and grapefruit. On the palate you had a refreshing lightness of white fruit and a touch of silkiness…a very pleasant mouth feel. The finish was balanced with just the right amount of acidity. This is a tight young chardonnay with a great future.

Second Course
Chef Kelley paired a crispy smoked, coffee rubbed chicken thigh with the 2012 Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet/ Shiraz. This was my favorite pairing as well as my favorite wine of the evening.

I thought the smokiness and coffee on the chicken overpowered the wine, albeit ever so slightly. This condition existed in my opinion because of the youngness of the wine.

On the nose, which was tight and required some coaxing to open up, there were hints of black fruit and perhaps a little oak. The palate was intense black fruit, spice and oak. The finish was excellent, well balanced and long. The dryness of the wine provided a nice mouth feel.

Third Course
This course consisted of a blackened ostrich loin and beetroot puree paired with the 2010 Penfolds RWT Shiraz. The nose of this wine had aromas of cedar and black fruit.

On the palate this wine was full bodied and rich with flavors of black fruit, mint and a little black pepper at the beginning of the finish. The finish featured some oak and tannins. The mouth feel was nice and corresponded with the length of the finish. When I quizzed other attendees, this was one of the more popular wines of the evening.

Fourth Course
As Chef Kelley commented on his concerns on pairing his food selections with the wines, this course he felt was one of his challenges as he paired kangaroo ravioli with a red wine demi reduction and béchamel. Béchamel sauce is a white sauce made from a roux (butter and flour) and milk. It is one of the “mother sauces of French cuisine.”

This plate was paired with the 2012 Penfolds Cabernet Sauvignon Bin 707. The fruit for this wine comes from multiple vineyards and regions, which make for challenging conditions for the winemaker. This wine was aged for 14 months in 100 percent new American Oak. On the nose there were hints of coffee, black fruit, floral notes plus a little oak.

On the palate the wine was full bodied, mouth-filling with hints of spice, oak and perhaps a little chocolate with layers of black fruit. The finish was balanced, with good mouth texture and the finish was very long. Again, this wine is very light and would benefit from additional aging. This wine should drink well for 10 to 15 years.

Fifth Course
The fifth and final course was the grand finale with chocolate truffle-stuffed French toast, with duck butter (foie gras), smoked goose bacon crumbles and smoked bleu cheese crumbles.

This delicious desert was paired with the world renowned 2010 Penfolds Grange Red Wine, which is a blend of 96 percent Shiraz and 4 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. Once again, the fruit for this wine came from multiple vineyards.

This wine was really a little disappointing to me. Not that the wine wasn’t good, because it was. It just wasn’t as good as it will get in the future. It is still so young and tight even after five years of aging. Even Penfolds says this wine will not begin to reach its peak drinking period until 2018, after which they claim is drinkable for a period of 42 years. I only hope I can taste a bottle of this 2010 Grange in another five to seven years. At that point I believe it should be in the “Boy is this wine good” stage of development.

I did some research on this wine for us and found the 2010 vintage has a price range of $500 to $625 per bottle in wine shops around the country. The wine scores were as follows:

  • Robert Parker: 99/100
  • Wine Spectator: 98/100
  • Cellar Tracker: 97/100

Robert Parker, the wine critic who rated this wine in October 2014 at 99/100 points called it “among the finest Grange vintages produced.”

On the nose the wine, after some aeration, provided aromas of youthful black fruit, hints of floral and oak and perhaps a little cedar at times. On the palate this is a medium- to full-bodied wine. It was a little grainy or textured in the mouth with tastes of black fruit, dark chocolate and mocha. The finish was of good length, although again a little tight. The tannins are balanced, with hints of oak or spice. This wine’s flavor profile will just get better with time.

This was a simply a great evening for all of us oenophiles and foodies. Congratulations to Chef Kelley for putting together some delicious food and pairing it with some wonderful wines.

As people were finishing up and preparing to leave I asked several friends for their opinions of the evening and Brian Bernth had this to say: “Only Sean Kelley can pair kangaroo ravioli with the right wine. We do a lot of wine dinners, but Sean is as close to perfect with food and wine pairings as it gets. I also thought the moderately priced wines were just as good as the higher-end offerings.”

As always I appreciate your support of our wine blog and encourage you to share it with family and friends. If you care to share your comments on this blog posting or other topics please do so in the comments section below.

Until next week,

For more wine tips and recommendations from Carl Tiedemann, visit Plus, find out how to join the wine club for exclusive local discounts.

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