Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Destiny Neighborhood Beef Tenderloin Wine Dinner

Destiny Neighborhood Beef Tenderloin Wine Dinner

Visiting our favorite getaway Destiny Cove vacation rental in Destin, Florida, we hosted a dinner with friends and neighbors. Linda prepared a full beef tenderloin, sliced into filets of beef, served with baked potatoes, haricot verts and mixed green salad. 

Before dinner we served a variety of artisan cheeses, fruits and mixed nuts. 

To accompany the dinner we opened a wine flight with varietal wines for each course. 

With the salad course we served a Washington State Chardonnay. 

With the main course we opened a medley of red wines - an aged vintage Napa Cabernet, an aged simple easy drinking Sonoma Cabernet, and a complex Washington State GSM Blend. 

Our guests brought for the dessert course a selection of artisan cupcakes from the bakeshop just outside our community gate and carrot cake cupcakes, which we paired with a flight of dessert wines from Italy and Austria.

Moffett Livingston Stanley's Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1997

We were planning a mini-family reunion last month in Destin so I brought for that occasion several 'family' wines, whimsically sharing names with certain family members, such as this Stanley's Vineyard label and so named brother-in-law.

This is named for 'Stanley', a family name in the owner/producer John Livingston's family. John resettled his family in St. Helena, Napa Valley in 1976 as an idyllic place to raise his six children, not necessarily with any forethought of joining the wine business. However, in 1984, they began pursuing their learned passion in wine and began producing Cabernet wines.

John Livingston was a geologist, and became intrigued with finding vineyards suitable to produce Stanley’s Selection Cabernet wine, seeking an optimum combination of stony hillside soils, eastern exposures and suitable micro-climates. In the ensuing years he found such vineyards, also chosen for sound farm management and proven consistency. All the vineyards were only a few acres in size, too small for big wineries but perfect for Livingston Stanley Cabernet. The 'Stanley’s' Vineyard label was blended from six small parcels in Napa by legendary winemaker John Kongsgaard.

Moffett Vineyards and the Livingston Moffett Winery, continued to be operated by Diane and John Livingston and were assisted for 22 years by their son Trent who helped grow the family winery from the cellars to the marketplace. Diane and John retired and sold the winery in 2005, resulting in a generational transition with Trent as successor of Moffett Vineyards.

Trent and his wife Colleen Moffett relocated in 2014 to the northern Willamette Valley to pursue making 4 different Pinot Noirs from 3 different Willamette Valley sub-appellations, all the while remaining connected with Napa Valley through Moffett Vineyards.

In addition to the Moffett Vineyards heritage, Trent and Colleen are co-producers of Screenplay Wines and C&T Cellars. .

This is the last of three bottles we acquired back upon release. We drank the first two bottles back in 2010 and 2014 and still held this bottle a decade later in our cellar. 

At two and a half decades, this was still holding its own, only perhaps slightly diminished from age at a quarter century, testament to the longevity of the ‘97 vintage Napa Cabs.  

This release was awarded 93 points by Wine Enthusiast and 90 points, Wine Advocate, Robert M. Parker, Jr. Upon release, Parker said it should drink well for fifteen years.

Winemaker's notes - "For the 1997 vintage, John chose four mostly one- to two-acre vineyards: Price, next door to Spottswoode; Walther, near Caymus; Corbett, adjacent to Moffett Vineyard; and Gemstone, with five clones of Cabernet along with Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petite Verdot. Yields ranged between of 2.5 to 4.5 tons per acre. It was aged in a combination of French and American oak."

Tonight, this was largely consistent with my earlier tastings, dark ruby colored, medium bodied with blackberry, black cherry and currant fruits, starting to give way slightly with notes of black tea with hints of anise and bitter dark chocolate with a bit of spice, plum with tone of cedar on the medium to firm tannins and acid balanced finish.

RM 89 points. 

https://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=162762

http://moffettvineyards.com/

https://unwindwine.blogspot.com/2014/12/livingston-moffet-napa-cab-with-beef.html

Another label we were holding for our bro-in-law, a fan of the namesake producer, we opened this for casual drinking with cheeses, fruit and nuts before dinner. 

Dan Aykroyd Discovery Series Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

This was a futile inglorious attempt at producing a novelty namesake branded wine by comedian and Saturday Night Live fame Dan Aykroyd, who folks say, should've stayed with acting.

Winemaker Notes - "The grapes are sourced primarily from the Alexander Valley, which with its cool mornings and evenings and warmer inland climate allow the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes to fully ripen. The wine is aged in 60-gallon French, American & Hungarian oak barrels for added complexity and increased concentration. This process also brings out softer tannins and a more fruit-forward palate."
 
Cellartrackers panned this wine, albeit they tend to be sophisticated wine drinkers. This exceeded my expectations, which admittedly were very low. I was open minded and opened it prepared to dump it, but while simple and uninspiring, it was okay for casual sipping with some cheeses before dinner. Several guests found it enjoyable and suitable for casual easy sipping.

Wine Enthusiast gave this 82 points. I didn't find it resembled their profile - "Overripe and bitter .... dry, with raisin and grapeskin flavors that have a Porty, tannic edge."

Ruby colored, medium bodied, dark berry fruit, notes of tobacco, smoke and black tea with an abrupt finish. RM 82
 
https://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=649869
 
With the dinner we opened this Rhone varietal red blend. 
 

Force Majeure "Parvata" Red Mountain GSM - Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre 2017

 

We've opened this wine and featured it several times in these pages. We first featured this label in our Force Majeure Vineyards Site Visit and Tasting report as shown here:


October 2018

Force Majeure Vineyards Site Visit and Tasting

Force Majeure Vineyards Site Visit and Tasting

One of the inspirations for and objectives of our Walla Walla Wine Experience 2018 was to visit Force Majeure vineyards. We first met Force Majeure winemaker Todd Alexander and marketing, distribution and branding exec Carrie Alexander during the Chicago stop of their promotion tour in 2016 when we hosted them at Italian Village in Chicago. Since then we've acquired a respectable collection of Force Majeure wines, hence, they were one of our shortlist priority visits when we planned our Washington State, Columbia Valley wine trip.

Force Majeure Parvata Red Blend 2017 

We originally discovered and acquired this label during our visit to Force Majeure in Walla Walla back in 2018. We hold three vintages of a mixed case from our wine club allocation orders.   

This is from their Force Majeaure Red Mountain Vineyard site in the central Columbia Valley. The Red Mountain site was the very first vineyard on the steep, rocky upper slopes of Red Mountain. Developing the Red Mountain estate vineyards involved carefully matching varietal and clonal selections and vineyard trellising and irrigation to the eight distinct soil types in the vineyard.

Parvata means “mountain” in sanskrit, and hence is the name for Force Majeure's southern Rhône style blend, grown in the sandy, loamy soils of the lower section of the Red Mountain vineyard.

Parvata is a a classic Rhone River Blend that the French, and in the new World, the Australians, call GSM, for the blend of the three Rhone varietals, (25%) Grenache, (23%) Syrah, and (42%) Mourvedre. 

But this 2017 Parvata is a blend of Rhone varietals, somewhere between a GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre) and a CDP (Chateauneuf-du-Pape of which 70% is typicall GSM, the total can be from a possible thirteen sanctioned varietals). This release is 42% Mourvedre, 25% Grenache, 23% Syrah, and 'lesser' varietals, 4% Cinsault and 5% Counoie - 100% sourced from the Force Majeure Red Mountain Estate vineyard.

We've posted blogspots of the 2015 and 2016 releases but this is our first tasting of the 2017 release. It seems to be less fruit forward than the earlier releases.  

This was consistent with those earlier tastings. Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, this is black fruits accented by white pepper, dried herbs, leather and tobacco notes with bright lively acidity.

RM 92 points.

https://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=3519567

https://unwindwine.blogspot.com/2018/10/force-majeure-vineyards-site-visit-and.html

https://forcemajeurevineyards.com/ 

@ForceMVineyards 


We then served artisan cupcakes brought by neighbor Jan, and cupcakes brought by Debra. With the sweets, we opened several dessert wines from different regions with different profiles.

Alois Kracher Nouvelle Vague TBA - Trockenbeerenauslese Chardonnay No. 7 2001

We brought this from our home cellar and were holding it for a special occasion such as this. We hold a vast collection of labels and vintages from Kracher who offer a broad portfolio of dessert wines from Austria. This is from Seewinkel, an area in the Burgenland region of Austria, along the eastern shore of Lake Neusiedl,

Kracher is internationally regarded as one of the finest dessert wine makers. After Alois Kracher passed away in December 2007, his 27 year-old son Gerhard took over responsibility of winemaking and managing the winery. He carried on the tradition with the same veracity and dedication that his famous father once did with the same outcomes of extraordinary notable award winning wines.

Weinlaubenhof Alois Kracher estate vineyards possess a microclimate uniquely suited to the production of Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese wines. They have nearly 70 acres of vineyards planted with Welschriesling, Chardonnay, Traminer, Muskat Ottonel and Scheurebe.

This release was awarded 95 points by Wine Spectator, 94 points by Wine Enthusiast. and 18/20 points by Jancis Robinson.

Winemaker Notes - "Attractive aromas of ripe stone fruit, apricot jam, nuts and fresh herbs characterize this Welschriesling TBA, along with a silky texture and highly balanced acidity with pleasant floral notes on the elegant, salty finish."

In the fall of 2020 I wrote: "As I have written in the past, at their most desirable (to my taste preference) these wines are rich, thick, unctuous, and voluptuous with apricot marmalade, mango, toffee/brown sugar, and caramel notes. This may have been there at some point and perhaps passed that stage of its aging profile. If so, then it is time to drink although it will no doubt continue to age gracefully for several more years. But the rich, sweet apricot fruits nectar was diminished somewhat and has turned more to a smokey charcoal layer over the fruits which were more subdued. Delightful never-the-less

Copper and tea colored, full bodied, thick structured, rich concentrated notes of sweet orange marmelade, apple and apricot fruit nectar with of pain grille, honey and nutmeg spice on a long unctuous textured finish. 
 
In winter of 2018 - I gave this 91 Points.

https://unwindwine.blogspot.com/2018/11/thanksgiving-feast-features-rhone-wine.html

https://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=19086


Ca' della Vignalta Colli Euganei Fior d'Arancio Fiore del Deserto Moscato (Muscat) Passito 2015

From Veneto, and area formerly part of the Colli Euganei DOC, it was established as a separate DOCG in 2010. The Veneto DOCG appellation specifies some significant production rules: 

  • Grapes for Passito must be dried on or off the vine to achieve a minimum potential alcohol level of 15.5%
  • Minimum alcohol level: 4.5% for Bianco dolce (10.5% potential); 6.0% for Spumante (10.5% potential); 9.0% for Passito (15.5% potential); 10.5% for Bianco secco
  • Residual sugar: Minimum 100 g/l (10.0%) for Bianco dolce, Spumante, and Passito
  • Aging: For Passito, minimum 1 year (ERD = November 1, V+1)
Az. Agricola Vignalta Fior d
' Arancio Colli Euganei have 346 acres of vineyards on the side of the highest of the Euganean hills outside the village of Arquà Petrarca southwest of Paduea, Italy, seventy kilometers southwest of Venice. They are planted primarily to Moscato as the principal White Grape Variety, with an average age of vines of 16 years.  The grape is particularly suitable for the production of complex and intensely aromatic Passito wines that perfectly pair with desserts and biscuits. They produce 76,700 cases per year of which 5.000 – 7.000 bottles are this Orange Muscat based Passito, produced in 375 ml bottles.

Az. Agricola Vignalta produce a wide portfolio of red, white, dessert and sparkling wines. This sweet muscat wine is predominantly based on Moscato Giallo grapes, which produce sweet and fresh wines, with distinguishing citrus notes. The label includes three different styles: dry white wine, sweet Passito, and bubbly spumante.

Fior d ' Arancio Colli Euganei Passito DOCG : it is a complex wine, with a bright golden yellow color that reaches light amber with time. It reveals aromas of yellow fruit in syrup, apricot and acacia honey. It manages to maintain a good balance between flavor and sweetness.

Winemaker notes -  "With its amber yellow colour and golden reflections, our Fior d’Arancio Passito captures at first sight thanks to the bright shades that it shows in the glass. The perfume is complex and elegant: balsamic notes of canned fruit, dry dates, candied figs, jams, honey, eucalyptus and vanilla stand out from the bouquet. Each sip is warm, embracing but not cloying and has a delicate almond husk final taste. Rich and balanced. Vinification: drying grapes in “fruttaio” for 4 months, crushing and squeezing rasin to obtain a very sweet must, fermenting in French oak barrel for 18 months."

Descriptions of the color of these wines vary based on the age and stage of their aging profile. These dessert wines start out golden or pale straw colored, and darken over time, turning deep golden, then light brownish, darker to orange rust, then a copper color, and finally even to a blackish weak coffee color. High quality versions from top vintages can age for fifty years or more.  

Tea copper colored, full bodied, complex  sweet notes of figs, hints of honey, raisins almonds and sweet tea on a smooth pleasant finish.

RM 91.

https://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=2734338

https://www.vignalta.it/en/

Friday, February 2, 2024

BBQ Ribs and Syrah

BBQ Ribs and Mollydooker Syrah 

Vacationing at our favorite getaway, Destiny Cove vacation rental in Destin Florida, with friends, we prepared a dinner of BBQ ribs, baked potatoes and grilled fresh veggies. To pair with the ribs, for one of our favorite wine food pairings, we opened a hearty Syrah/Shiraz. 

Mollydooker Blue Eye'd Boy Shiraz 2021

Friend Pat R picked this up during our visit to Total Wine in Pensacola to share during our week together. 

We've written often in these pages about the fun we have with this label and the rest of the Mollydooker portfolio of wines. Here are several previous posts on the subject:

September 10, 2022
Blue Eye'd Boy & Brunier Racines for BBQ Rib Dinner 

March 11, 2022
Blue Eye'd Boy and CDP for Italian Beef Dinner

May 5, 2012
Graduation celebration wine tasting flight

February 7, 2014
Mollydooker 'Carnival of Love' Shiraz 2011

July 4, 2023
Lede To Kalon and Greywacke showcase 4th of July Celebration

February 3, 2022
Mollydooker "Scooter" Merlot

Mollydooker Blue Eye'd Boy Shiraz 2021

This is named for the son of winemaker/producer Sarah Marquis. This is one of the signature wines we keep on hand for our love of big full throttle Shiraz, and as a wine to enjoy with our own 'Blue Eye'd Boy', our son Alec.

We hold a half dozen vintages of this label and this is the newest, latest release which we're trying here for the first time.

Winemaker Notes - Black crimson in color, this wine leaps from the glass with powerful aromatics of blueberries, fresh plum, licorice and nuances of chocolate biscuit. The seamless texture is laced with fresh berry fruit, coffee, vanilla cream and warm spice, giving us a full-bodied Shiraz with an endless depth of flavor and great length.

This was rated 92 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate.

Robert Parker's Wine Advocate wrote an interesting observation about this label; "Once you taste a few of a producer's wines side by side, you really start to get a feel for stylistic preference between warm vintages and cool ones. I surprise myself by saying here that I prefer the warmer vintages at Mollydooker (this does not make it right) because the sunshine and ease with which ripening can occur in a warmer year really seems to suit the plush, high-octane style being proliferated here. So, this 2021 Blue Eyed Boy Shiraz is far more on the blue fruit spectrum than the 2020 ..."

The key here is comparisons of this same label from vintage to vintage, and contrasting the resulting impact from a warm vintage vs a cool vintage. Such distinctions are best revealed through comparison tastings of one vintage alongside another or others - what is referred to as a 'vertical' tasting (as opposed to 'horizontal tasting' which would be various wines from the same vintage). 

This was dark inky colored, full bodied, powerful concentrated, full throttle big round black and blue fruits accented by spice, black tea, notes of licorice and hints of bitter dark mocha chocolate with a long full finish.

RM 92 points. 

https://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=4404716

https://mollydookerwines.com.au/

https://www.destinvacation.com/rentals/unit/the-cove

https://twitter.com/MollydookerWine

https://twitter.com/unwindwine

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Steak Night, Fresh Catch and Wine Specials at Wine Bar Destin

Steak Night, Fresh Catch and Wine Specials at Wine Bar Destin

The Wine Bar - Destin 

Visiting our favorite getaway, Destiny Cove vacation rental in Destin Florida, we dined at The Wine Bar restaurant in Destin. 

We first discovered the Wine Bar in the Sandestin Grand Boulevard shopping center. It's adjacent to and affiliated with the Wine World wine shop that has an amazing and impressive selection of 100 point and first growth producer wines. We then learned they have four locations including this one, the Wine Bar in Destin nearby.

The Wine Bar Destin location is located at the Shoppes of Paradise Key (on Commons Drive across from the Destin Commons Center). In addition to the restaurant, they have the adjacent wine shop that also includes a cheese shop - a trifecta, all in the one location, just up the street from our neighborhood!  

The dining room offers casual fine dining in a rustic and quaint setting, intimate and slightly dark, with an adjacent bar and a private wine room for special dinners and private groups.

The Wine Bar restaurant offers a core selection soups, salads and small plates, with chicken, steaks and fresh seafood. They tout an award winning wine list, and and extensive selection of artisan cheeses! 

The wine list offers a broad selection of WBTG - Wines By The Glass; five Sparkling Wines, three Rose's, nine "Fresh and Bright Whites", and nine "Round Rich and Ripe White Wines". For red wine selections they offer seven :Soft and Fruity Reds", twelve "Big and Bold Reds:. 

And, for 'Happy Hour', from 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM daily, they offer a 12 oz. carafe of WBTG selections for the price of a large glass, 8 oz.  They also offer a wine flight of Luxury Whites and one of Luxury Reds.

We ordered from the wine list a carafe specials the premium Brunello Montalcino of which they were out, so, we opted for a Barolo, a Napa Valley Red Blend, and a Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay.

As starters we ordered the cesar salad and the Beet Caprese Salad - heirloom tomatoes, roasted red beets, extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil, balsamic glaze (shown below).

For entrees, Linda ordered the Manchego Crusted Grouper, the Daily Fresh Catch Special with carolina gold rice, field peas, wild mushrooms, lardons, jalapeno and citrus beurre blanc.

Saturday night is Steak Special night so I ordered the Saturday Night Filet of Beef special, prepared Pittsburgh style, charred on the outside, medium hot pink center on the inside.


With the steak we ordered two carafe special red wines, a Red Blend and a Barolo, our second choice since the published Brunello di Montalcino was not available.

Aril Sonoma County Kick Ranch Red Blend 2017

This is from Aril Wines, founded in 2008 by Harmon and Joanne Brown to produce a small amount of premium, hand-crafted wines based on their Pritchard Hill Estate Vineyard in Napa Valley. They retained renowned winemaker and viticulturist Ehren Jordan (Failla/Turley) as winemaker and vineyard consultant in 2014. He employed a simple philosophy of procuring optimal grapes and respecting them in the winery applying a minimalist approach to showcase place, balance, and elegance.

In 2018, the Jay family purchased the brand to continue the legacy and production. 

Aril produce four labels of Bordeaux varietals including this unique blend which includes Rhone varietal Syrah, all sourced from the Kick Ranch Vineyard that sits high atop Spring Mountain which separates Napa Valley to the east and Sonoma Valley to the west. 

Sitting on the western facing slope of the mountain in what is known as the Fountaingrove District in Sonoma County, it has vistas all they way to the Petaluma Gap to the west, which provides cool nights and foggy mornings. The producer site describes the vineyard rows planted to capture maximum sun exposure.

The Fountaingrove District is a sleeper of an appellation within Sonoma County, the 17th AVA, latest and most recent to receive American Viticultural Area (AVA) status in March 2015. 

The District takes its name from an historic area of northeastern Santa Rosa, the Fountaingrove District that was inspired by the legacy of California's original "cult winery." Of the 38,000-acres in the appellation 500 acres are planted to vineyards from five wine producers.

 

The Fountaingrove District sits in the middle of the Mayacamas Mountain range that separates Napa Valley to the east from Sonoma Valley to the west. It is bounded to the north by Sonoma County's Knights Valley AVA, Sonoma Valley to the south, Chalk Hill to the northwest, and Russian River Valley to the west.

This label is a unique blend of Syrah, Cabernet and Petit Verdot. It was aged in 33% new French Oak barrels for eighteen months. This was the six vintage release of this label. Only 275 cases were produced.

This was dark ruby colored, medium full bodied, concentrated full round red and black fruits with notes of dusty rose, leather and spice with hints of anise.

https://www.cellartracker.com/m/wines/4847352

https://www.arilwines.com/


Azienda Agricola Icollirossi Barolo Monforte d'Alba Nebbiolo 2018

Icollirossi Barolo is a DOCG designated wine from the Piedmont region in Northern Italy.

One of the world's great red wines, Barolo is also one of the most distinctive, primarily due to the DOCG rules regulating the grape, how it is produced and the unique terroir of the region in which it grows. Wines from the Barolo DOCG must be 100% Nebbiolo. Barolo wines are noted for their ability to age and need to be aged for at least 38 months after the harvest before release, of which at least 18 months must be in wood.

Located in North West Italy, the Piedmont Wine Region has the largest area in terms of DOC and DOCG wines. Meaning “foot of the mountain,” due to its proximity to the Alps, Piedmont wines including Barolo, Barberesco, Gattinara, Ghemme and Gavi all benefit from the slopes and terrain characteristic of the region. 

Barolo production codes stipulate that vineyards must be located on hillsides, however a recent revision of the production code released in 2010 goes further to specifically exclude valley floors, humid and flat areas, areas without sufficient sunlight, and areas with full-on northern exposures.

Nebbiolo is the dominant grape variety for reds and produces wines with tannic and acidic qualities that can also have fairly high alcohol content. This distinctive combination profile makes distinguished and cellar-worthy wines of Barolo and Barberesco some of the most sought-after. 

This Barolo is from the commune of Monforte d'Alba, one of several  DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) communes in the northern Italian region of Piedmont.

Winemaker notes - "Bold and complex, I Colli Rossi Cru Monforte Barolo 2018 delivers rich flavors of dark fruits, spices, and earthiness. Powerful tannins and a long finish. Pair with lamb, beef, and game."

Bright Ruby colored, medium full bodied, layered flavors of blackberry and cherry with notes of earth, anise, tobacco and hints of cedar and clove spice with polished tannins on an expressive lingering finish.

RM 89

https://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=4381237

Mer Soleil Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay 2022

This is an entry level label from the legendary Wagner Family wine portfolio, most known for their flagship Caymus brand. Mer Soleil is led by second generation Owner and Winemaker Charlie Wagner. It is sourced from vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA near the coast in Monterey County.

This wine is named for the sea and sun in recognition of the distinctive place where it is sourced. The Santa Lucia Highlands, 40 minutes south from Monterey in North Central coastal California are known for morning fog, bright sunshine and gusting winds and an extended growing season. Grapes stay on the vine longer, leading to the development of intense aromas and flavors. 

Producer's notes - "A lively flaxen gold, this wine features a harmonious nose that previews the playful balance to come on the palate. Scents of brown spice, toasted almonds, custard and light oak mingle with Meyer lemon zest, honeysuckle and a hint of apricot. Entry is round, as this wine's fruit and natural acidity build on each other, with echoes of brown spice, citrus and apricot enveloped in a creamy texture. A vibrant finish of lemon/lime showcases the distinctly bright acidity produced from the Monterey coast, leaving an enticing freshness that prepares the palate for another sip."

Aromas of baked croissant, apricot, lemon/lime and honeysuckle. Round and creamy on the palate with notes of lemon squares and fresh natural acidity. Creamy yet fresh, the wine is balanced by lively acidity and bright citrus.

A widely distributed, moderately priced, easy drinking Chardonnay.

RM 88 points. 

https://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=4851990

https://www.thewinebarfl.com/the-wine-bar-destin

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Naperville

Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Naperville 

Son Ryan and D-in-law Michelle treated us to dinner at Gordon Ramsey's RK Kitchen in downtown Naperville (IL). This was our first visit to the trendy restaurant that opened in our hometown last summer to much fanfare. 

Readers of these pages know I write often about dinesites and our food and wine restaurant experience. But, up until now I've not had a metricized qualitative or quantitative rating or review system against which to evaluate and compare such restaurants. Based on tonight's, and recent experiences, I felt such a evaluation method with criteria was required and after much thought devised a system to try. 

Using my new system, I evaluated tonight's dining experience. I then went back and retrospectively scored a half dozen recent restaurant experiences as a basis of comparison, evaluating the evaluation system, so to speak. 

Here are my criteria for evaluating a restaurant dining experience, and the associated weight applied to each:

Food - 35 - Selection, quality, creativity or ingenuity, presentation, course pairing, wine pairing

Wine - 35 - Breadth and depth of selection, range of options at various price points, suitability and applicable pairing with the dinner courses

Ambiance - 10| - atmosphere, vibe, comfort, stylishness, general aura

Service - 10 - delivery, attentiveness, professionalism, attitude, overall experience

Value - 10 - value for quality, service, atmosphere, experience

Wow Factor - Lastly, what I simply call the WOW Factor - additional scoring, weighting based on special consideration or  extra credit factors that contribute to the overall experience such that they warrant attention - food and wine pairing - site architecture, location, historical significance, specials ... other ... potential for +10 points

So, here we go, for tonight's experience - 

Food  - 31 - Food was superb in creativity, ingenuity, preparation, quality - downgraded the rating for the only thing lacking, bread or depth of selection choices - only the limited menu choice detracting from score.

Wine - 31 - Same as food, the minimalist winelist offered various options for each course, at multiple price points, but lacking depth and breadth of multiple choices for minimal options for effective wine pairing with each course.

Ambiance - 8 of 10 - chic, stylish, artful, warm, lively and vibrant but a bit noisy and boisterous for optimal comfort. 

 

Service - 9 of 10 - Starting with the host station, going the extra meal to seat us promptly, attending to checking our coats, superb food service, adequate wine service. 

Value - 5 - Expensive, especially taking into account the ala carte sides, and the somewhat limited number of options or alternatives. 

WOW Factor - 8 points extra credit for the up-beat, stylish, quality fixtures, furnishings, layout, design, artfully designed and implemented for a positive experience. 

Total - 92 points.


Our dinner - 

We started with a Wedge Salad which they conveniently served almost family style like a chopped salad making it easy and convenient to share around the table.

Wedge Salad- iceberg, blue cheese, glazed bacon, roasted tomatoes, pickled red onion, chives.

With the salad course we had from the WBTG offerings two sparkling wines - 

Cremant d'Alsace Brut Rose'

Lanson Brut NV Champagne 

For our main source entree selections, we had to try the house specialty, Ramsey's signature dish, the Beef Wellington.

Beef Wellingto, potato purée, glazed baby root vegetables, red wine demi, served medium rare.

RK offers a Daily Special so in the spirit of trying out the gourmet chef's selections, Linda ordered the daily special - Lobster Pot Pie -butter-poached lobster, lobster bisque filling served aside for preparation at the table by the diner, pouring into the puff pastry.

We ordered two side dishes, Potato Puree with sour cream and chives, and the Roasted Heirloom Carrots with harissa yogurt, za’atar, brown butter, marcona almonds and mint.

For dessert we ordered the Sticky Toffee Pudding -warm date cake, sweet cream ice cream and english toffee sauce.


Our wine accompaniment pairing with the dinner was a robust full bodied Red Blend. 

Ridge Lytton Springs Red Blend 2021

Once again, as happens often, we drank this same wine, from our cellar, about this same time, two years ago, almost to the day for another dinner tastings - Ridge Vineyards "Lytton Springs" Dry Creek ValleyZinfandel 2014. At that time, I wrote about the producer and wine in these pages, Ridge Vineyards  and Lytton Springs.  

We always keep a selection of big robust fruit forward wines for pizza and barbecue - Zinfandels, Syrahs and Petite Syrah varietals to name a few. We typically hold a half dozen different labels from the various offerings of Ridge Vineyards.

Ridge Vineyards are a legendary producer of a broad portfolio of wines with an extensive line-up of Zinfandels, all from single vineyard designated label sites. 

Ridge has a rich history dating back to 1885 when Osea Perrone, a doctor and prominent member of San Francisco's Italian community, bought 180 acres near the top of Monte Bello Ridge in the Santa Cruz Mountains. There, he planted vineyards and constructed a winery of redwood and native limestone in time to produce the first vintage of Monte Bello in 1892. The historic building remains to this day serving as the Ridge production facility.

Ridge have been producing Lytton Spring vineyard wines since 1972 with 100 plus-year-old Zinfandel vines interplanted with Petite Sirah, Carignane, a small amount of Mataro (Mourvèdre), and Genache. The site has produced the quintessential example of Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel. 

The Lytton Springs site lies just north of the town of Healdsburg, just west of Highway 101 in the Dry Creek Valley. The topography consists of a benchland and gently rolling hills. The climate provides foggy mornings turning to warm, sunny afternoons and breezy late evenings. Soils are varied with a predominance of gravelly clay, which aids in moisture retention, ensuring that the grapes ripen slowly. The Lytton Springs terrior with weathered, agronomically poor soils in the benchland have proven to be an ideal site for Zinfandel vines to produce classic Zinfandel varietal wines.

The Lytton Springs vineyards were part of land once owned by Captain William Litton, who during the last half of the nineteenth century developed the springs and built a hotel just east of the vineyard for San Franciscans who arrived by train to “take the waters.” 

According to the producer's website, Long after the death of Captain Litton, controversy continued in regards to the change from “i” to “y”, as the accepted spelling of the Litton property. According to the text of Once Upon a Time by Julius Myron Alexander, the spelling was changed “because it was proper”. Then, in a 1969 Press Democrat article, Healdsburg City Clerk and local historian, Edwin Langhart, offered a different opinion, “It appears the name was changed in error by a draftsman or some other official, and it has stayed ‘Lytton’ ever since:’ Whatever the reason, records show that by 1896, most official documents had adopted the ‘Lytton’ spelling.

Ridge Vineyards dates back to 1959 when three scientists from Stanford University's Research Institute (SRI) and their families formed a partnership and bought a property owned by Dr. Short up on Monte Bello Ridge high atop the Santa Cruz Mountains. One of them, David Bennion, made a half barrel of cabernet from the ten year old vines. The partners re-bonded the winery and named it Ridge Vineyards in 1962. That year they produced their first Monte Bello vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.

Ridge produced its first Zinfandel in 1964 from 19th century vines on the Pichetti Ranch near the base of the Monte Bello Ridge. Ridge produced it's first Sonoma County Geyserville Zinfandel in 1966, from vines planted in 1882. By 1968, production had increased to just under three thousand cases per year.

Paul Draper joined the partnership as winemaker in 1969. He was a Stanford graduate in philosophy, and a practical winemaker, not an enologist. His knowledge of fine wines and traditional methods complemented the straightforward “hands off” approach pioneered at Ridge. He had recently returned from setting up a winery in Chile’s coast range. He oversaw the restoration of the old Perrone winery and vineyards acquired the previous year. 

He first saw the Lytton Springs vineyard in 1972 and, based on its age with 80 years old vines, purchased grapes and produced Ridge’s first Lytton Springs bottling that year. In 1991, on the 20th anniversary of their first vintage, Ridge purchased the Lytton Springs winery and the old vines surrounding it, making it a true estate vineyard.

Paul Draper went on to become a legend with Ridge Vineyards. The Ridge brand grew to a broad portfolio of more than four dozen single vineyard designated label wines from more than two dozen different vineyards. They operate two wineries and hospitality sites, Lytton Springs in Healdsburg up in north Sonoma County and Monte Bello high in the Santz Cruz Mountains above Silicon Valley. 

Paul Draper retired in 2016 at age 80, after 47 years as winemaker. Ridge continued on expanding with additional vineyard site purchases include the purchase that year of Whitton Ranch, a 36-acre parcel in the heart of Geyserville.

Ridge Vineyards "Lytton Springs" Dry Creek Valley Red Blend 2021

This is a single vineyard designated label, sourced from the Lytton Springs vineyard in Northern Soboma County. The vineyard lies just north of Healdsburg on the benchland where the gently rolling hills separate Dry Creek from Alexander Valley. 

Lytton Springs is named after Captain William H. Litton and two naturally occurring springs that were located on the original property. Litton worked as a ship’s pilot in the San Francisco Bay in the mid nineteenth century before acquiring the large tract of land in 1860. The property straddled the Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys that extended from the southernmost boundaries of Geyserville to the northern limits of the fledgling town of Healdsburg, with the Russian River serving as its eastern boundary. The property was originally part of the Rancho Sotoyome land grant of the 1840’s. By 1867, Captain Litton was considered the fourth largest property owner in Sonoma County. 

In 1872, the San Francisco and Northern Pacific Railroad linked Healdsburg and points north with the Bay area. In an attempt to attract tourists, Captain Litton and three partners built a resort hotel on the site in 1875, known as “Litton Springs” for the popular soda springs that were located half a mile uphill from the original hotel site. The naturally carbonated seltzer, or sweetwater, springs were considered to have medicinal value for their mineral properties. The springs still exist today and their presence was one of the primary reasons that underground caves were never built underneath the winery.

Captain Litton sold the 2700 acre property, including the hotel in 1878. Over the next couple of decades, the resort property was bought and sold and subdivided into smaller parcels by various owners. 

 According to the producer's website, “It appears the name was changed in error by a draftsman or some other official, and it has stayed ‘Lytton’ ever since:’ Whatever the reason, records show that by 1896, most official documents had adopted the ‘Lytton’ spelling.

 The vineyards were first established on the property in 1901 with the hillside vineyard blocks on the eastern portion of Lytton Springs, followed by vineyard blocks on the flats in 1910. To this day, Lytton Springs is home to those 100-plus-year-old Zinfandel vines interplanted with Petite Sirah, Carignane, a small amount of Mataro (Mourvèdre), and Grenache.

 The site is ideal for Zinfandel with foggy mornings, warm, sunny afternoons and breezy late evenings. The agronomically poor soils are gravelly clay which holds moisture ensuring that the grapes ripen slowly. 

This label was first produced in 1972.

I write regularly in these pages about the pairing of wine with food. This wine was too bold and rich for the Beef Wellington, which would've been better suited with a more balanced and finely integrated Red Blend. 

This vintage release is a red blend of 72% Zinfandel, 15% Petite Sirah, 9% Carignane, 2% Alicante Bouschet, 1% Cinsaut and 1% Counoise.

This label release was awarded 95+ Points by Antonio Galloni of Vinous, 94 Points by Zinfandel Chronicles and 94 Wilfred Wong of Wine.com, and 93 Points by Owen Bargreen, OwenBargreen.com.

Winemaker Notes

"Rich blackberry and plum on the nose with notes of aniseed. Full-bodied with dark bramble fruit and well-coated tannins on the palate. The long finish reveals layers of black licorice and dried sage.'

"Lytton Springs has become synonymous with classic Dry Creek zinfandel. It shows potent, ripe boysenberry and blackberry, but also a pronounced rusticity and earthiness often attributed to its blending varietals; petite sirah and carignane. Acid and tannin are firm, yet not overwhelming; in youth, at least, fruit predominates. This balanced, powerful wine becomes more nuanced with age, and it often holds for more than a decade."

Dark ruby colored, medium full bodied, a cacophony of bright, vibrant expressive, full round ripe red and black brambly fruit flavors accented by sweet spices, clove and cinnamon, full tannins on the finish. May be better with some age to further integrate.

RM  92 points.

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https://www.ridgewine.com/product/2021-lytton-springs/

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