Saturday, November 27, 2021

Hemingways Bistro wine dinner

Hemingways Bistro Oak Park wine dinner with Cuvée de mon Aïeul, Lost Chapters Big Reds

For a special post holiday outing for our family members in from out of town, I arranged to conduct a private tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in Oak Park, where I am a docent interpreter, followed by a walking tour of the historic neighborhood featuring some of FLW's seminal works in the Prairie style architecture. 

Afterwards, we dined at Hemingway's Bistro, one of our favorite intimate dining sites in the nearby Earnest Hemingway historic neighborhood featuring Chef Ala who brings 25 years experience to Oak Park. A certified Executive Chef with the American Culinary Federation, he has competed in numerous culinary salons around the world. In 1999, Ala was the opening Executive Chef of the Historic Allerton Hotel in Chicago after it's 80 million dollar renovation. Ala has also ran Le Meriden Hotel Restaurant and the historic legendary Chez Paul in Chicago. (Many will recall Chez Paul from it's famous scenes as the restaurant in two iconic Chicago movies, the Blues Brother (1980_and then in Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)).

Previously, Ala was the Chef of The Colonnade Hotel in Boston and Brasserie Jo, he was at the Boca Raton Resort and Club in Florida, and spent seven years in the Caribbean working at resorts in Puerto Rico, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands.

Hemmingway's offers classic French dishes with fresh Midwest ingredients; Beef Wellington, Steak Frites, and sumptuous Souffles are popular menu offerings, and daily specials reflect the chef's love for fresh seafood, using mostly East-coast seafood flown in from Boston daily.

 We took BYOB from our cellar, a special top rated bottle of Southern Rhone Châteauneuf-du-Pape for our authentic Provencal cuisine dinner. 

Pierre Usseglio 'Cuvée de mon Aïeul' Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2001

I recall acquiring this bottle on release two decades ago while on a business trip to the Twin Cities and stopping in Haskell's wine shop. 

This release was awarded 99 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, who wrote in his review, "borderline perfection, (I seriously considered adding a point here) and a monumental Châteauneuf-du-Pape that is drinking at point." 

It was rated 93 points by Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar and Wine Spectator. 

The 2001 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvee de Mon Aieul is 85% Grenache and equal parts Syrah, Mourvedre, and Cinsault with a prodigious 15.8% alcohol level.

The sources for Mon Aieul are three vineyard parcels with vines averaging between 75 and 87 years of age.

Dark ruby colored, full bodied, deep rich intense complex concentrated structured briary ripe black currant, blackberry fruits accented by flavors of fig, stewed plum, spice box, olive tapenade, tobacco, black tea, game, tar and mushrooms with hints of cedar turning to firm tannins on the tangy acidic finish. 

RM 92 points.

With the lady's dinner entrees (each ordered the daily special, halibut in beurre blanc sauce), they ordered several white wines from the broad B-T-G (By-the-Glass) selectiosn:

Chardonnay, Russian River, Lake Sonoma "18"
Viognier, Domaine Gassier "19"

Bro-in-law Bill and I ordered this big Petite Sirah from the winelist to accompany his New York Steak au Poivre and my Duck A L'Orange with braised cabbage, pommes dauphine, grand marnier sauce (I substituted the pommes au gratin - shown right).

J. McClelland Lost Chapters Petite Sirah 2017

Hemingway's Bistro has a carefully crafted winelist with selections to match the menu, many limited releases or distinctive artful labels.

This interesting label is from J. McClelland Cellars, founded in 2008 in honor of iconic California winemaker, trusted advisor and wine industry personality and long time friend of the principles, John McClelland, in honor of his six decades of service to the industry, and ten years of collaboration by founders winery Director and Winemaker Paul Scotto and viticulturist Winemaker Mark Smith.

Throughout McClelland's 60-year wine industry career he was widely recognized as an iconic figure in California wine innovation in winemaking, vineyard management, national sales, marketing and brand development. He served as Chairman of the California Wine Institute and held leadership positions in the Wine Growers Association, Association of Wine Educators and was named a Supreme Knight in Brotherhood of the Knights of the Vine. He held numerous senior positions at producers Almaden, Geyser Peak and Alderbrook. John passed away in December, 2018.

Scotto family's acquired the J. McClelland Cellars winery in the Valley's eastern hills to produce their wines.

In 2014 the team was joined by renowned and frequently awarded winemaker Mitch Cosentino, who brought many years of Napa Valley knowledge, experience and vineyard contacts to the project.

The Scotto family's winemaking heritage dates back to 1883 when Salvatore Dominic Scotto began making wine at their home on the Island of Ischia off the coast of Italy. Salvatore passed on the winemaking tradition to his son Dominic who migrated to Brooklyn, NY in 1903. He followed the Scotto family tradition by passing on his winemaking skills to his sons, who began selling five gallon crocks from the family's horse-drawn wagon. In 1946, they opened D. Scotto Wines retail store in downtown Brooklyn that sold quality wines from around the world.

Anthony Sr. sold his father's homemade wine in one gallon jugs from pushcarts and later, with his older brother Sal, created Villa Armando one of the country's oldest brands. The family moved to California in 1963.

Anthony II entered the business in 1975 and eventually became a winemaker, winery owner, exporter and consultant, passing his skills and experience to the 5th generation, Anthony III, Natalie, Paul and Michael, who together carry on the family business into the sixth generation continuing to build strong relationships with both trade and consumers while expanding distribution throughout the U.S. and eleven export markets.

In 2014, notable winemaker Mitch Cosentino joined the Scotto family and John McClelland as Consulting Winemaker for the launch of J. McClelland Cellars. Mitch's four decade winemaking career dates back to his home town Modesto 1980 and then Napa Valley since 1990 where he founded Cosentino Winery in Yountville and established pureCru Napa Valley. Mitch has garnered almost 2000 awards and medals including the prestigious "Andre Tchelistcheff Winemaker of the Year" award in 2003 and numerous awards for "Best Wine" and "Best Cabernet" of the year in multiple vintages and competitions. Mitch founded the Meritage Association (now known as the Meritage Alliance) in 1988 and produced the first American wine bottled with that designation.

The Lost Chapters brand was born in 2017, produced from varietal fruits and craft blends for the Scotto Family wine portfolio, sourced from barrel lots from select and limited "lots from each vintage that may not be seen again in future vintages". 

The Lost Chapters brand has produced award winning single or limited multiple vintage labels in Cabernet Sauvigon, Chardonnay, Sangiovese, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, Meritage, and this Petite Sirah. 

The producer website writes: "When one release sells out, another will appear offering its own allure and charm. The Lost Chapters is Paul's opportunity to break away from the norm in winemaking and provide the opportunity to continue reading "the book" with each release standing on its own while complementing the whole." As such, Lost Chapters, building on the book metaphor, even applies a "volume" number in roman numeral to each label vintage release.

Hence, by design, these are invariably 'one hit wonders', specially selected from various vineyard sources in each vintage, not necessarily to be replicated, certainly not so over extended time. Fortuitous finds as they might be, they are not ones to collect for comparison tastings over vertical vintages, but rather to be relished and enjoyed. 

J. McClelland Cellars Lost Chapters Volume XIX Petite Sirah 2017

100% Napa County Petite Sirah, aged 24 months in French Oak barrels, 140 cases were produced. 

Winemaker notes: Deep purple-ruby natural color abounds. River stone minerality, black pepper, currants and black rose notes fill the aromatic profile. Flavors cross a broad spectrum of fruits: dense currants blackberries, black plums with rhubarb and peppercorns, well centered and big structured yet with a surprising suppleness on the mid-palate. It finishes long, spicy and firm with some ripe tannins.

Dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, complex concentrated ripe blackberry, black currant and plum fruits with notes of black pepper, spice and earthy tobacco with full firm tannins on the tangy lengthy finish. 

RM 90 points.