"I think Mariposa could become kind of a landmark here and I’m very proud of that," owner and Executive Chef Lisa Dahl said to me on my first visit to this stunning restaurant. "If the food is equal to the energy of the atmosphere and environment, truly, potentially, it could be one of the great restaurants of Arizona." I wholeheartedly concurred then, and my latest visit just reaffirmed this heartfelt declaration.
To recognize a year of accomplishments and accolades, Executive Chef Dahl and Mariposa celebrated with a wine dinner on June 20, 2016 with Justin Vineyards and Winery for their first anniversary, and I was thrilled to be a part of it.
Visiting host Joseph Spellman, Winery Sommelier for Justin Vineyards, is one of only 147 Master Sommeliers in the country and traveled to Sedona from Chicago. We learned that he has been a sommelier at renowned restaurants such as Charlie Trotter's, and worked with acclaimed wine importers and producers including Joseph Phelps and Terlato Wines before joining Justin Vineyards in 2007.
Justin Vineyards was founded by Justin Baldwin in Pasa Robles' Santa Lucia mountain range. "It was rocky, it had great drainage, it was eight miles from the Pacific Ocean, and was on hillsides," said Spellman. "Those were all great factors for growing our major varieties of cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc, as well as developing partnerships from which we source grapes for other varietals. Tonight, you'll have the key wines we develop at Justin Vineyards."
The 2015 Sauvignon Blanc was our first course wine. "We make this in stainless steel tanks, so it’s very fresh, very clean. It's a direct expression of the sauvignon blanc variety, from a range of vineyards both within Paso Robles and outside the county," he described. It was poured with a delicious ceviche trio: Ecuadorian rock shrimp with tomatoes and bright notes of citrus, silky yellowfin tuna with creamy aioli and crunchy julienned potatoes, and velvety scallops with pickled chiles plated with popcorn, a traditional Peruvian ceviche accompaniment. I especially loved the pairing of rich and buttery scallops with the crisp acidity of the sauvignon blanc.
Next was the 2013 Justification, "Justin's favorite wine we make," noted Spellman. It was partnered with a wonderful new addition to the menu - Pulpo a la Parilla. "You're having what is going to be a house specialty, but you're previewing it as our special guests," Chef Dahl told us as she introduced the dish. The cabernet franc and merlot blend paired beautifully with the smoky and tender grilled octopus, warm butter beans, and fresh fennel slaw, with higher acidity from the cabernet franc component, and jam from the merlot in the mid-palate.
Roasted Poblano Involtini stuffed with a ratatouille of summer vegetables, quinoa, and currants was served on a bed of black beans, enveloped in a complex red pepper romesco, and garnished with queso and pepitas. Packed with flavor, this vegetarian dish and pairing was a surprise hit with guests and sommelier ("fantastic!" said Spellman), perfectly complemented by Justin Vineyard's recently-released 2013 vintage of their flagship wine, Isosceles, an elegant Bordeaux-style blend of 75% cabernet sauvignon, 16% cabernet franc, and 9% merlot. "We were fortunate to have incredible success in the harvest season for 2013 and it's probably our strongest single vintage since 2005," noted Spellman.
Rack of lamb with chorizo potato cake and vibrant embellishments of roasted yellow pepper coulis, Peruvian tear drop peppers, and cilantro-mint pesto was paired with the oak-driven 2014 Justin Cabernet Sauvignon. The rosy, perfectly-cooked lamb was savored with every sip of this red wine with its soft fruit component and modest tannins.
Our celebratory evening ended with a decadent buttermilk panna cotta paired with Justin Obtuse dessert wine, made in the style of port but with their signature cabernet sauvignon. One winning guest also went home with a bottle of 2011 Justin Vineyard Isosceles, with their name drawn by a burgeoning food lover.
At the end of the night, Chef Dahl introduced her new chef, Gustavo from Argentina. "We hope that you enjoyed the flavors of our interpretation; from our hearts, to your table," she said.
Here's to many years of success and more awards and recognition. Bravo to Chef Dahl and Mariposa!
Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill is located at 700 AZ-89A, Sedona, AZ 86336. Call (928) 862-4444 for reservations.
I received a media invitation to Mariposa and my evening was complimentary.