“We’ll begin with a tasting of the 2011 Arctic Wine paired with a “Cloud Nine” cupcake,” explains Ryan Selby, the assistant winemaker at Robibero Family Winery.
I am attending the winery’s Valentine’s Day event “Sweet and Sinful Revenge Wine & Cupcake Pairing,” a decadent experience showing guests that chocolate, cheese and meats aren’t the only ways to pair a glass of vino. While the cupcakes come from artisanal Moxie Cupcake Bake Shop & Cafe, the wines are crafted onsite at the boutique winery. When I ask Ryan how he came up with the pairing suggestions for the event, he laughs.
“I spent a lot of time tasting the cupcakes and wines with different combinations. I paired them based on my palate and what I felt went best.”
Ryan instructs me to first take a sip of the Riesling, which is much drier than most Rieslings with a crisp acidity and hint of pineapple. Next I take a bite of the “Cloud Nine,” a Madagascar vanilla bean cake featuring an all-natural coconut buttercream rolled in organic shredded coconut. Now, I take another sip of wine, focusing on how the flavors are interacting and influencing one another. It’s clear Ryan has a knack for this, as the dryness of the Riesling perfectly balances the intense sweetness of the cupcake.
Robibero Winery is a true family affair, the 42-acre land for the enterprise being purchased in 2003 by Harry and Carole Robibero. Harry had always dreamed of following in his grandfather’s footsteps and producing world-class wines, and in 2010 the couple, along with their daughter Tiffany and her now-husband Ryan, as well as a head winemaker they employed from Cornell University, the family was able to officially open to the public. Their toy Yorkie, Snickers, is also an important part of the clan, as the tiny dog playfully greets guests into the tasting room.
Snickers comes over to my table, a big doggy grin on his face, as he watches me move on to my second tasting. It’s a “Mexican Hot Chocolate” cupcake featuring chocolate cake filled with cinnamon ganache and a pinch of cayenne. The dessert is topped with cocoa buttercream, fresh cinnamon and Red Hot candy, and paired with their Serendipity wine. Composed of 65% Seyval Blanc and 35% un-oaked Chardonnay, the wine showcases floral and apple aromas with a smooth, crisp texture.
“Most people know the typical European grapes like Merlot, Chardonnay and Riesling, but we like to experiment with lesser-known hybrids,” explains Ryan when I ask about the Seyval Blanc. “It’s a French American hybrid, which means the species are crossed and are more resistant to disease.”
I’m introduced to another hybrid I’ve never heard of with the next pairing. Their Rabbit’s Foot wine is a lively red color with a velvety texture, featuring 75% Baco Noir, 15% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. It is matched with an “Annie Get Your Gun” cupcake, a rich Red Velvet cake filled with chocolate ganache and topped with cream cheese frosting and organic chocolate shavings. The red wine is surprisingly light and food friendly, offsetting the richness of the cupcake for a tantalizing yet balanced treat.
The winery has been setting up for this event for weeks, and have many more in the works. In the future, some happenings at the winery will include live music, special barrel tastings and cellar tours, pasta pairings, a pig roast and luau, barbecues, a sangria festival, a grape stomp festival and Winestock, an event blending the pleasures of wine and music. Ryan also confides he’s eager to do more offbeat pairing events, for example, wine and sushi.
“There’s so much more to wine pairing than just red wine with steak and white wine with fish,” he says.
My final pairing for the night is one I’ve been curious about since I sat down. I can see bits of graham cracker and chocolate chunks peeking out of the cake, while a toasted homemade marshmallow sits on top. Not surprisingly, this unique take on the S’more is called “Campfire Song,” and is matched with the winery’s 2008 87 South. Made with 50% Cabernet Franc, 25% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, there is a cranberry and cherry nose with a lingering pepper finish. It is a festival of flavors and experiences, as I’m taken back to weekends camping upstate with my family, singing songs and making gooey S’mores by the fire. The spice and fruit flavors of the wine further remind me of the beautiful experiences the outdoors can bring.
I leave the event feeling satiated; however, I know myself well enough to realize that it’s still early and I’m going to be wanting some more of this wine later on. I purchase a bottle of the 87 South, which my companion and I agree was delightfully unusual with the blending of sweet fruits and spicy pepper in a drinkable way. Not only has Robibero Family Winery introduced me to new flavors, it’s also enlightened me on an innovative way to enjoy them.
Robibero Family Winery is located at 714 Albany Post Road in New Paltz. Hours vary by season. You can contact them at (845) 255-9463 or email them at Rnywine@yahoo.com.
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