Thursday, January 4, 2024

Elmhurst fine dining caps day of suburbs' museum tours

Elmhurst (IL) fine dining caps day of suburban museum tours

Linda and I visited the Lizzadro Museum in Oak Brook, then the Picasso Exhibit at the Elmhurst Art Museum. Following our museum outings, we visited downtown Elmhurst and dined at Victory Restaurant. 

As a I child, I grew up in Elmhurst and attended Hawthorne Elementary School across the street from the original Lizzadro Museum and the current day site of the Elmhurst Art Museum. Back then, the museum site was a street and a block of aging homes that I would walk and pass enroute to school. It was during that time that the original Lizzadro Museum was built in Wilder Park directly across from my school. 

So, it was heartfelt to revisit my childhood neighborhood and hometown. Also, Linda was touched by the history and legacy of the Lizzardro Museum, so we joined and became supporting members. This pays homage to ancestors, one of whom was a stone mason in southern Indiana who worked on the National Cathedral In Washington DC, her brother, a geology major in college, her mother Lucy, an artist who painted, drew, and did work in ceramics and some in lapidary arts, and Linda's several years selling fine jewelry for a major department store, more for recreation and enjoyment than the remuneration.

While in the Elmhurst neighborhoods, we visited two historic, architecturally significant homes - driving by the FB Henderson House by legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and then while visiting the Elmhurst Art Museum, we toured the McCormick House, by another legendary architect, Mies van der Rohe. This was especially interesting since we visited the notable Mies van der Rohe Farnsworth House earlier this summer. Also, readers of these pages know I give tours at the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in suburban Oak Park.

Our visit to the Elmhurst Art Museum was to see the Picasso exhibit, which was a precursor to our visit to the magnificent Art Institute of Chicago and the Picasso exhibit there, the follow day which included a Pour Boys Wine Group Dinner at Italian Village Chicago.

Visiting downtown Elmhurst we visited Tannins Wine Shop and Wine Bar and met proprietor and Certified Sommelier Mike Allas. He has a carefully selected offering of wines for sale and for sipping on-site, with a broad selection of WBTG - Wines By The Glass. The retail selection included wines from Chateau La Nerthe, one of our favorite producers from the Rhone, which we visited a couple of times. It also included a couple labels from HourGlass Vineyards in Napa, some of which we hold in our cellar, but also a label we've not seen before which we're eager to try at some point. 

The real crown jewel of the establishment may be the Reserve Wine List which is available on request. It includes for retail sale a who's who of Napa Valley ultra-premium labels with the usual suspects included - Shafer Hillside Select, Opus, Joseph Phelps Insignia and Dominus, to name a few. We'll look forward to visiting Tannins again soon for causal wine sipping and small bites.

We then went next door to dine at Victory Meat and Seafood Restaurant.  

They offer a formal fine dining room adjacent the bar, and a more casual dining seating area at, along and to the rear of the bar. As the first diners of the evening we were seated in the rear. Next time we visit, we'll seek to sit in the nicer more formal dining room.

The menu offers a selection of seafood, steaks, chicken and pasta dishes, soups, salads, appetizers, oysters, and desserts. 

There is a limited but adequate, carefully selected wine list with several offerings of WBTG - Wines By The Glass.

For starters, in consideration of being their 'first diners of the New Year', we were treated to Lobster Bisque! It was delectable, rich, warm, flavorful with ample chunks of fresh lobster meat. 

Linda ordered the Baked Oysters, sourced from the Northeast Atlantic coast which we were advised, are considered the most delectable and sweetest by the chef. 

For our entrees, Linda had the Maryland Crabcakes and I the SeaBass. 

Maryland Crab Cake

Linda loved the hearty rich crab filled preparation. The smaller portion size was due to the fact it was a starter, which she selected for her entree. Even then, it was sufficient for her dinner. 

Seabass - Broccolini and EVOO

The Sea Bass was prepared and presented nicely and properly, the brocolini and beans prepared with EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) accompaniment was filling and tasty, but suffering from a comparison with the extraordinary Sea Bass with black truffle risoto we had the other evening at Entourage Restaurant in Naperville

For wine pairings we ordered from the ample BTG - By The Glass offerings a pair of two current release young Sonoma County Chardonnays. 

Neyers "304" Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2022

This is from namesake Bruce and Barbara Neyers, originally from Delaware, they moved to Northern California in 1970 and ultimately purchased the Conn Valley Ranch in 1984 and established Neyers Vineyards in 1992.

In 1999, they purchased the winery and thirty-acre parcel in 1999, in the Sage Canyon area of Napa Valley. They renovated the estate building a modern winery. They produced their first Neyers Vineyards vintage in the new facility in 2000 and in 2002 were named Artisan Winery of the Year by Wine and Spirits Magazine.

On their 50-acre Conn Valley ranch estate they grow Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon which accounts for about 25% of their production. They also purchase grapes from a select group of growers including the Sangiacomo family of the Carneros District, Will Nord of Napa, the Rossi Ranch of Sonoma County, Markus Bokisch and the Evangelho family. 

Bruce started his career as a chemist, but pursued a career in wine starting at Mayacamas Winery in the Napa Valley in 1972 where he spent two years as assistant winemaker while studying in the wine program at University of California, Davis. He and Barbara spent two years in the Nahe region in Germany where he worked as an apprentice winemaker. Returning in 1975, he joined Joseph Phelps who was just starting his winery, and worked there for 17 years, leaving in 1992 as general manager.

From Phelps, Bruce joined Berkeley-based importer Kermit Lynch serving as National Sales Manager until his retirement in 2017. Working with 100+ French wine producers he learned about viticulture wine-making and production.

Bruce's experience with French wine importer Kermit Lynch and their French producers had an influence on their wines such as organic farming, making wines naturally without use of cultured yeast or lab designed malo-lactic starter, and bottling wines without fining or filtration. Also, Neyers uses French barrels made to their specifications from wood they buy in bulk.

Meanwhile, Barbara taught then pursued her love of food and cooking, eventually managing the heralded Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley for 20 years.

Bruce and Barbara raised three children on their ranch in the Conn Valley area of the Napa Valley, where they now grow grapes while they jointly manage the winery, which is now a joint venture with Trinchero Family Estates.

Tadeo Borchardt is winemaker who oversees the winemaking process along.

Bruce Neyer's says, “No expense has been spared in our grape growing, winemaking practices, or processing equipment, yet customers repeatedly tell us that our wines represent great value in today's highly competitive wine market.”  Bruce Neyers produces the company blog, “Vintner Tales.”

Neyers "304" Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2022

Winemaker Notes - "A crisp freshness is the main component the winery looks for, but they enjoy the bright minerality as well, and the naturally low alcohol level makes the wine even more enjoyable. There is no contact with oak barrels during the production, so the charming fruit component is allowed to take center stage."

This was rated 91 points by Wine Enthusiast and 90 points by James Suckling.

Light straw colored, light medium bodied, notes of golden apple, pear and hints of peach fruits with wet stone and mineral with a crisp abrupt finish. 

RM 89 points.

Hartford Court Sonoma Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2022

This is from Hartford Family Winery, founded in 1993 by Don and Jennifer Hartford, natives of the Russian River Valley. Their vineyards and winery are located in the Sonoma County town of Forestville, about 15 miles the cool Pacific Coast in difficult locations along the rugged foothills of the region.

Hartford Family makes wines under two brands, the Hartford Family and this Hartford Court which is labels of small lot single vineyard designated Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays that express the "high-personality distinctive qualities inherent in each vineyard's terroir" - the interplay of soil, slope, exposure and climate. They produce a dozen different vineyard specific labels sourced from more than a dozen vineyards in the Russian River Valley, Green Valley and Sonoma Coast appellations.

This is their estate label, not vineyard specific but a blend from numerous vineyard sources.

Winemaker Notes - "The 2022 vintage, one of Hartford Court's earliest harvests on record, gave them wines with precision and concentration. The Chardonnay has great elegance and bright acidity from the fruit harvested in August, with the fruit harvested in September giving more ripe fruit and richness."

Golden straw colored, medium bodied, rich round complex, ripe apple and pear fruits with notes of sweet papaya or mango, and lemon citrus and tropical fruit notes with hints of oak and medium acidity on the finish.

RM 90 points.