We see more and more specialized theme restaurants these days. It can be difficult to execute one type of cuisine well yet alone diversify. Steak houses have been around for ages with their emphasis mainly on the top quality beef served. Look at what Wolfgang Puck has done more recently with his successful CUT chain around the world with his latest one in Washington DC. You might expect some complementary sides to accompany that steak like mushrooms, onion rings to feature potatoes – like those legendary one pound “gargantuan” baked Idaho at Canlis, Mortons, and Smith Wollensky. However, generally you don’t think of choosing to go to a Steak House and not ordering steak. That is exactly what your scribe did last week.
Elisa Steakhouse was one of the very best new restaurants to open in Vancouver last year. An ambitious project by the outstanding Toptable Group that already has so many winning restaurants but have added this one with an amazing unique wood-fired grill that lowers and raises the level for ideal cooking methods. It also helps that the capable team is led by the knowledgeable Executive Chef Andrew Richardson who has worked with the On Fire master Francis Mallmann. The beef selections are well chosen from some 9 different producers and are impressive indeed. Patrons also are excited about their whole slow-roasted chicken which has become a big hit since the opening. Lots of other menu choices to suit most everyone’s preference in your dining group. A whole tartare section for appetizers leads off with the “classic” beef or smoked bison but a tasty vegetable one with avocado & taro chips is so popular.
This dinner visit though was a birthday surprise for my wife to celebrate it with a most delicious aged bottle of Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 1998. We wanted to match these special bubbles with the best fish dish in town to go with it. Of course an easy choice let’s go to Elisa Steakhouse for their whole Branzino grilled over that fire with charred lemon and expertly deboned at your table. Wow! Really like too that starter of Roast Eggplant with basil pesto, slow cooked tomatoes, charred pea tip salsa verde & crispy herbs. Q.E.D.
Congrats to the whole Elisa team for taking this outstanding steakhouse to yet another level of diversity! Well done.
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Question: What is the difference in the total number of wineries between Washington State and neighboring British Columbia in Canada?
Answer: Quite a big difference as Washington State (WS) now has about 970 licensed wineries compared to British Columbia (BC) with about 280 licensed grape wineries (and 370 overall). Both are thriving helped by global warming while growing 70-80 different grape varieties but Cabernet Sauvignon is #1 with double the acreage of Merlot in WS while the latter is the main red grape planted in BC. Chardonnay is now #2 and increasing as it has recently overtaken Riesling in WS for white grape production while in BC Pinot Gris is still tops. WS already has evolved to 14 AVAs (American Viticultural Area) while BC is presently establishing their sub-regions with 4 named so far (Golden Mile Bench, Okanagan Falls, Naramata Bench and Skaha Bench) and expanding. Both WS & BC are producing many fine wines that need discovering.
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Meursault Perrieres has clearly risen to the top of the Meursault appellation in Burgundy. Meursault AC wines and especially the Premier Crus have that textbook nutty character with fat rich textures that are so specially admirable. However the Perrieres vineyard both the lower (dessous) and upper (dessus) parts deliver something even more complex with their elegance, structure and minerality which in some vintages from the best producers develop so well with age. Some of us feel from extensive tastings over the years that it is worthy of consideration for Grand Cru elevation.
These thoughts came to mind on August 25, 2019 during an exciting Paulee lunch for 64 guests at which your scribe had the opportunity to taste and was asked to make comments on 20 bottles of Perrieres and 14 other Grand Cru white Burgundy. This was a BYOB contribution event ranging in vintages from a fresh vibrant 2016 Perrieres gift bottle given by Vincent Girardin to a mature 1989 Bienvenues-Batard-Montrachet Paul Pernot. A write-up here on this Blog in August 2013 at an earlier Paulee referenced an older Batard going back to 1957 with a brief summary of vintages from 2005 to 2013 inclusive. As we are presently experiencing the 2014 vintage is outstanding with some super balanced white Burgundy while 2015 tends to be riper softer and more forwardly. This showed with 2015s from both Domaine de Montille (2013 had more structure) plus Thierry & Pascale Matrot in that style but Chateau de Meursault & Ballot-Millot were surprisingly fresh. Bouchard Pere who are producing some excellent Perrieres (a remarkable 2010) again excelled with 2008 on a lovely plateau of enjoyment. The sometimes disappointingly forward 2005 vintage whites (here Lafon showed late picking rich softness but they have changed to earlier harvest for Perrieres in recent times) not the case for Bouchard Pere still fresh stylish balanced bottle. Latour-Giraud had an intense 2010 but more hazelnut Geneveries-like style than mineral but a magnum of their stylish 2000 was popularly emptied quite quickly. Solid Jadot 2012 but a softer Drouhin and the 2010 Drouhin badly pre-moxed. The other off bottle was a hopeful but maderized Leroy 1996.
Five Grand Cru from Corton Charlemagne included an earthy Bonneau du Martray 1991, delicious Bouchard Pere 2011, fresh Olivier Leflaive 2014, and classy Jadot 2016 over rather ripe disjointed Louis Latour. Chevalier Montrachet terroir shone brightly as usual with two beauties both 2015 of Bouchard Pere & Philippe Colin. Batard which can be more inconsistent had a winner with still improving 2010 Pierre Yves Colin-Morey over 2010 Olivier Leflaive and mature spicy Remoissenet 2005. Bienvenues had perhaps the best wine of the day with a delicate 2006 Etienne Sauzet while Paul Pernot was well represented with both 1989 and 1999. No Montrachet or Criots but a nice cross-section comparison.
Overall though it was a very good performance yet again by the unique still underrated Perrieres vineyard against some tough company!
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Question: I noticed that red wine producer Moon Curser who were voted best small winery in Canada also make a white Arneis. What is that?
Answer: Yes the innovative Moon Curser Vineyards in Osoyoos BC were just awarded Best Small Winery at the 2019 National Wine Awards of Canada. They are growing lots of interesting different red grape varieties that are performing well in the heat of this region with global warming – like Tannat, Tempranillo, and Touriga Nacional. Also do two whites with the underrated “Afraid of the Dark” Rhone-blend of Viognier, Roussanne & Marsanne and Arneis. This latter one is primarily grown in the Roero hills of Piedmont Italy on their sandy chalky soils with DOCG status since 2006. It varies in style there from the usual dry fresh citric apricot-tangerine notes to a riper richer creamy more fleshy textured version. Moon Curser describe their Arneis as “elegant, crisp with floral, citrus and mineral notes.” Check it out.
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The opportunity last week to try some top Chardonnays from California at a dinner was nostalgic. Your scribe has followed them since their early days purchasing for only $6.50 per bottle Chateau Montelena 1973 that went on to win the Paris Tasting in 1976. In fact it was fun to do verticals even in those days at a hosted vertical of 8 Freeemark Abbey Chardonnays held in 1981 with 1973 & 1974 showing wonderful rich complexity. Remember those first vineyard selections from Dick Arrowood at Chateau St. Jean including Robert Young, McCrea, Wildwood, Belle Terre, Hunter and the 1978 Les Pierres showing hot 15.5 alcohol listed on the label. The Chardonnay selections some 40 years later are certainly more refined with less oak and are better balanced but much more expensive. Some brief comments on the Chardonnays:
1. Robert Mondavi Reserve 2013
2. Beringer Private Reserve 2014
3. Pahlmeyer Jayson 2014
All showing quite good developing colour in a full rich softer style. There is lots of texture and interest in this group. Mondavi typical in that solid yet elegant style bringing back fond memories of their outstanding 1981 Reserve enjoyed so much in the late eighties. Beringer very perfumed aromas. Pahlmeyer Jayson has the best open nose with lush forward drinking appeal. All three are big rich tad hot good examples that are a bit soft with a lower level of fresh acidity than from cooler regions.
4. Wayfarer Fort Ross (Seaview, Sonoma County) 2015
5. Gary Farrell Olivet Lane Vineyard Russian River 2015
Both matched the Ravioli course very well. Wayfarer (another Pahlmeyer special one) shone with lively fresh balanced elegance. Superb coastal Chardonnay combining tasty true citric flavours with lovely delicacy. Classy, alive & zesty! Try and get some of their 2016 as well. Farrell is more mature development and slightly four square. Both come in at 14.4 alcohol.
6. Varner Spring Ridge Vineyard Home Block 2013
7. Aubert Ritchie Vineyard 2013
8. Aubert Ritchie Vineyard 2014
Excellent flight. Lighter oaked Varner brothers Home Block property from highest elevation of 800+ feet in the Santa Cruz Mountains was impressive. We liked the structure and lovely distinctive wild fennel bouquet improved by airing. More bottle age helped open it up. Both Aubert Ritchie Vineyard from Sonoma Coast are as expected delivering a powerful intense young statement with 15 alcohol showing a bit on the long finish. Older vines of 40+ years from the Wente clone are a big help in the rich textured complexity too. 2015 received 100 points. The 2013 Aubert had the more expressive nose as best part almost like a Grand Cru Burgundy but 2014 richer. Quality there. Better with more cellaring.
Three mystery wines added to the fun. Two fifty year old Chardonnay 1969 from historic Stony Hill in Napa & ringer Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses Remoissenet showed their aged maturity but so educational. Both renown for their acidity levels which helped them to hold on. Stony Hill chartreuse sherry-like but actually improved with airing and bottle remains served as an outstanding aperitif with amazing fruit for the next few days enjoyment. Les Preuses holding much better as expected and on a beautiful rich textured minerally plateau for enhanced pleasure with that Salmon course. The star of the evening was a choice magnum of the classic mountain vineyard of Bob Travers of 1974 Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon (with 8% Merlot) another bargain when released at $9.50 per bottle. Still drinking fresh and balanced at 45 years in this Grand Format. Power with fragrant herbal minty notes (somewhat Heitz Marthas-like) and such impressive concentrated vibrant fruit paired with the Short Rib course. No rush. A treasure for sure!
California has wine treasures from new & old vintages. Do you have some favourites?
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