Monday, August 27, 2018

Perry's Steakhouse Katy/Houston Wine Dinner

Perry's Steakhouse Houston Wine Dinner

For an important business dinner, we dined at Perry's Steakhouse in Katy Texas in suburban Houston. To accompany my Perry's Signature Bone-in Ribeye steak (shown below right) and for the other's steak dinners' accompaniment, we ordered from the wine list two favorite Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons. From the Oakville appellation, Groth Oakville Cab, and from the nearby Stags Leap District, Cliff Lede Stags Leap District Cab, both from the 2014 vintage.
Perry's are recipients of the Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence Award for the deep, broad and extensive wine list.

For our special business dinner, we dined in the private alcove room 'Table 79'.

For the dessert course we ordered a wonderful classic Inniskillin Vidal Gold Icewine 2013.

We have visited both Cliff Lede Winery and Groth during several of our Napa Valley Wine Experiences. We also visited the Inniskillin Estate Winery during our Niagara wine region visit back in 2012.

Groth Oakville Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

We drank this one first and while it closely resembled the second Cab, the Cliff Lede below, the Groth was slightly more subdued, less vibrant, hence was best served first for best comparison.

Bright dark garnet color with purple hues, medium full bodied, black berry and black cherry fruits with hints of vanilla black currant, licorice and touch of mint and oak on a smooth tannin laced finish.

RM 91 points.

This was ideal with my bone-in ribeye entree (shown below). This was actually a fairly good value being priced about the median price for a Cal Cab on the Best of Award Spectator wine list.

Cliff Lede Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

This is the standard Estate bottled Cabernet Sauvignon with fruit sourced from the hillside terraces of the Poetry Vineyard down the road and across the Silverado Trail from the winery, from the Twin Peaks Vineyard estate surrounding the winery, and a few neighboring vineyards in the Stags Leap District.

This is a consistent crowd pleaser from vintage to vintage.  We hold about a half dozen vintages of this label and they seem to hit their stride and be in their peak after a decade of cellaring. The 2006 was a hit during one of our recent wine dinners.

Dark garnet and dense purple in color, full bodied, bright vibrant black berry and black currant fruits with tones of anise, hints of cinnamon spice and oak with firm but smooth tannins on a lingering finish.

RM 91 points. This got 93 points from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and 91 points from Vinous

 For the dessert course we ordered this marvelous Icewine that was perfect complement to the creme brulee' and other desserts.

Inniskillin Niagara VQA Gold Vidal Icewine 2013

This is classic - what Icewine is supposed to be like in its thick layers of unctuous fruit and sweetness.

Gold colored, full bodied, thick, syrupy with tones of tropical fruit flavors with hints of peaches and apricot and notes of creamy vanilla with notes of brown sugar and crisp acidity.

This is sourced from Vidal fruit taken from Inniskillin’s famous Brae Burn Vineyard – one of Ontario’s most storied vineyards near the Estate.

RM 93 points.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Barking Frog at Willows Lodge Wine Dine Experience

Barking Frog at Willows Lodge Wine Dine Experience

Our final culinary dining experience during our Seattle Culinary and Washington Wine Tour was dinner at the Barking Frog restaurant in the Willows Lodge resort.

Barking Frog is the fine dining establishment in the Seattle wine country suburb of Woodinville, home to, reportedly, over a hundred wine tasting venues.

Once again, it was a delight to have son Ryan along with us for the trip to share the experience.

We scored a dinner reservation from local Somm and wine room manager at one of the premier tasting rooms.

Barking Frog have an excellent wine list but we took one bottle BYOB, that son Ryan obtained from the Library collection at Long Shadows cellars, a 2004 Pirouette Bordeaux Blend.  This label was one of the wines we tasted and acquired at Long Shadows, one of their Vintners Collection Winemaker Series featuring world class winemakers collaborating to showcase the best art of the possible from Washington State vineyards.

Pirouette Bordeaux Blend is crafted by Augustin Hunneeus, Sr and Philippe Melka, noted for Napa Valley leading wine labels. We hold this wine in our cellar back at home but had not yet tasted this vintage. We also hold many other Philppe Melka labels from his own Melka brand as well as many others for which he is consulting winemaker.

Like we did for our other culinary ventures this week, we chose the Price Fixe tasting menu to follow the chef's suggestion for the pairings and courses.

Here were our course selections:

  • Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras
  • Heirloom tomatoes with basil, urfa biber, cherries/buratta and noble xo
  • Asparagus with farro fries, parmesan tuile, spring herbs and lemon tarragon aioli
  • Atlantic Sea Scallops with artichoke, fava beans, cipollini onions, onion soubise and porcini nage
  • Beef  ribeye  w/ whipped potatoes,  asparagus and sauce chasseur
  •  For the final course, Linda had the Vanilla Bean Creme' Brulee and I had the Trio of Sorbets
From the winelist we ordered a sparkling wine starter and a dessert wine for the finale.

What a treat, our second Inniskillin Ice Wine in as many weeks!  Ryan had the Sauterne which, while wonderful, was not a match for the Inniskillin. 

Inniskillin Niagara Estate Riesling Icewine 2015
Château Roûmieu-Lacoste Sémillon-Sauvignon Blanc Blend 2015

Our Dinner Plates:

Hudon Valley Foie Gras

Heirloom tomatoes with basil

Asparagus with farro fries

Beef Ribeye

Seattle Wine and Dine - Washington State Wines Tasting in Woodinville

Seattle Wine and Dine - Washington State Wines Tasting in Woodinville

We traveled to Seattle for a multipurpose trip including exploring the Seattle Culinary scene and to visit the Washington wine (tasting) area of Woodinville. We had several superb dinners and then ventured to the wine country where we targeted a select group of producers that we know to produce or that were recommended to us for their premium high quality labels. All in all it was a spectacular trip having several outstanding culinary dinners including extraordinary wine and food pairings. 

Washington State wines are coming of their own achieving new heights in quality and recognition. The number of  Washington wineries has increased 400% in the last decade and has grown proportionally as a tourism industry. It is the nation's second largest wine producer. Interestingly, the area is geographically located on approximately the same latitude (46ºN) as some of the great French wine regions of Bordeaux and Burgundy. Washington State wine growing areas are now officially recognized in 14 federally recognized American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), also commonly known as appellations.  The vineyards producing wine grapes in the fourteen different appellations lie in the Columbia Valley river basin that cuts through the center of the state from North to South and then turns west separating Oregon from Washington as it heads to the Pacific.

American Viticultural Areas, or AVAs, are geographical wine grape growing regions in the United States. Their boundaries are defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) and established at the request of wineries or other petitioners. Washington State currently has 14 AVAs.

Since the vineyards and their producer wineries are several hours from any population centers, producers have created a wine tasting mecca in the Seattle outer suburb of Woodinville, north and east of the city. Several dozen producers have tasting rooms in freestanding venues and in several commercial centers that in any other locale across the country could be mistaken for neighborhood strip malls or regional outlet malls.

According to the Willows Lodge website, where they promote their wine tasting and tour weekend packages, there are 115 wineries or tasting rooms representing every Washington State appellation in the Woodinville Wine Country. 

Wineries visited and wines tasted:

Chateau St Michelle, Woodinville

Fine dining restaurants where we dined during the trip:


Guardian Cellars Tasting Visit Woodinville

Guardian Cellars Tasting Visit Woodinville 

Another stop in our Woodinville wine tasting tour as part of our Seattle Culinary and Washington Wine Tour was a visit to Guardian Cellars. This was another as yet undiscovered producer that was suggested as a worthwhile stop in the area. While perhaps not at the level of the premium Long Shadows selections, or the Fidelitas or Mark Ryan premium labels, Guardium produces some very respectable quality wines that represent high QPR - Quality Price Ratio selections. 

Unlike many of the Woodinville winery tasting rooms that are sited in strip malls or commercial centers resembling an outlet mall, Guardian is housed in their own freestanding building in a quaint yellow cottage/home with a wrap around porch, ideal for casual wine sipping.

The Guardian story is interesting and storybook. Founder Jerry Reiner was a Seattle law enforcement officer and amateur winemaker on the side. After graduating from Univerity of Washington with a degree in organic chemistry, and the police academy, he worked as a volunteer apprentice at Woodinville wineries - Mathews Cellars, Mark Ryan and Baer, assisting friends with harvest or in the tasting rooms. 

Jerry met Jennifer shortly after she started working as a reporter for the Seattle Times newspaper. After a courtship, Jerry the cop and Jennifer the reporter got married. Four years after Jerry's graduation, they started Guardian Cellars producing a Bordeaux-style blend, a Cabernet and a Syrah. Upon opening the Guardian Cellars tasting room in November 2007, all of their 350 cases were gone by the end of the day. When the 2005 vintage was released months later, their entire production was gone in just a few days.

Today, Jerry, protege Joel, and the Guardian team produce 16 different wines under the Guardian label and a second label, Newsprint. This year's production exceeded 10,000 cases. While he is still a cop, he continues to make wine as head winemaker. Like Jerry, Jennifer also still has her “day job" as a reporter for KOMO (ABC) TV. When not working, or tending to their two daughters, Josephine and Jillian, she works in winery promotions, and hospitality where she can often be found pouring wine in the tasting room on the weekends

Fruit for Guardian wines is sourced from leading vineyards in Central Washington Columbia Valley - from sandy soils of Conner Lee Vineyard, in the Columbia Valley; west to the petrified tree fossils lining the soil in StoneTree Vineyard, in the Wahluke Slope; and southeast to the loam soils of Red Mountain.

 As I have written in these pages pertaining to several of the Washington State, Woodinville producers, many of their wines are crafted from fruit sourced from major vineyards. The wines are distinguished by the handicraft of the winemakers in the making of and blending of the wines. A few have Estate vineyards while many source their grapes from the same vineyards year after year under long term contracts. 

The Conner Lee Vineyard is in the Columbia Valley AVA near Othello, Washingon, and dates back more than 35 years to the early 1980's, the early days of Washington wine grape production. Conner Lee is planted in in Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Malbec, Merlot, Syrah and Viognier grape varietals. These grapes are used in the Guardian flagship Bordeaux blend label  'Gun Metal', since the very start of the winery.

The 250 acre StoneTree Vineyard in the Wahluke Slope AVA was planted in 2000. The name of the vineyard is derived from the petrified tree fossils found in the surrounding hills. The vineyard is located on a rolling sloping hillside northwest of Mattawa, Washington, surrounded on one side by the Columbia River and on the other by the Saddle Mountains. Guardian considers StoneTree as their 'go-to' vineyard as a primary source for their fruit.

The Klipsun Vineyard in the Red Mountain AVA lies on the southwest slope of Red Mountain, and is considered the source of some of Washington’s finest grapes. Klipsun was named one of the Top 25 Vineyards in the World by Wine & Spirits magazine, Klipsun primarily grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Nebbiolo. The 120-acre estate was founded in 1982 by Patricia and David Gelles and was acquired by the Terlato Wine Group of Chicago in early 2017.

The Obelisco Vineyard, planted in 2006 in the Red Mountain AVA, produces classic Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot for several of Washington's top premium producers. 

The Quintessence Vineyard, also in Red Mountain, while a newer vineyard, is also a well known source for several top producers and well known labels. Guardian works closely with the Quintessence vineyard team to grow the perfect grapes according to their plans and expectations. Guardian has a long term arrangement to source 22 acres of Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot from blocks planted in 2011. These blocks are known for fruit-driven dusty-red tannin characteristic so common in the best Red Mountain fruit.

Guardian wines are labeled with whimsical names befitting the marriage of a policeman and a beat reporter, with a sense of humor, producing wines together, Confidential Informant, Chalk Line, Rookie and Alibi.

The wines we tasted:
  • Angel Sauvignon Blanc 2017
  • Newsprint Chardonnay 2016
  • Chalk Line Washington State Red Wine 2016
  • Gun Metal Washington State Red Wine 2016
  • Alibi Red Mountain Red Wine 2016
  • The Rookie Red Mountain Red Wine 2016 
  • Confidential Source Columbia Valley Red 2016
  • Newsprint Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
  • Newsprint Columbia Valley Cabernet Franc 2016 

We tasted and acquired several of these wines to bring home and look forward to returning for more and will keep a keen eye out for these labels to appear here in the Midwest in distribution.