Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Conn Valley Anthology Highlights Capital Grill Board Room Dinner

Conn Valley Anthology Highlights Capital Grill Board Room Dinner 

For an important client dinner, we dined in the Board Room at the Capital Grill in Chicago. Readers of this blog know that I place high emphasis on the wine and food combination pairings, coupled with value, and hence choose the restaurant and my entree based on the winelist selections, offset or influenced by the corkage policy. That said, one would be right to infer that I lost the vote (or deferred to rank) on the restaurant selection to dine at Capital Grill this evening. Sorry Jared.

I find it more than a bit irritating that they don't publish a more complete list online to aid the diner in advance dinner planning. While this may be okay for a personal social outing or impromptu dinner, I believe an important client business dinner warrants and deserves better info for appropriate planning. 

Capital Grille tout their winelist as "having more than 350 world-class wines ....  hailing from nearly every wine growing region on earth. Old World and New World gems, little-known labels on the brink of stardom, and a Captain’s List featuring some of the world’s most celebrated wines." The Sommelier  Selections they feature on their website are very limited and mostly uninspiring wines.

While this description of their wine offerings may be technically correct, it leaves an impression of depth and breadth in a wine selection. I consider it rhetoric as I don't think it offers either, unless you look at California Bordeaux varietals - Cabernet, Merlot and Blends. The European and ROW (rest of world) selections are very limited.

Perhaps this limited selection would be acceptable for the serious wine drinker if it was selective in signature wine offerings -  those that are at the critical intersection of 'reasonably' priced and delectable wines. Naturally if you can afford $200 for a bottle, then you can find a pleasant impressive sipper. I find it hard to pay $110-125 for a mediocre uninspiring wine. Sure, the winelist is filled with many of my cellar favorites that I own and enjoy at home and am pleased to serve guests, but those wines that cost $40 to $50, the mainstay of my and many serious consumer cellars, but those wines cost $150 or more on the CG winelist.  Even on a business expense account, I find this difficult to justify.

Again, as is typically the case, I cant afford to drink my own cellar in most fine dining restaurants.

This angst is exacerbated by the vintage selections, or lack thereof.  I carefully selected a quality classic, favored Napa Valley mainstay label, Joseph Phelps, Cab 2010, but they were out of this vintage and tried to sell an alternate.

I craftily selected from the Captains List a unique boutique label - a single vineyard designated Ken Wright Cellars Pinot Noir 2011, winning out over a colleague's preference, Domain Drouhin 2011. I discovered Ken Wright during my years commuting to a large software firm in suburban Seattle back before the millennium. In the end, we were served a 2012, and while I thought this would be a great discovery to share with colleagues, it turned out to be a disappointment - certainly not worthy of a Captain's List feature selection.

In the end, we did discovered a gem on the Captain's winelist that was a huge hit. Even then, we captured the last two bottles, so this will not available on our next visit, or to the next diner.

Our server was apologetic and noted they will soon be offering a interactive tablet based virtual winelist. Perhaps this will result in greater accuracy and currency in the data, but it won't address the selection and pricing challenges or concerns.

Ken Wright Cellars Carter Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012

I hold several of these wines going back to the turn of the millennium when I discovered it in the Pacific Northwest. I distinctly remember a tasting featured in my wine journal with a wine post for the 1997 vintage of this wine tasted back 1999.

Located in rural Carlton, Oregon, near the farm of a dear friend, Ken Wright Cellars specializes in featuring quality select vineyard designated wines - most notably Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, with special emphasis on Pinot which they believe is best at reflecting the unique character of the location where it is grown - terroir.

Ken Wright sources fruit from nearly a dozen sites in the Northern Willamette Valley, known especially for outstanding  Pinot Noir. Compared to other Pinot Noir regions around the world, the region is extremely cool, offset by a long growing season. The Wright Cellars source Pinot Noir vineyards span five different appellations or AVAs including well know Dundee Hills, McMinnville, the Coastal Range and this one, Eola Hills.

Tonight's selection is from the Carter Vineyard near Canary Hill in the Eola Hills AVA and features mature vines planted back in the mid-eighties. Sited low on the hillside at just 325 feet elevation,  the leaner, less fertile soil stresses the vines to produce more concentrated extracted fruit. Carter Vineyard wines tend to be firmer than Canary Hill when young, then age nicely to reveal darker vibrant earthy fruits.

This wine in recent years has been highly acclaimed with rave reviews. Tonight the 2012 vintage of this wine was lean and astringent lacking balance and polish and coming across rather flabby, ruby colored, light bodied, cherry and hints of cranberry with a layer of earthy dusty rose on the tangy spicy moderately tannin finish.

RM 87 points.



Conn Creek Napa Valley Anthology 2010

This was a big blockbuster stand-out hit, enjoyed by all. When finished, rather than switching to another bottle for a comparison tasting, which I would normally do, we had a second bottle, which happened to be their last. It was smooth, polished and nicely balanced which is a bit surprising given the blend of all five Bordeaux varietals was sourced from no less than twenty-one different vineyard sites across the range of diverse Napa Valley appellations.

The Blend:
 - Cabernet Sauvignon, 78% from Atlas Peak (Stagecoach), Calistoga (Surber & Frediani), Stags Leap District, St. Helena (Collins), and Spring Mountain (Crowley)
 - Petit Verdot, 8% from Napa Valley (Rodeno)
 - Cabernet Franc, 7% from: St. Helena (Carpenter), Atlas Peak (Stagecoach)
 - Merlot, 4% from Atlas Peak (Stagecoach)
 - Malbec, 3% from Yountville (Herrick

Medium bodied, dark garnet colored, rich, nicely balanced symphony of smooth soft sweet black berry and black raspberry fruits highlighted by layers of vanilla mocha, cinnamon, and sweet spicy oak, with silky fine grained tannins on a smooth polished lingering finish.
RM 92 points.