Sun Valley Raises the Game for the Opus One Dinner

Opus is a term that often refers to a musical composer’s first masterwork.  
Opus One is, therefore, aptly named, as it’s considered the first true masterwork in American wine making.

Born from a marriage between legendary wine making families, the Rothschilds and the Mondavis, Opus One was first released in 1981 and a single case sold for a record $24,000.  The California winery has been producing some of the finest wines in the world ever since.

It’s rather fitting then that America’s first ultra-premium wine will be the focus of a wine paring dinner at America’s original destination ski resort.

The first offering in the new Sun Valley Wine Club series, the Opus One Dinner will take place at Trail Creek Lodge, this Monday night, February 13th.  

It will include five Opus One vintages in a vertical wine pairing (’92, `93, ’94, ’95 and 2013) and a five course meal designed by beloved local Chef Derek Gallegos, including a dessert prepared by Chris McCarthy from the Konditorei.

Seating is limited. The cost is $295 per person. For reservation please call: 208-622-2012. For more about a meal that promises to be long remembered by those lucky enough to enjoy it, keep reading

Late on Wednesday afternoon, Chef Derek Gallegos called Chef Hal Jardine into the large, state-of-the-art kitchen at Gretchen’s in the Sun Valley Lodge.

Chef Gallegos had just plated up a dish of pheasant atop a bed of sautéed leeks.  The dish was gorgeous, its aroma enticingly delightful. But those two qualities weren’t enough, its taste had to be just as magical and as complex.

They each then took bites of the dish, and offered one to me. Since I’m only a mere journalist and not a poet, my words will fail to do justice to how delicious it was.  But, still,  it wasn’t good enough for the chefs. They talked about tannic components, and balancing acidity and bitterness with a meal that will feature the red Opus One wines, and they thought they could do better.

“Version 4.0,” Chef Gallegos called this round. “It needs some work. Sometimes you have an idea in your head that you think is going to work and then you put it together and it doesn’t.  Sometimes you have to try dozens of versions until you get it right. We’re just trying to make it perfect.”

The word opus derives from the Latin meaning work, but its come to be used to describe artwork of all kinds. And that’s what a great meal really is—artwork, with some entertainment thrown on top.

Chef Gallegos said he was honored when asked to create a meal to accompany the Opus One selection.

“It was exciting to be asked to do it, “ he said. “There’s a lot of pressure. It forces you to up your game. It’s the type of challenge you always walk away from a little stronger. There’ll be butterflies, but it’s fun.”

Derek said his staff is excited about the opportunity to create such a unique meal and have been enjoying the culinary creations in the search of the perfectly-paired courses. As Chef Jardine explained, the subtle differences in every vintage of wine add to the challenge.

“There’s always an element of mystery, but that’s part of what makes it fun, too,” he said.

The meal will begin with passed hors d'oeuvres and then will consist of three main courses before dessert. In staying with a rustic Idaho-in-the-winter theme, Chef Gallegos and his team will be offering unique takes on courses of pheasant, lamb and beef.

“Everywhere you go it’s the same lamb or beef courses, we wanted to do something different,” Chef Gallegos said. “You have to contrast each dish, in consistency, in texture, in flavor pallet. You want each course to be unique and to really connect with the wine in different ways.”

While the pheasant undergoes some minor tweaking, the beef dish will include a foie gras butter reduction and “an intense, rib-sticking sauce,” Chef Gallegos said. The lamb, however, is set to truly raise the culinary bar.

Chef Gallegos had the opportunity to study in Parma and Bologna, Italy, many years ago. It was there that an “Italian grandma taught me how to make pasta by hand,” Derek said. “It was an invaluable experience.”

He is using some of that experience for the lamb dish, which will be a giant, hand-made tortellini filled with lamb cooked in free-range veal stock.  “It’s going to be a rich, earthy dish. I think people are really going to dig on it,” he said with a smile.

Thanks to the wine making skills of the Opus One team and the culinary excellence of Chef Derek Gallegos and his crew, the dinner in the small fireplace room of the historic Trail Creek Lodge is sure to be an experience that will long be savored.

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