Recently, I attended a Coquerel Wine Dinner hosted by Clay and Brenda Cockerell at Gemma Restaurant. The restaurant was at capacity with 50 attendees all who appeared to be fellow wine lovers, close friends, neighbors or colleagues. I felt like I was invited to a family dinner complete with great conversation and stories. Clay and Brenda have a welcoming style, wicked sense of humor and are happy to see everyone. They show passion in every wine that they describe and it is clear they love the dual life they have in Dallas and Calistoga. And, they let French Winemaker Christine Barbe do her thing.
The name Coquerel is a French version of the couple’s family name, Cockerell. The couple had their interest in making wine piqued after talking to a Napa real estate agent who encouraged them to try her own wine. The Cockerell’s figured that they knew the style of wine they wanted to make, they were avid collectors and the ability was there to do what the real estate agent was doing. They later made a decision to buy the vineyard over an anniversary trip, and purchased one that was dedicated to dry-farmed Sauvignon Blanc. Three years later, they acquired the property next door and expanded into other varieties.
We tried a number of the Coquerel wines including two sauvignon blancs, the chardonnay, petite sirah and cabernet sauvignon as well as a dessert wine with a comeback kid story. Most of the wines are made with estate grown grapes.
We started our dinner with a wine that was a favorite of Allison Yoder, one of the co-owners of Gemma. It was the Le Grand Courtage, a sparkling rose from France, which was the perfect way to start with the passed hors d’oeuveres.
And let’s give a quick shout out to Gemma, which I think has some of the most superb and divine food in all of Dallas. I adore this restaurant.
Our first course was matched beautifully. Jumbo lump crab salad with heirloom apple and celery root remoulade paired with the 2012 Le Petit Coquerel Sauvignon Blanc. This was a gorgeous wine with green apples, tropical, spice, citrus and minerality.
The second course was grilled diver scallops with sunchoke puree, brown butter, sage, toasted hazelnuts paired with the 2011 Terroir Chardonnay. It was made in a Chablis style with notes of lemon, steel, stone and flowers. Brenda joked that “every single woman at the bar wanted to order a chardonnay, so we made one our own style.”
We then moved to grilled bandera quail with de puy lentils, bacon and red wine port reduction paired with 2012 Pinot Noir made in a burgundy style. I loved the rich cherry and earthiness of this wine.
The fourth course was a brandt flatiron with autumn squash, chanterelles and crispy brussels sprout leaves with the 2010 La Petite Sirah that had deep notes of blackberry, lavender, chocolate and was silky. Clay talked about how he did not like petite sirah until this wine was made and now he finds himself often opening and drinking it often.
The last pairing was a basque cake with meyer lemon and green yogurt and the 2009 La Douce Revanche or “Sweet Revenge,” which was a divine late harvest sauvignon blanc. This was made after a 19-day freeze resulted in the loss of the entire crop. They purchased 8 tons of fruit and decided to give late harvest wine a try and I am so glad they did.
Clay said the next step for them is to build a winery on the property before his sixtieth birthday. If the hospitality that I felt this night is replicated, I can’t wait for this amazing addition in Calistoga.