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Wednesday’s Meritage: Capital Grille, Thomas Keller, and more

June 13, 2018 8 comments

Meritage time!

Wednesday’s Meritage was a permanent weekly feature in this blog in the days where the time for blogging was magically found with ease. The wine can be called a Meritage only if it is produced as a blend of two or more varieties – the idea for these Wednesday’s Meritage posts was based on the same principal – sharing the tidbits of news and information which I thought might be of interest to my fellow readers.

Looking through some of the recent emails I came across a few newsworthy items, so off went the sparkle – “that warrants a Meritage post”, so here we go.

The Capital Grille is a group of steakhouse restaurants, which don’t require much introduction for steak aficionados in the USA. Their menu is generally very solid, and, what is very important for me, their wine list is extensive and reasonably priced, for sure for the restaurant in that same steakhouse category. The Capital Grille is known for some innovative wine programs – for instance, their Generous Pour event had been in effect for many years, and it allows people to enjoy a variety of the specially selected wines at a very reasonable price (was $25, now $28) with dinner – a number of my personal favorites were discovered with help of this program. While new Generous Pour will start on July 9th of this year, this is not the program I wanted to bring to your attention. The Capital Grille just announced a brand new program, called “Sip today, sip tomorrow”, with a very simple idea. You can order any bottle of wine from their extensive wine list. Next, the wait staff will use Coravin to pour as many glasses as you would want – and the rest of the bottle is yours to take home. You can get more details on The Capital Grille website – click on the “sip today, sip tomorrow” icon to learn more. I don’t know about you, but I like the idea – now, just need to find a good occasion to visit The Capital Grille and try it for myself.

Say “Thomas Keller” name to any foodie, and you will get an “ahh” reaction from the absolute majority of them. The iconic chef is best known as an owner of French Laundry, a culinary mecca in Napa Valley, and Per Se in New York City. Now, the people of Miami can dance a happy dance, as Thoms Keller is set to open The Surf Club restaurant in Miami, in the town called Surfside (less than 10 miles from Miami). This will be a first Florida restaurant for the Thomas Keller, connecting to his childhood memories of Palm Beach. The restaurant is expected to have a bit more casual menu, compared to the French Laundry and Per Se, but I’m sure Thomas Keller’s style will be well recognized there. The restaurant should be opening next month, so if you live in Miami or plan to visit, you might want to start looking up that phone number…

Last, I have a movie for you. It is less than 20 minutes long. Yes, it is in Russian – but it has English subtitles, which were done pretty well. The movie, called “The Taste”, of course, revolves around wine… and people… and wine. The ending is totally unexpected (it was for me), so if you will go to the extent of watching it, please allocate that 20 minutes of your time  – there is a good chance you will enjoy it, even if you don’t speak Russian. And if you will end up watching it, I would be happy to hear from you, whether you will like it or not.

That’s all I have for you, my friends. As these Meritage posts used to finish – the glass is empty, but the refill is on the way. Until the next time – cheers!

Thank You, The Capital Grille!

September 9, 2012 6 comments
Huge wine selection, also see the discounts on spirits.

This is not the first time I’m writing a happy post about one of my favorite restaurants, The Capital Grille – here are the links to the previous two posts, from 2010 and from 2011. This post will not be an exception – we had a great time [again].

Everybody in the family like steaks (okay, the oldest used to love steak – now she is trying to become a vegetarian) – but most of the time we make it at home. However, in August, we have a happy occasion, our wedding anniversary, which gives us a good reason to go to a restaurant – but this is not the only reason to visit Capital Grille. Two more reasons: Generous Pour program and Stamford Restaurant Week. I guess we are simply lucky, as The Capital Grille runs their special wine program, called Generous Pour, from July until the beginning of September – for $25, you can taste 9 different wines, specially selected by the Master Sommelier George Milotes. And The Capital Grille usually participates in Stamford Restaurant week, which typically runs for two weeks before the Labor Day- at participating restaurants, you can have a full dinner for about $30 per person! Do I need to give you any more reasons? I thought so.

As I usually do with the restaurant posts, I will give you mostly pictures and then of course all of my notes on the wines, which were quite good overall.

We had calamari as our shared appetizer (one of the kids’ favorite foods) – I don’t have a picture for you, but they were delicious. Then for the main course, we had 3 different kinds of steak. Kids opted for Fillet Mignon:

I had Kona-rubbed sirloin strip:

And my wife went for Tornedos  – a cut of beef I can never remember, so here is the link for you if you need to know exactly what it is:

All the steaks were masterfully prepared and came also with the tasty sides, like creamy spinach, garlicky mashed potatoes and wild mushrooms – as empty plates look extremely unappetizing in the pictures, I will spare you that sight, but believe me the plates were clean.

Let’s talk about the wines now, and we will finish your [drooling?] session with the dessert.

The wine program was presented exactly in the order below, and wine was always available throughout the entire course – I should mention that we had great service.

Here are my notes on the nine wines we had:

NV Lunetta Sparkling Rose, Trentino, Italy – very nice, crisp, tiny fizz, strawberries, hint of cranberries, good acidity. Refreshing. Drinkability: 7+

2009 Gary Ferrel Chardonnay, Carneros – Beautiful, touch of sweetness, butter and vanilla on the nose, same on the palate with additional hint of peach. Very balanced. Perfectly complemented spicy calamari. Drinkability: 8+

2008/09 Simčič Rebula, Roriska Brda, Slovenia – Earth and lemon on the nose, literally not a touch of fruit. Beautiful and hard to describe on the palate, very pronounced “just ripe” strawberries (more of a wild strawberries). Perfect acidity, touch of salt and savory undertones. Drinkability: 8-

2009 Chateau du Pin, Bordeaux, France – Limited fruit expression on the nose. Nice cherries, soft, good acidity on the palate, tannins unnoticeable (should have more). This wine didn’t exhibit a sense of place – not the Bordeaux wine I would expect. Interestingly enough, it didn’t work with steak – probably due to lack of tannins. This wine was drinkable, but not memorable at all. My least favorite in the entire lineup. Drinkability: 7

2007 Villa Mt Eden Pinot Noir Reserve, Russian River Valley – Amazing. Pinot Noir at the next level. Nose of a Pinot, with earthiness, smokiness, spices, cedar box. More of the same on the palate with the addition of ripe dark plums. In a blind tasting, I could possibly confuse this wine with the Rioja. Worked perfectly with the steak. Best of tasting. Drinkability: 9-

2007 Conn Creek Anthology Napa Valley – Beautiful classic Cabernet Sauvignon – cassis, eucalyptus, touch of blueberries, soft tannins. Perfectly drinkable now, but will improve with time. Drinkability: 8

2008 Ferrari-Carano Mountain Reserve, Alexander Valley – Nice progression from the previous wine. If Anthology was a delicate Cab, this wine was in-your-face California Cabernet. Blueberry jam on the nose (but no alcohol burn!), very fruit forward – in a good sense. Beautifully balanced, dark fruit on the palate, dark chocolate and herbs. Drinkability: 8+

2009 Falesco Assini Rosso, Umbria – Beautiful toned down read wine, black cherries, perfect acidity, noticeable profile of herbs and spices, very complex. Drinkability: 8

2006 Kanu Kia Ora Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch, South Africa – Light and effervescent, without overpowering sweetness. Apricot pit and apricot notes, very good acidity. Paired very well with cheesecake. Drinkability: 7+

And now – the dessert! In general, I’m somewhat indifferent to the cheesecake – yes, it is nice, but it would be one of my last choices in the restaurant. Except the Cheesecake in The Capital Grille – if you never had one, go to The Capital Grille near you, skip the steak and just order the cheesecake – it will be a divine experience. Okay, fine, don’t skip the steak, because it is really good – but whatever you do, leave some room for cheesecake. As they usually say, picture worth a thousand words:

That’s all I have for you, folks – sorry you had to live vicariously through this post, but you really shouldn’t – here is a link to The Capital Grille web site, find one near you. Cheers!
The Capital Grille on Urbanspoon

Wednesday’s Meritage

June 27, 2012 4 comments

I can’t believe how fast these Wednesdays are coming – it was only one Wednesday, and now next one is already here…

Anyway, let’s start with the answer for the Wine Quiz #17, which was all about Penguins. I’m glad to see the diversity of opinions regarding that strange critter, known as Tactical Nuclear Penguin. Well, those of you who thought that this name implies a lot of strength were correct! And while the correct answer is … Beer (!), this  beer packs a lot of punch, clocking in at 32% ABV. This beer is made by the company called BrewDog, and here is the description directly from the web site:

This is the worlds strongest ever beer, ever (yes ever).

No Penguins  were harmed in the making of this beer; some humans did get very, very cold though. It was worth it.

The Antarctic name, inducing schizophrenia, of this Ÿber-imperial stout originates from the amount of time it spent exposed to extreme cold. This beer was initially double barrel aged for 14 months; maturing in the deep, rich oak of Scottish whisky casks. After this epic maturation the beer was then frozen, then frozen again, then frozen again.”

Now, for the cool news portion: The Capital Grille once again announced The Generous Pour summer wine event. From June 9th until September 2nd, you can try a specially selected group of wines (9 wines total) for $25. The wines are specially selected by Master Sommelier George Miliotes and include Rose, White, Red and Dessert. The Capital Grille is my favorite steakhouse overall, and we had being enjoying this Generous Pour program for two years in a row (here is the link to the post from 2010). Whether you like steak or not, The Generous Pour program is a great value – take a look at the list of wines and judge for yourself. Don’t know about you, but I’m definitely going.

And for the interesting crazy news, I recently came across of a new product, underwear for wine bottles (I’m not kidding, and today is not April 1st) – this product is called Vinderpants – you can read more at this web site, where it is also sold for $9 a piece! That site also contains a video advertizement for Vinderpants (warning: watching that video might be hazardous to your mental health and it might convert you from the wine lover to the wine hater – there, consider yourself warned). I’m really wondering if any of my readers would be willing to spend $9 on this wonder of wine marketing (this is equal to three or four bottles of two buck chuck, depending on which coast you are going to buy it, people), so I’m looking forward to your comments.

That’s all I have for you for today, folks. Cheers!

 

Three Strikes and … In!

April 30, 2011 1 comment

Very interesting wine ordering experience during the last dinner at The Capital Grille in Paramus, New Jersey. The Capital Grille restaurant itself needs no introduction, of course – whether you like steak or not, every visit there  is a dining experience (you can find my previous excited post here). I have to also acknowledge that part of our great experience during this visit was our waiter, Andre – his service was absolutely impeccable.

Ok, so let’s talk about ordering wine. Wine List at the Capital Grille is quite extensive, plus I’m very particular when it comes to wine ( who would’ve thought?) – and one of the things I’m always looking for for is QPR – I want to find the bottle which will taste good, and will have reasonable cost (have a real problem with paying triple-retail in a restaurant). So after 10 minutes of intense reading I finally decided on Ladera Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 – I like the wine very much (you can find one of the previous posts here), besides, at $58 it is less than double retail – makes me very happy. So I ask for the bottle of Ladera 2006, Andre comes back in a few minutes to inform us that they out of Ladera 2006. He start offering 2007 Cabernets – and of course, 2007 Napa valley Cabernets are lauded all over wine press, however, my experience with 2007s is less than stellar – a lot of them simply not ready yet (do I dare to say that they might be just not?). So I refuse his advice, and ask for Central Otago Pinot Noir, Amisfield 2006 – it is outside of QPR comfort zone at $69, but at least I know it is a good wine. Andrea comes back to inform us that they are out of that wine as well. No problems, I was almost ready for that (a bit surprising – two out), so my next choice was Ernesto Catena Locura 2006 blend from Argentina – I didn’t have that before, but at about $55 it was an interesting wine to try. Well, time to ask questions. Do you think we got that wine?

This time Andrea didn’t even show up. Instead, we were approached by the Sommelier (unfortunately we didn’t catch her name) with the bottle of Ladera 2007 in her hand. So we manage to ask for 3 wines from the wine list, which were not available! Of course it happens that the restaurant doesn’t have the wine you ask for, but 3 of them? Wow, we were impressed with our wine picking ability.

Anyway, after Sommelier assured us that she tried that Ladera 2007 and liked it very much, and moreover, if we don’t like the wine we can send it back – we decided to give a try. Oh boy, that happened to be a very good decision, as the wine was beautiful. Soft layered black and red fruit, just right amount of silky tannins, all perfectly balanced with acidity – that was a perfect wine for our dinner, and I would highly recommend this wine to anyone – it is ready to drink now, but as they say, the California Cabernet need about 13 years to shine – it will be interesting to put a few bottles in the cellar and enjoy them later.

So I’m glad to say that this story has a happy end (sometimes restaurant experience can be quite different). Also, if I can give you an advice, for the actual happy ending of the dinner (meaning: desert), try the Cheesecake – it is literally the heaven on earth, and I have to commend Andre for his recommendation – it is the best desert in the house. Until the next time – wishing you all great restaurant experience. Cheers!

The Capital Grille Experience – Great Wine and Dine

September 1, 2010 12 comments

It is interesting how we experience things in life. Some things just happen, and some are long planned and anticipated, may be for no reason at all (as long as we get the experience we want before we cross the finishing line, we are doing good, right?). Same as Norton grape on my “to try” list for a long time ( see my last post on the subject), The Capital Grille was on “to visit” list also for a while, at least from the moment the restaurant opened in Stamford. So finally this experience came through due to a combination of good circumstances – we had a good reason to visit (our anniversary), The Capital Grille was participating in Stamford Restaurant Week (as the  restaurant is expensive, that makes it a lot more affordable), and The Capital Grille was running Master Wine tasting event, with 11 wines assembled by The Capital Grille’s Master Sommelier George Miliotes (you know by now that wines come first in this blog). So we decided that we have a great opportunity to see where “we wine. we dine” motto of The Capital Grille will take us, and there we went.

What a great experience! (should a declare this post complete?). From food to wine to service we had a great time all the way. Talking about food, Wagyu Beef Carpaccio appetizer had an incredible flavor profile combining razor thin slices of Wagyu beef, Parmesan cheese and fresh arugula. Next, I have to say that nice thing about ordering steak done to your liking is that in addition to the standard scale of rare-medium-well done you can specify something like medium-rare plus, which is more than rare but less that medium – and then it is even better when you get the steak precisely the way you wanted ( yeah, I know, this is what we typically expect – but how often our expectations had not being met?). All four steaks had being done perfectly as requested, and the sides were outstanding (for the personal taste, Roasted Mushrooms had being my favorite).

Now, let’s talk about wine. The Master Event selection included 11 wines from California, Spain and Australia, which in turn consisted of 6 reds, 3 whites, sparkling and a dessert wines. I was pleasantly surprised to see a number of wines from 2003 and even 2002. All the wines were very good, and considering that the price of the Master Wine Tasting event was $25, I believe it presented a great value. As this is mostly a wine blog, let’s take more detailed look at the wines included in the this tasting (I’m going in the actual order of tasting). For what it worth, each wine has a “drinkability” rating attached.

The Chook Sparkling Shiraz, Australia – was not tremendously impressive, medium body dry wine with bubbles 🙂 – Drinkability: 7

Whites:

Penfolds Bin 311, Thumbarumba 2008, Australia – I was recently surprised ( in a good way) with the quality of Penfolds Chardonnays. This particular wine was very nice, with hint of oak and vanilla and pleasant finish. Drinkability: 8-

Cambria  Bench Break Chardonnay 2006, Santa Maria, California – This was one of the two “best of tasting” wines – it had a very noticeable amount of vanilla, butter and toasted oak, but all of it extremely balanced. This wine had great finesse. Drinkability: 8

Botani Muscat 2008, Malaga, Spain – beat all expectations. Incredible aromatics, fresh floral and various citrus fruit notes, great acidity – very nice wine overall. Another “best of tasting” wine. Drinkability: 8

Reds:

Triton Tinta del Toro Tempranillo 2008, Castilla y Leon, Spain – This wine was very dense and very earthy. In general, Toro wines are concentrated – and this one didn’t exhibit even a hint of fruit. I would guess it is either a food only wine, or it needs time (probably both). Drinkability: 7

Avante Mencia 2009, Bierzo, Spain – Mencia makes some of the hottest wines right now. This wine was very interesting, light and fruity, with hint of spicy cedar, with substantial tannins and very, very long finish ( did I mention long finish?). Probably will evolve with age.  Drinkability: 7+

Greg Norman Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2002, Coonawarra, Australia – I have to honestly admit that I’m not a big fan of Greg Norman wines. This wine had a lot of eucalyptus notes and some dark berries, but it did lack an “umph” factor. Drinkability: 7

Greg Norman Reserve Shiraz 2003, Limestone Coast, Australia – same story as a wine before – lots of fruit, but not enough substance. Drinkability: 7

Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon Sycamore Vineyards 2003, Napa Valley, California – interesting wine, a bit all over the place. Has fresh fruit and fresh acidity, soft tannins. Drinkability: 7

Beringer Bancroft Ranch Merlot 2003, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley, California – Best of the red wines. Very good fruit, tannins and acidity which leads to overall good balance. This wine was perfect with the steak. Drinkability: 8-

Dessert:

Jorge Ordonez Muscat of Alexandria Victoria #2 2007, Malaga, Spain – nice dessert wine, has lots of honey, white peach and pear notes, has medium acidity and not enough minerality. This wine perfectly complemented Classic Creme Brulee desert. Drinkability: 7

As usual, here are some pictures:

Waguy Beef Carpaccio:

Dry Aged Steak au Poivre with a Courvoisier Cream Sauce:

Roasted Mushrooms (Portabella, Oyster, Shiitake and Crimini):

And last but not least, Steak Oscar:

As I mentioned before, service was excellent, thanks to Mike Sabini – all the wine and food was showing on time and in proper order.

All in all – there are still few days left in both Master Wine Tasting and Stamford Restaurant Week programs – get up and go, use a good opportunity to experience great wine and food – in the words of Capital Grille, wine and dine.