Two of Germany's top winemakers and another from San Benito County traveled to Carmel this week and collaborated Saturday with a pair of California's renowned grand chefs to produce a three-hour-long, $195-a-plate lunch, one of the featured events at the Relais & Chateaux Gourmet Fest, a four-day extravaganza that concludes Sunday.
"California Meets Germany" brought together German vintners Gunter Kunstler, from the Rheingau, and Helmut Donnhoff, from the Nahe Valley, with Josh Jensen, owner of Hollister's Calera Wine Company, who teamed up to provide spirits to match the multi-course meal prepared by culinary legends Joachim Splichal (Patina Restaurant in Los Angeles) and William Bradley (Addison in San Diego).
The gala took place in the Sunset Luxury Tent, just outside Carmel's Sunset Center, which featured a pianist with a grand piano, wall-to-wall carpeting, a candle-lit reception area and a gauntlet of displays that included everything from a shiny, black, 2014 Mercedes-Benz, to Dom Perignon champagne and Black River caviar. The Gourmet Fest was presented by Lufthansa First Class, the airline that transported all of the event's European guests to California.
"I'm hesitant to pick any of the three main dishes over any of the others, because they were all wonderful, but I think, for me, the very first one was the best — very unusual. They were prawns, and the substance and the delicacy were absolutely fantastic," said Eckhard Schultz, a Los Altos resident who makes frequent business trips to Germany.
Splichal's Santa Barbara prawns with carrot mousse and lemon vinaigrette was served with 2012 Donnhoff Hermannshohle Riesling wine.
Bradley's first creation was king crab with pickled green tomatoes and Bearnaise sauce, accompanied by Kunstler's 2008 Hochheimer Holle Riesling "EG" dry.
The third course, prepared by Splichal, was Millbrook Farms venison with peppered mango, and included salad and roasted shallots. The wines were Kunstler 2012 Hochheimer Stein Pinot Noir, plus a 2001 Calera Mt. Harlan Mills Vineyard Pinot Noir.
Bradley then finished with lavender panna cotta, apricot confit, elderflower and vanilla, along with 2002 Donnhoff Oberhauser Brucke Auslese.
"The food was amazing, as was the wine," said Gerry Keller, who traveled from San Ramon to attend the event. "This is our first time here, but we'll definitely return. Carmel alone is reason enough to come here. It's been wonderful."
Jensen, whose vineyards are nestled in the Gabilan Mountains, said trading knowledge with Kunstler and Donnhoff was the highlight of a great week for him.
"It's a wonderful exchange of information," he said. "I have a lot of questions to put to them, and they have a lot to ask me, so I think we all learned some things this week.
"And, of course, the meal today was amazing. I loved the first two seafood courses, but the venison also was awesome," he said.
Other events on Saturday included a Wild Mushroom Hunt and Lunch at Santa Lucia Preserve, "A Magical Experience with Richebourg with Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti" at the La Playa Hotel, "The Revelation of Chateau Cheval Blanc with Arnaud de Laforcade" at La Playa, and the Grand Chef Dinner at the Sunset Luxury Tent.
Sunday's schedule begins at 10:30 a.m. at La Playa with "Journey in the Krug Universe with Olivier Krug," and concludes at noon with "Seafood Grill" at the Sunset Luxury Tent.
The week featured eight grand chefs, two pastry chefs, and several dozen wineries and other participants.
Dennis Taylor can be reached at 646-4344 or firstname.lastname@example.org.