Sunday, February 18, 2018

Hemingway's Oak Park BYOB BTG Dinner

Hemingway's Oak Park BYOB BTG Dinner

Culminating an event filled week with Valentine's Day, Linda's birthday and starting a new job, we celebrated with Saturday evening dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Hemingway's Bistro in Oak Park, located in the Write Inn, a euro boutique hotel. Fittingly, Hemingway's was still decorated for Valentine's Day.

As I've written in these pages, I conduct tours as a docent interpreter at the nearby Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, so this is a convenient dining spot following my tours.

Tonight's special was Alaskan Halibut with a mango pepper relish, rice and asparagus (shown left) which we both opted for as our entrees.

We both started with one of our favorite dishes, and draws to Hemingways - I had the Foie Gras du jour and Linda has the Tuna Tartar with avocado, cucumber and spicy aioli. The Foie Gras alone was worth the trip, absolutely delicious served with puree' of parsnip and peaches.

For the occasion, I brought BYOB from our home cellar a California Cabernet Bordeaux blend from Cloud View Napa Valley Pritchard Hill. In the end it was great with the Foie Gras but too much for the Halibut entrees and we opted for BTG (by-the-glass) selections from the wine list, a Lake Sonoma Russian River Valley Sonoma Chardonnay, and a Lemelson Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Gris.

Hemingway's offers an authentic Provencal or Parisan dining experience in all respects. As always, everything was spectacular for an intimate, dining experience - food, services, atmosphere and ambiance.

Lemelson Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Gris 2015

Bright golden butter colored, light-medium bodied, tangy crisp acidic backbone, bright pear, peach, hints of apple and melon with notes of mineral and citrus. An ideal complement to the tuna tartar and the Alaskan Hailbut.

RM 87 points.

Lake Sonoma Winery Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2015

According to the producer, the Russian River Valley is ideal for Chardonnay due to its cool climate, from the regular infiltration of Pacific Coast fog that ebbs and flows through the Petaluma Wind Gap and up the Russian River, making the Russian River Valley one of the world’s most celebrated Chardonnay growing regions. This natural air-conditioning allows Chardonnay grapes to develop full flavor over an extended growing season while maintaining their life-giving natural acidity.  The result is a chardonnay of both character and depth.

We visited the Russian River Valley Sonoma County appellation during our wine region visit last summer.

I believe this producer sources grapes from numerous growers in the region producing a region or appellation specific, but not Estate (produced from grapes grown on the property).

This Chardonnay from Hemingway's BTG (by-the-glass) winelist was straw colored, medium bodied, with notes of citrus, hints of creme brulee, vanilla, and honey with moderate acidity and depth.

RM 88 points. 

Carnival of Love - The Valentine's Day Wine

Carnival of Love - The Valentine's Day Wine

What wine do you serve for an intimate Valentine's Day dinner? Carnival of Love, of course. Especially when its your brides favorite (style) wine! So for an intimate Valentine's evening dinner, we pulled from the cellar the premium Aussie shiraz from Mollydooker with the whimsical cartoonish 'Carnival of Love' label.

I've written in these pages about Mollydooker husband and wife winemaking team, Sara and Sparky Marquis, who happen to both be 'lefties', hence 'Mollydooker', the Aussie term afforded what in America we would call a 'southpaw' or a left handed person. You gotta love our Aussie friends and their sense of humour. They emerged on the American wine scene with Marquis Phillips and their whimsical 'Roogle' or half kangaroo half eagle character for the Australia - American joint venture with their US distribution partnership back around the turn of the century.

After several successful releases, Sara and Sparky set off on their own and never looked back developing an extensive brand and line-up of labels, all with whimsical names and colorful cartoon characters (see select library below - a more complete library is on our winesite Aussie 'M' Mollydooker label library).

Aside their flagship 'Velvet Glove' Shiraz which nears $200, their two premium labels in the release price $80 range are this one, and 'Enchanted Path', a Shiraz and Cabernet blend. Their line includes an extensive collection from an entry level Shiraz to Cabernet, Cabernet-Shiraz blends, Merlot - even a sparkling Shiraz. (This 2005 is currently on offer from K&L, one of the nation's leading wine merchants at $150).

The story of these wines according to the winemaker is: "Our whole family is involved in making our wines, and all the wonderful people who drink them become our friends, so we named this wine Carnival of Love, because the wines bring us together. If you look closely you will notice that the Lefty characters are all included in the label and when you join the Carnival of Love and the Enchanted Path together, the two labels form one beautiful continuous love story."

At these price points, these are not every day wines for us ordinary folks, but wines for special occasions. 'Carnival of Love' has become one of our family tradition wines which we serve at wife Linda's and family birthday parties, since Linda is a Lefty, and we happen to have three family birthdays in the span of several weeks. Hence, its the obvious wine for our Valentine's Day dinner.

Mollydooker have continually won high acclaim with Carnival receiving 95-ish ratings consistently over the years; 2010, RP95, WS94, 2009; WS94, RP93, 2008; WS94, 2007; RP96, WS95, 2006; RP97, WS95. This 2005 release got 98 points from Robert Parker, rarified space indeed for only very special highly acclaimed wines.

Mollydooker "Carnival of Love" McLaren Vale South Australia Shiraz 2005 

This full throttle power packed Shiraz is not for the feint of heart as indicted by its whopping 16.5% alcohol content. Dark garnet colored, full bodied, rich complex concentrated, this exhibits what Parker referred to as "a more earthy, meaty, gamey character with plenty of coffee and damp loam aromas fused with smoked bacon, some iron ore, Chinese plums, a little floral note and even a bit of truffles character coming through". It has a firm structured core of intense dark blackberry, black currant and black cherry fruit accented by spice and notes of anise, ripe raisin and tobacco on the firm but approachable tannins on the lingering finish. 

This is not a wine for sipping but rather it begs for hearty cheese, darkest chocolate or as with our dinner tonight, char-grilled steak. 

I like big firm, forward powerful concentrated wines, and I admit, this is almost too much for my tastes with its high octane, but its certainly a treat for a special occasion such as tonight! 

RM 94 points.