Sexy Food: Mi Sueño Fiesta

Head north for south-of-the-border cuisine, paired with award-winning Mi Sueño wines.

Is there any way to find fault with an event that features a handsome Latino winemaker, a casino, Mexican food cooked over fire on an outdoor patio and the almost-certain promise of early-August sunshine?

Sure, it’s an unorthodox combination, but Rolando Herrera, owner and winemaker of Mi Sueño — a boutique winery located in Napa Valley — is a study in contrasts. He will be on hand at Tulalip Resort Casino’s next wine and dine event on Saturday, Aug. 6, to share his award-winning vintages with Washingtonians.

Incidentally, the Tulalip is the only retail outlet in the state where his hand-crafted wines are available, and I recently had the opportunity to taste through a flight of them which left me wanting more.

Born in Mexico, Herrera moved to St. Helena, Calif., as a youth when his father took a job on a chicken farm there. When the work dried up and his family returned to Mexico, Herrera couldn’t shake the lure of the Napa Valley, so he came back at age 15 to wash dishes at Auberge du Soleil restaurant. His determination eventually led to a cellar position at Stag’s Leap Winery.

He spent years working with wine on vineyards and in cellars around Napa before founding Mi Sueño in 1997. Herrera takes a hands-on approach to winemaking, going so far as to adopt the approach of long-term leasing of the land on which the grapes are grown — which gives him total control of the process from grape to barrel to bottle.

This is in contrast to the common winemaking practice of purchasing grapes from a variety of growers. This notion is counterintuitive to Herrera, who feels that great wine is made in the vineyard. He’s had more than a little success with this approach; his wines have been featured at White House state dinners on three different occasions.

Tulalip sommelier Tommy Thompson put together the Mi Sueño event with the idea that great wine goes with great food — but just like Herrera’s unorthodox entry into the world of wine, so are the pairings for this lively dinner.

Stations will be set up around the patio inviting guests to sample innovative Mexican cuisine like made-to-order corn tortillas, Flank Steak Carne Asada with Adobada Spice Rub, and a variety of fresh fish from the ceviche bar.

In all, Executive Chef Perry Mascitti crafted more than 14 courses specifically geared toward complementing the full cachet of Mi Sueño wines.

“Growing up in California, it was often common to see large Hispanic families together in the public park having a lazy ‘Sunday after church’ supper,” Mascitti said. “The grill was the focus, with the family gathered closely around it to place the grilled meats and seafood on their tortillas. It was less one-time sit-down dinner than an all-day communal thing with these families.”

“I took this as a base and added some upgraded twists that would match Rolando’s highly-rated wines,” Mascitti added. “We want our guests to feel as if they are in an old California-Mexico border town center having a fiesta and enjoying great food, friends and wine as a lazy day passes by.”

The Mi Sueño Fiesta and Tasting event will take place from 5 to 9 p.m. and is priced at $110, inclusive of tax and gratuity for tickets purchased in advance and $125 for those purchased at the door. For more information call (360) 716-1458; tickets may also be purchased online.