Friday, January 21, 2011
Maître de Table Hôtelier Attila Gyulai, Operations Director & Executive Chef Jason McLeod
RETURN TO THE ELYSIAN
The newly-minted Michelin Two Star RIA hosted us in January for a most exclusive six-course dinner accompanied by wine from six of the most esteemed artisan producers of cult wines in California who routinely attract collectors, investors and highly enthusiastic consumers. Our first introduction to Ria was in 2009, when our Chapter was among the first to be welcomed at the Elysian. This time, again, we were the first in Chicago to taste new and finely crafted dishes from Executive Chef Jason McLeod. The six-course dinner (five savory and one sweet) were artfully paired with specific small-production wines from the six wineries: Failla Wines, Anomaly Vineyards, Realm Cellars, D.R. Stephens, Chase Family Cellars and Fisher Vineyards.
The idea for bringing such a distinguished group of wine makers to Ria and our event belongs to Dan Pilkey, Ria Restaurant and Wine Director. Dan often worked with Gerich Fellermann, an assistant wine maker from Anomaly Vineyards, at Grand Del Mar Hotel in San Diego. The two met again in Chicago where the idea was born to showcase artisan wineries at Ria during a special event. As a part of the reception, we were able to sample wines from the six wineries, learn about their methods and vintages and anticipate pairings with Chef McLeod’s luscious creations during the dinner which followed.
The first course of lobster, celery root, Meyer lemon and caviar was beautifully paired with an elegant Fisher Vineyard’s, 2008 Chardonnay, “Mt. Estate”. We learned that Fred Fisher started his winery in 1973 high in the Mayacamus Mountains above Napa and Sonoma. Over the years, Fisher has perfected their Merlots and Syrahs to balance power and grace. The Chardonnays from Fisher Vineyard, one of which we were privileged to sample with the first course, consistently receive high marks for their elegance, acidity and strong fruit undertones. We then moved to the foie gras with pistachio, black pepper and brioche. The delicate nature of this exquisite dish was complemented by 2008 Failla Pinot Noir “Occidental Ridge Vineyard” from Sonoma Coast. Failla Wines are produced by a husband-and-wife team of Ehren Jordan and Anne-Marie Failla, whose philosophy is to make wines that they like to drink themselves. We enjoyed it too! The stuffed quail with carrot and turnip mache was complemented by a wonderfully rich and flavorful 1999 D.R. Stephens Cabernet Sauvignon, “Moose Valley Vineyard”, Napa Valley. This wine truly has the hallmark of the best of Cabernet Sauvignon, a long, silky finish with opulent flavors which paired it so beautifully with the stuffed quail we were sampling. The short rib with potato, black truffle and bordelaise, with its richness and strong flavors, was in great company with 2006 Realm Cabernet Sauvignon from “Farella Vineyard”, Napa Valley. This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon comes from a volcanic red-clay site. Driven by the intense minerality of this volcanic site, the wine exhibits Bordeaux-like qualities, which complemented the flavors of this particular course. When we felt that the dinner and wines could not get any better, we were treated to a wonderful dish of venison loin with cipollini onion, rainbow chard and pain d’Epices. The creativity of this course was well matched by 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon from Anomaly in Napa Valley. This winery was started in 1997 by two former attorneys who traded their legal pads for crush pads and call themselves “Accidental Vintners”. Yet, it is no accident that their wines are displaying the most sophisticated characteristics. With Mark Porembski and Gerich Fellermann as their two winemakers, they now produce some of the most sought after vintages. When it came time for scrumptious Tainori chocolate with black cocoa, pomelo and Aperol, Chase Zinfandel Port from Hayne Vineyard, in St. Helena, Napa became a wonderful companion. This is how the winemakers describe this wonderful wine: “Taken from the best port lots of multiple vintages we are proud to bring you this amazing vintage blend. It begins with earthy scents of cedar and tobacco then unfolds to show walnut, plum and baked cherry flavors. Big and chewy, silky tannins with a smoky edge running through and a super long finish with nutty overtones. Nothing better on a cold winter night!” Indeed it was!