Sunday, May 20, 2012

Wine Dinner Decadence

For the most part, I focus on local establishments, but this post is all about the wine dinner we attended at Ruth's Chris in Midlothian. We've dined here in the past with decent results, usually paying at least part of the tab with gift cards. It turns out that Ruth's Chris also hosts wine dinners once a month and they are on a Friday. Not many places can pull this feat off on a Friday; the private dining rooms here afford them that luxury.

We decided to sign up for the dinner in May because of one single wine: Penfolds Grange. Yes, that wine. A regular bottle costs around $600. About 15 years ago hubby and I had the chance to taste another vintage of this hard-to-obtain elixir. We were part of a local wine club and one of the couples graciously shared a bottle with the group along with some fabulous Kentucky burgoo. There was some brute force to this wine and could still have aged for years and been stunning. We counted ourselves extremely lucky and went about our merry way exploring less pricey wine options for regular consumption.

Along comes Ruth's Chris to announce a wine dinner celebrating the 2007 release Penfolds Grange. Dinner was not cheap, but $110 per person for 5 courses with wine considering the regular restaurant prices and what we would be consuming, seemed okay. And since the dinner was close to our wedding anniversary, we turned it into a gift for ourselves.

Less than 40 people attended, thus, the atmosphere was more intimate than some dinners I have attended. Service was impeccable. Most of the attendees were regular wine dinner patrons. Amiable conversation sprouted up at our table and the Penfolds regional wine rep also sat with us. Course portions were generous as well as most of the wine pours. Each attendee received a 3 ounce pour of the Penfolds Grange. I was able to take photos of the dishes, but only a couple of the wines.

We started with a Chilled Shellfish Salad - crab and shrimp with a creamy lemon basil dressing paired with Thomas Hyland Riesling. The riesling was bone dry and a nice aperitif. The salad delicious. I did not like the wine and the salad together. The dressing had a hint of sweetness to it. I would have preferred an off-dry riesling.

Shrimp and Crab Salad

The next course challenged both my food and wine sensibilities: Spring Asparagus Soup paired with Bin 311 Chardonnay. Anyone who is a regular reader knows I am not an asparagus fan and chardonnay for me is not much better. Hubby had the bright idea to announce my green spear aversion to the rest of the table with a bit of an evil glee in his eye. Conversation ensued. At least the woman sitting next to me came to my rescue and also declared no love for the stuff. The saving grace of the soup were the leeks. It tasted more like leek than nasty green to me. Whew! And the chardonnay turned out to be an excellent accompaniment.

Asparagus and Leek Soup

Next we enjoyed Duck Confit Napoleon with St. Henri Shiraz. I loved the duck (of course) and I loved the wine which retails for about $60 (a tenth of the price of Grange with big fruit and big tannins, complex and very tasty). The wine was 90% shiraz and 10% cabernet sauvignon. Great pairing and a dish that seemed to be out of the norm for Ruth's Chris that showcased the chef's talent (Chef Curt Jenkins).

Duck Confit Napoleon

St. Henri Shiraz

And then the highlight of the evening: Filet Mignon and Crab-stuffed Lobster Tail with Penfolds Grange. A hefty and oh-so-decadent course. Because the Grange had to be carefully measured, they also poured another Penfolds red (I forgot to write it down!) to enjoy and draw comparisons. The Grange is indeed a great wine. Complex, great mouth feel. Wonderful with the filet. I am so lucky to have tasted this again in my lifetime. Can I justify paying the money for it outside of a 3 ounce pour at a wine dinner? No. I'd rather buy a case of the St. Henri Shiraz or multiple cases of an even less expensive, but delicious red.

Steak and Lobster Tail

Penfolds Grange

The final course presented us with dessert - Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cheesecake with Club Tawny Port. By this time I was so full (and I had even boxed up half of my filet to take home) that dessert was a bit of a blur. I liked the strawberries in the cheesecake and the nuttiness of the tawny paired nicely.

Chocolate-covered Strawberry Cheesecake

A huge dinner with equally huge wines. Upon arrival we were issued raffle tickets. As we finished dessert a drawing was held for a magnum of St. Henri Shiraz. Unfortunately, the lucky bastard who won was not me. Upon the completion of dinner service, additional Penfolds wines were available for tasting on a more informal basis.

Wow. A very enjoyable and decadent dinner.

Waiting for Wine

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