Vino, Las Vegas!

Surh Luchtel Wine Dinner in Reno

By Glen Frederiksen

Some of the most enjoyable times I have had while following the wine muse have happened serendipitously. That is to say, there was no real plan involved – the day unfolded in a magical way. Perhaps it was a random stop in an obscure winery off the beaten path, or a bottle of wine I’m not familiar with is recommended by a knowledgeable sommelier…

Or, as in this case, Your Humble Scribe and the missus, AKA The Happy Cooker, stumble into a wine dinner at the Circus Circus Steakhouse in Reno featuring Surh Luchtel wines.

We were in Reno for a three-day respite from the heat of Las Vegas. A seven hour drive through desolate high desert dotted with several ghost towns and barely gasping settlements took us from daily temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit to beautiful highs of 75, with nightly lows into the 40s. Ah, relief!

Naturally, I began looking for things to do. A show here, a foodie restaurant there… Then I noticed that a wine dinner was slated for the last night we were in town. Voila! I signed us up, not knowing what to expect.

We had dined at the Circus Circus Steakhouse before, and found the food quite tasty. Still, you never know what might happen at a wine dinner. The winery, Suhr Luchtel, was from Napa Valley, but I had never heard of it.

However, the Steakhouse Food and Beverage Manager Dave Brody raved about the quality of the wines. I know Dave to be as big a wine lover as I am, so that was good enough for me.

We took our chances, dove in, and had a sublime evening. Did I mention that the feast cost only $75 per person (plus Tax and tip)? That is a pittance in today’s world of wine dinners. They even came around and offered second pours to those of us who were (ahem!) thirsty. And threw in door prize drawing for eight bottles of wine.

Executive Chef Daniel Pfeiffer did a superlative job of matching the four wines served to his five dishes (there was no wine with the dessert course). The pairings were inspired – white fish with red wine? – and we relished every morsel and sip, as did the other 60 or so attendees that night.

Below are the five courses, along with wines paired and my notes about the four wines:

Lobster Minestrone
Maine lobster consommé, spring vegetables, lobster ravioli, and lavash with orange aioli
2010 Surh Luchtel Viognier, Oak Knoll Vineyard, Napa Valley
Aromas and flavors of peach, pear, papaya, and cream, with racy, citric acidity and minerality.
MSRP: $25 (May 2014)
Wine Lines rating: 88

Alaskan Cod, Hong Kong Style
Cod steamed with ponzu sauce and sizzling oil.
2011 Surh Luchtel Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast
Aromas of clove, tea, and black cherry lead to a mouthful of spiced black cherry fruit. On the palate, it is sleek and feminine. The food pairing amplified the flavors and brought out a pleasant earthiness.
MSRP: $30 (May 2014)
Wine Lines rating: 91

Telaggio Eggplant Lasagna
Japanese eggplant, ratatouille vegetables, porcini mushrooms, and telaggio double cream cheese.
2008 Surh Luchtel Mosaic Red Blend, Napa Valley
This red sports a pretty nose full of spiced black fruits, vanilla, and a flowery perfume. It is integrated and smooth; nicely balanced. Some dusty minerality shows up mid-palate. A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec.
MSRP: $28 (May 2014)
Wine Lines rating: 90

Lamb Chops Dijonaise
Lamb chops served with smoked gouda potato gratin, baby turnips, and a mint demi-glaze.
2008 Surh Luchtel Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Great volcanic minerality in the nose is followed by vanilla, dark flowers, ample dark fruit, and a kiss of fennel. It’s lush and plush in the mouth, with fine-grained tannins. An outstanding match with the lamb dish.
MSRP: $40 (May 2014)
Wine Lines rating: 91

Dessert
Poached peach sabayon with pistachio ice cream.

You may have noticed the high scores and miniscule (for Napa Valley) prices on these wines. These are excellent values. Unfortunately, since so few cases are produced, these wines tend to sell out quickly. For more info about this boutique winery, check out their website, or give them a call:

Surh Luchtel Cellars
P.O. Box 2486
Napa, CA 94558
(800) 810-WINE
http://www.surhluchtel.com/

For more info on the monthly wine dinners at the Steakhouse in Circus Circus, check out their website:
http://circusreno.com/restaurants/thesteakhouseatcircus.aspx

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Marche Bacchus Wine Dinner: Husic Vineyards

Frank Husic discusses his wines with the gathered diners

Frank Husic discusses his wines with the gathered diners

By Glen Frederiksen

One of my favorite things about being a wino and a foodie is that there are always unsavored pleasures awaiting discovery. What better way to experience new gustatory and enological flavors than attending a food and wine pairing dinner. And in Las Vegas, the best and most interesting wine dinners are regularly at Marche Bacchus French Bistro and gourmet wine shop.

On May 8, 2014, over 100 fellow food and wine explorers gathered at Marche Bacchus to enjoy a four course meal prepared by Chef Alex Stratta paired with four wines from Husic Vineyards, a much-acclaimed Napa Valley winery.

Husic Wines, ready to pour

Husic Wines, ready to pour

To be honest, Husic Vineyards is not a winery that I was familiar with. But, as it is located in the middle of prime hillside Stags Leap District land, Husic certainly has the pedigree to make outstanding wines. Coupled with Marche Bacchus owner Jeff Wyatt’s gushing recommendation, I had high expectations for the evening.

I was not disappointed!

Winery owners Frank and Julie Husic

Winery owners Frank and Julie Husic

First, a bit of history about Husic Vineyards… The winery and vineyard was founded in 1995, when Frank and Julie Husic purchased a tract of undeveloped hillside land rising to 1000 feet above the Napa Valley floor, right in the middle of the Stags Leap District on the east side of the valley. At the time, regulations were in the works to limit steep hillside plantings – Husic vineyards was among the last to plant on a 45 degree slope. While such a vineyard is costly to establish (and extremely difficult to harvest), the hillside plantings provide additional stress to the vines that results in very concentrated, full-bodied reds.

The 2001 Husic Estate Cabernet Sauvignon was hailed throughout the wine world. In a blind tasting with a dozen cult favorites including Screaming Eagle and Harlan, the Husic Cab came in second behind a favorite of mine, the 2001 Pride Mountain Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Husics have outstanding support in making their wines, employing Jim Barbour as their vineyardist and Michael Hirby as their winemaker.

Since 2005, Husic has expanded its portfolio of wines to include a Chardonnay made from famed Dutton Ranch fruit grown in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County and a Pinot Noir sourced from rare vineyards on the Sonoma Coast.

Their flagship wine remains the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, produced from the three vineyard sites on their property. It epitomizes the saying about the best Stags Leap District Cabs, clearly presenting as “an iron fist in a velvet glove.” At once powerful and softly smooth, it is a red that can be enjoyed in its youth or cellared for a decade or more to develop secondary aromatic characteristics and greater complexity.

Chef Alex Stratta hit a Gland Slam with his savory food pairings, bringing home all four dishes with the wines served.

Below is the menu for the event. It is followed, in order, with the wines that were paired with each course.

First Course
Crab and Parsnip Ravioli with Lobster Butter Sauce, served with Savoy Cabbage, Tarragon, and Wild Mushrooms

Second Course
Red Snapper with Red Wine Reduction, served with Roasted Vegetable Relish, Currants, and Pine Nuts

Third Course
Tenderloin of Beef, served with Truffled Port Wine Reduction and Potato “Gratin”

Fourth Course
Chef’s Cheese Selection, with Bread Crisp and Candied Fruit and Nuts

Wine Reviews:

2012 Husic Chardonnay, Dutton Ranch, Russian River Valley
Straw color with light cloudiness from minimal fining and filtering. The wine opens up with an enticing nose full of ripe pear, peach, and tropical fruit, baking spices, and creamy butter. A palate-coating mouthful of wine, it also shows some wet stone minerality and a thread of citrus acidity that keeps it bright and focused. The finish lingers on.
MSRP: $45 (May 2014)
Wine Lines rating: 93

2012 Husic Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast
A nearly opaque dark ruby hue. Effusive aromas of sweet black cherry, light notes of orange, vanilla, and baking spices lead to rich flavors of extracted black cherry, a whisp of fennel, and strawberry compote. Purely California Pinot, and thoroughly seductive and hedonistic.
MSRP: $55 (May 2014)
Wine Lines rating: 92

2010 Husic Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap, Napa Valley
Glass-staining opaque purple/black color. There are oodles of black currant/cassis fruit up front, accented nicely by pencil shavings, sweet tobacco, and herb notes. This is a style of Cabernet Sauvignon that Bordeaux winemakers dream about producing in the very best vintages. It coats the palate with sweet fruit and wood notes, with very fine-grained, rounded tannins that do not detract in its youth. This is outstanding now, and should only improve and gain complexity over the next 15 to 20 years. It went perfectly with filet mignon.
MSRP: $110 (May 2014)
Wine Lines rating: 95

2010 Husic Cabernet Sauvignon ‘Palm Terrace,’ Stags Leap, Napa Valley
Not made every year, this is additional juice left over from the assembly of the Estate bottling. A glass-staining opaque purple/black color. It shows the same abundance of cassis and black berry fruit, with perhaps a bit less laser-sharp focus. It would be a mistake to dismiss this bottling, as it easily could hold its own (and more) with most Napa Valley Cabs. It paired perfectly with the cheese selection course, especially the blue cheese and the aged chedder.
MSRP: $60 (May 2014)
Wine Lines rating: 92

For more information about Husic Vineyards and to order wines, use this contact information:

Husic Vineyards
189 Ridge Drive
Napa Valley, CA 94558
(707) 812-4909
http://www.husicvineyards.com/

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2012 Cambria Chardonnay, Katherine’s Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley

Brilliant straw color. Wood notes of smoke, vanilla, and toast frame bright pineapple, stone fruit, green apple, and sweet lemon. The wine is medium-full in the mouth, where the sweet fruit takes on a creamy texture. While a delight to drink now on its own, it has the crisp acid balance to pair nicely with tempura shrimp or squid served with a nori, garlic, and miso aioli. (Note to those in Las Vegas: during April, 2014, this wine is being featured at the fine dining establishments of South Point Casino for a ridiculously low price)
MSRP: $22 (April 2014)
Wine Lines rating: 89

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Chada Thai: Impeccable

By Mary Frederiksen, AKA The Happy Cooker

According to the urban dictionary, “chada” refers to someone who is a friend to anyone he meets, tends to keep to himself a little bit, and is generally a good person. I am not sure if this is why the CHADA THAI RESTAURANT is so named, but I will find out on my next visit there. And we will be going to this dining establishment many more times.

Chada Thai and Wine

Chada Thai and Wine

Why? Because it is some of the best Thai food we have savored in a long time. We read about this Asian bistro, established two years ago, in the local publications. It received rave reviews. Now we know why.

The chef and sommelier is Bank Atcharawan. Atcharawan was named a Sommelier of The Year in 2013. Prior to opening his CHADA THAI RESTAURANT, he ran the best German Reisling-based wine program in the country (at Las Vegas’s LOTUS OF SIAM). His wine list at Chada, though much smaller, reflects this knowledge and expertise.

 While the food is outstanding, wine lovers flock to Chada Thai

While the food is outstanding, wine lovers flock to Chada Thai

We started our meal with the Tom Yum Goong soup. The flavors “popped!” The shrimp was fresh, the vegetables tender and the broth contained a perfect balance of the classic Thai flavors without the annoyance of non-edible bits of lemongrass and galanga.

Next, we ordered Masaman Curry with chicken. Only white meat chicken was used with perfectly cooked potatoes, onion and peanuts all enrobed in a rich, thick sauce. I wanted to lick the bowl clean but showed some class by eating every bit with the rice instead.

Panang Beef Curry was our next dish. It had an intriguing combination of sweetness and richness. The meat was perfectly tender and, again, the gravy was thick and rich.

As a side dish, we tried the Thai classic, Cucumber salad. The portion size was very generous. The cucumber, red onion, red pepper and cilantro were in perfect balance with the right amount of acid tang and sugar sweetness serving as a palate cooler to offset the spiciness of the main dishes.

Our final selection was Drunken Noodles Pork. It had an intriguing smokey flavor and was presented on a bed of steamed romaine lettuce. The pork was melt-in-your-mouth tender, with red and green bell peppers and Thai basil all in a rich sauce. Stuffed from the other dishes, we had a bit of this dish left over to enjoy at home the next day.

During the meal, we enjoyed a half bottle of 1998 GK Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Riesling-Auslese. Oh My! The wine was the perfect match to Thai food. A staff recommendation, it is one of my all-time favorite Rieslings. Hubby Glen noted that this wine was at its peak with vibrant acidity, showing honeyed pear and apple fruit aromas with spice components. Once in the mouth, it had a creme brûlée overlay that coated the palate and lingered at the finish. Wine Lines rating: 96. Glen let me consume the larger portion of the 375 ml. bottle. What a generous man he is. This is now my new favorite wine!

CHADA THAI is a restaurant that is not to be missed in Las Vegas. This 40-seat venue is beautiful decorated with framed wine labels and a wall of wine display. They are open everyday from 5 p.m. until 3 a.m. I recommend reservations – it was crowded on a Monday night.

CHADA THAI restaurant
3400 S. Jones Blvd. #11A,
Las Vegas, NV 89146.
Phone: 702-641-1345.
Their web site is http://www.chadavegas.com

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Clos du Val Wine Dinner at Marche Bacchus

By Glen Frederiksen

A quarter of a century ago, when I was just beginning my journey in the world of wine, I would spend many a long weekend traveling the roads of Napa and Sonoma counties, sopping up as many new wine experiences as my liver could tolerate. While the initial trips would find me on the tourist roads of Highway 29 in Napa and California State Route 12 on the Sonoma side, I later found even greater satisfaction on the less traveled routes.

Along Napa’s Silverado Trail, which hugs the eastern mountain ranges that cradle the fertile valley, I found dozens of estates producing what, in my mind, were the best examples of red and white the area had to offer. One of the icons of the area, Clos du Val winery, was unique in style – while most Napa wineries were aiming for a bigger, fruitier, more alcoholic style of wine, the French sensibility of Clos du Val’s winemaker and founder, Bernard Portet, was expressed in a leaner, more balanced style reminiscent of Old World technique. This was no surprise – Portet is a seventh generation winemaker from the Bordeaux region.

Clos du Val was established in 1972, and this year is celebrating the 40th anniversary of its initial wine releases. A wine dinner featuring their wines sounded right up my alley.

Clos du Val Wine Dinner Menu

Clos du Val Wine Dinner Menu

I have to admit, when Marche Bacchus announced the menu and wine pairings for their dinner on January 21, 2014, I felt a little like George Takei as I read down the list. Five courses of outstanding food dishes, prepared by Master Chef Alex Stratta were paired with seven wines from Clos du Val. Some of the Cabernets chosen were nearly 40 years old! This is not something normally found at a wine dinner priced considerably under $100 a person – many venues would charge double that. Many thanks to Marche Bacchus owners Jeff and Rhonda Wyatt for providing such a quality event at a fraction of the going rate.

Clos du Val winemaker Kristy Melton with John Smith

Clos du Val winemaker Kristy Melton with John Smith

On hand to introduce the wines and talk about Clos du Val was the current Winemaker, Kristy Melton. An amiable, self-described science geek, she was working as a research scientist at the National Institute for Health in 2004 when the Wine Muse called to her during a visit to Napa Valley. A year later, she was enrolled at UC Davis, receiving her MS in Viticulture and Enology in 2007. After work at several high-profile wineries, she landed the job of Assistant Winemaker in 2010 at Clos du Val. Just two years later, in 2012, she was promoted to winemaker, the first female in 40 years to hold the position at Clos du Val.

Master Chef Alex Stratta

Master Chef Alex Stratta

As per usual at recent events, John Smith, Wine Educator and representative of Wirtz Beverage Nevada, was on hand to emcee the festivities for the raucous crowd of 100. I will let wife Mary, AKA The Happy Cooker, discuss the fabulous cuisine.

Mary here. We have always loved the food at Marche Bacchus. When we dined there for the Clos du Val dinner we couldn’t believe our taste buds that the food was even better. That is probably because Alex Stratta was in the kitchen doing his magic. The appetizers of tuna tartar and prosciutto wrapped salsify were delicious and paired very well with the Sauvignon Blanc.

The next course of chilled crab salad with tropical fruits was refreshing, with the carrot ginger sauce being the star. I could have gone swimming in a large container of this delicacy and would have been a very happy eater!

That dish was followed by a red wine braised duck with porcini risotto. The duck melted in my mouth and the risotto was light and flavorful.

My favorite main dish was next and was exceptionally good. It was braised beef cheeks with lentils and black kale in a Cabernet reduction. The meat could have been eaten with a spoon. Its tenderness was like nothing I had consumed in my many years of dining. The flavors were so rich…a true culinary masterpiece.

As I was savoring the dessert dish, I made the comment that I could be buried in this pudding! Glen reported that this was the best dessert he had ever consumed. He usually leaves some of his dessert for me, but alas, at this dinner that was not the case!

As I am sure writers have penned before me, Chef Alex hit this dinner menu into the STRATTA-SPHERE!

Do not hesitate to dine at Marche Bacchus. It may well be one the best meals you enjoy on this planet.

Thank you to Alex and his staff for making this evening one to remember.

Beef Cheeks with Lentils

Beef Cheeks with Lentils

Braised Duck

Braised Duck

Below, my notes on the wines served with dinner:

2012 Clos du Val Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley
This is a classic older style of Sauvignon Blanc, understated and lovely. Scents of syrupy pineapple and other tropical fruit mix with herbs and sweet hay. The wine in the mouth strikes a nice balance between the citrus and tropical fruit, a round minerality, and a vibrant acidity. A sweet fruit impression lingers at the finish.
Marche Bacchus Price: $26.99 (January 2014)
Wine Lines rating: 90

2011 Clos du Val Chardonnay, Napa Valley
Deep golden straw in color. Some smoky French Oak and butter frames ample honeyed apples and pineapple fruit with a note of citrus. Medium-full in body, with good acidity, the fruit follows through to the moderate finish, echoing spiced fruit and butter.
Marche Bacchus Price: $26.99 (January 2014)
Wine Lines rating: 87

1975 Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Who says that Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon doesn’t age? At a stately 38 years post-vintage, this remarkable red still shows deep color. The nose is enticing, throwing an array of cedar, mushroom, tobacco, and still noticeable cranberry fruit. After mid-palate, some tannic grip is still evident. This wine compares favorably to most of the Grand Cru Bordeaux from the decade of the 70s.
Marche Bacchus Price: $112.99 (January 2014)
Wine Lines rating: 90

1993 Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Nearly opaque red ruby color. Scents of dark flowers, cassis, blackberries, clove, and nutmeg waft from the glass. In the mouth, it is light, almost delicate. The spiced berry flavors meld seamlessly with wood and light herbal notes. This red is fully mature and ready to drink now.
Marche Bacchus Price: $85.99 (January 2014)
Wine Lines rating: 88

1996 Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Forward aromas of coffee, cardamom, cedar, and light green notes lead to moderate dark fruits. This red is reminiscent of Grand Cru Bordeaux from a good but cooler year. It paired perfectly with the braised beef cheeks entrée.
Marche Bacchus Price: $85.99 (January 2014)
Wine Lines rating: 89

2010 Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Deep, opaque, purple/black hue. Still showing baby fat in the nose, it offers up tiers of mint, toasted oak, briary black and red fruits, a note of leather, and a pinch of black pepper. Remarkably supple and approachable in its youth.
Marche Bacchus Price: $30.99 (January 2014)
Wine Lines rating: 89

2009 Clos du Val JG’s Joie Du Vin Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
A special reserve-style Cabernet Sauvignon that showcases the fruit from the home vineyards of Clos du Val. This is classic extracted Napa Cab. One glance at the impenetrable, glass-staining deep purple color and you know this is something special. Abundant fruit aromas of thick blackberry and Christmas fruits mingle with cedar, mint, dark chocolate and roast coffee. Mouth coating, it delivers rich flavors of blackberry cream. The tannins are small-grained and firm, suggesting a long cellar life. It is already throwing a significant amount of sediment, so decant it if you wish to enjoy it in the near future.
Marche Bacchus Price: $434.99/magnum (January 2014)
Wine Lines rating: 95

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Another visit to Michael’s at South Point

By Mary Frederiksen, AKA The Happy Cooker

Earlier this month to celebrate my birthday, Glen made reservations for us at MICHAEL’S. I have written many
reviews of this wonderful dining establishment and am very pleased to say that they are still doing all the right
things to make any dining experience there a memorable one.

In Las Vegas, we have seen many high end, off strip restaurants close due to the economy, but Michael’s has only
gotten better. When we dined this time, the welcome veggie tray was more refined with all the items fresh, tasty and
inviting. From the quail eggs to the dill marinated cauliflower, we enjoyed them all.

The Chateaubriand for Two remains our favorite dish and it was superb!

The dessert for my birthday was a delectable French Chocolate Mousse cake that melted in my mouth and
I fear went right to my hips. Ahhhhh, but what a way to go!

If you are in Las Vegas and are wanting an old style, high end, great service dining experience, try MICHAEL’S
at the South Point Hotel and Casino. You will not be disappointed.

http://www.southpointcasino.com/dining/michaels.php

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Update: 2 Luncheons and 18 Wines at Las Vegas’ Best Off-the-Strip Restaurant

Marché Bacchus is, in our opinion, the finest non-Strip restaurant in Las Vegas. And if we were to put together a “Top 10 Las Vegas Restaurants” list, it would include Marché Bacchus. That’s saying something in a city that has attracted celebrity chefs from across the country, and has become one of America’s culinary capitals.

We’ve sung the praises of Jeff and Rhonda Wyatt’s combination restaurant/wine bar/wine shop in the past, so check out this blog for more information. Today, we provide a quick report on the restaurant’s two most recent wine luncheons. Here are the menus and our wine ratings…

JOHN’S THANKSGIVING WINE SELECTIONS
(November 23, 2013)

• First Course — Lyonnaisee Salad
• Second Course — Daube de Boeuf or Chicken Fricasse
• Dessert — Chocolate Mousse Trio
• NV Taittiner ‘Brut La Francaise’ Champagne ($45.99) — 89
• 2011 Pierre Sparr Pinot Gris, Alsace ($18.99) — 90
• 2011 Ehlers Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley ($31.99) — 88
• 2011 A.J. Adam Dhron Hofberg Kabinett Riesling, Germany ($36.99) — 87
• 2011 Leitz Rudesheimer Magdalennekteutz Spatlese Riesling, Germany ($25.99) — 88
• 2012 Inman Family Wines “Endless Crush” Rosé of Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley ($19.99) — 91
• 2012 Dutton Goldfield “Dutton Ranch” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley ($35.99) — 90
• 2011 Pierre Usseglio Chateauneuf-du-Pape, France ($56.99) — 88
• 2009 Nelms Road (Woodward Canyon) Merlot, Washington ($27.99) — 89
• 2011 Martinelli “Guiseppe and Luisa” Zinfandel, Russian River Valley ($66.99) — 88
• NV Caposaldo Sweet Sparkling Moscato, Italy ($15.99) — 92

JOHN M. SMITH HOLIDAY WINE SOIREE
(December 21, 2013)

• First Course — Lobster Bisque
• Second Course — Roasted Salmon or Pork Tenderloin
• Dessert — Cheese Cake Mousse With Raspberry Sauce
• NV Ca’ del Bosco “Cuvee Prestige,” Franciacorta, Bresia, Italy ($32.99) — 91
• NV Poema Cava Brut, Cataluna, Spain ($14.99) — 87
• NV Domaine Baumard “Carte Turquoise” Cremant de Loire, France ($21.99) — 82
• NV Domaine Carneros Brut, Carneros ($31.99) — 90
• NV Champagne Taittinger Brut “La Francaise,” France ($45.99) — 89
• NV Champagne Duval-Leroy Brut, France ($39.99) — 92
• 2005 Champagne Ayala Blanc de Blancs, France ($95.99) — 92
• 2011 Marenco “Pineto” Brachetto d’Acqui, Italy ($27.99) — 90

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Marché Bacchus: Raising the (Wine) Bar in Las Vegas

By Glen Frederiksen

I have written in the past about the fabulous food at Marché Bacchus restaurant and wine shop. Since the demise of Rosemary’s restaurant, it is (in Your Humble Scribe’s opinion) the most exciting food one can find in our fair city that is not on the Strip.

Owners Jeff and Rhonda Wyatt are certifiable wine nuts and foodies, dedicated to providing the best wining and dining experience at prices that won’t break the bank.

For years, they have hosted a free wine tasting every Saturday afternoon. Five or six wines are poured gratis to all who wander through the door. These aren’t cheesy $10 wines, either, like the ones you’ll taste at many other venues that offer free wine samples. They are world-class wines, chosen because they have impressed the Wyatts. I find the tasting, followed by a sumptuous lunch, is a nice excuse to make the 20 mile drive to Marché Bacchus from my Southwest home.

They already have the best free wine tasting going in Las Vegas… What do you do to raise the bar even higher?

Why, you double the number of wines to ten, include a three-course meal with it, and bring in a veteran wine educator to present the wines. And that is just what they have done.

The inaugural event was yesterday, November 2, 2013. Your Humble Scribe and wife The Happy Cooker were among 40 who plunked down $29.99 to enjoy a spot-on perfect two hour lunch and wine tasting.

The title of the event was “John’s Most Interesting Wine Discoveries of 2013.” Pouring the wines and leading the discussion as he went table to table was John Matthew Smith, a much-credentialed sommelier and wine educator. Over a four decade span, Smith has toured the wine world, tasting and teaching along the way. Few have his breadth and depth of knowledge, wine-wise. Now working for Wirtz Beverage, Nevada, he put together an eclectic, Eurocentric line-up that was outstanding. With each wine he poured, Smith would give the history of the winery and the region it was from, giving context to each wine tasted.

As you will see from my notes further down the page, these were an impressive bunch of wines.

Equally impressive was the three-course lunch served with them. It began with a flavorful Caesar salad with poached shrimp. The main course was a choice between pan seared Ora king salmon or roasted chicken. I’m not a salmon fan, but this was the best I’ve ever had. The Happy Cooker was equally pleased by her chicken entrée. The repast finished with a chocolate mousse trio.

The lunch was prepared by celebrated Executive Chef David Middleton. With Master Chef Alex Stratta, Middleton created the dishes on the regular menu at Marché Bacchus.

I only have one note of criticism about the event for owners Jeff and Rhonda – what are you, nuts? The price of the lunch is a steal at $29.99. Throw in the ten wines, and it is a no-brainer. Every wino and foodie is going to be ringing your phone off the hook, making reservations for the next event! By the way, the next event is November 23, and John Smith will be presenting Ten Fun Wines for Thanksgiving. I’ve already made my reservation. Don’t be left out.

Now, on to my wine tasting notes:

NV Ayala Rosé Brut Majeur, Champagne
This historic Champagne house began over 150 years ago. Purchased by the Bollinger group in 2005, it has returned to its rightful place as one of the original Grandes Marques de Champagne. Pale salmon color, with a fine mousse. Aromas and flavors of red apple, red cherry, citrus, and a clean minerality. Light and lithe, with a burst upon the palate. Lovely.
Marché Bacchus Price: $56.99 (November 2013)
Wine Lines rating: 91

2011 Pierre Sparr Riesling, Alsace, France
The Alsace region of France is well-known for their unctuous dry white wines. This one is a typical entry level Riesling from the area. Light straw color. Woodsy scents accent steely apple fruit with a thread of minerality. The fruit comes forward in the mouth, with a rounded, lingering finish.
Marché Bacchus Price: $17.99 (November 2013)
Wine Lines rating: 86

2009 Domaine Baumard Savennieres, France
This is a Chenin Blanc wine from the Loire region. The Baumard family has been producing wine there for nearly four centuries. Pale straw color. Warm woodspice aromas frame minerally fruits. Clean and rounded in the mouth, showing flavors of crisp apple. Good mouthfeel; nicely structured.
Marché Bacchus Price: $23.99 (November 2013)
Wine Lines rating: 88

2009 Domaine Laroche Chablis Premier Cru ‘Vaudevey,’ France
This is a top-notch estate in the Burgundy region of France. The medium straw color is a tad darker than some Chablis, portending a deeper concentration to the wine. It delivers on this promise, sporting lightly honeyed apple and stone fruits. It blossoms in the mouth, spreading across the palate. This is a rounder style of Chablis, more akin to New World Chardonnay, and should be well-received around the world.
Marché Bacchus Price: $41.99 (November 2013)
Wine Lines rating: 89

2010 Chateau de France Blanc, Pessac-Léognan, France
This is a Bordeaux white from the Graves region. Clear straw color. Intriguing perfumes of sun-dappled fruit lead to warm fruit flavors in the mouth. Nicely knit structure, finishing with a kiss of rounded vanilla. Charming.
Marché Bacchus Price: $42.99 (November 2013)
Wine Lines rating: 90

2012 Xavier Flouret Nationale 7, Rosé de Provence, France
Rosé-style wines are the specialty in the Provence region to the south of France. This bottling has been receiving world acclaim, and I can see why. The color is a pale, bronzed salmon. The nose is thoroughly seductive, showing delicate perfumes of dried cherry and other stone fruits. Fully dry in the mouth, yet it delivers clean fruit impressions through to the finish. Refined and beguiling.
Marché Bacchus Price: $19.99 (November 2013)
Wine Lines rating: 91

2009 Chateau de Malengin Montagne St. Emilion, France
This Bordeaux red is primarily Merlot, with Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. It is a translucent ruby color. The nose is a mish-mash of high-toned herbs, dark flowers, cranberry, cherry, and cassis. It’s medium-bodied and smooth, with rounded, integrated tannins. The 20% Cab Franc seems to dominate the aromatics.
Marché Bacchus Price: $22.99 (November 2013)
Wine Lines rating: 88

2009 E. Guigal Gigondas, France
This Rhone beauty is quite flashy. Translucent dark ruby color. Flowery, spicy aromas waft from the glass, followed by fleshy cherry fruit. Medium in body, already smooth enough to enjoy now, it finishes with a dash of pepper.
Marché Bacchus Price: $32.99 (November 2013)
Wine Lines rating: 90

2011 Reuling Vineyard Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast
Grown in the Russian River Valley, these grapes in the past went into bottlings by superstar wineries Aubert and Peter Michael. Grapegrower Tim Reuling decided to produce his own wine, with stunning results. The wine is a translucent light ruby color. Right out of the glass, the wine seduces, delivering perfumed aromas of fresh flowers, cherry, and light pie spice aromas. Very refined and feminine, more like the finest Burgundy, rather than the typical California Pinot Noir that is extracted and Syrah-like. It gets better with each sip. All I can say is “Wow!”
Marché Bacchus Price: $75.99 (November 2013)
Wine Lines rating: 94

NV Duval-Leroy ‘Lady Rose’ Sec, Champagne
We began this wine expedition with a fine Champagne, and now come full circle to end with a lightly sweet Sec. This sparkler is produced from 100% Pinot Noir grapes grown in the Premier Cru of Vertus. It is made by the traditional saignee method of bleeding off juice that has had minimal contact with the skins. Bronzed orange in color. The sweet nose delivers roasted nuts, candied orange, and a sense of white chocolate. The effervescence in the mouth keeps it clean, not cloying. Well-made, but perhaps not to everyone’s taste.
Marché Bacchus Price: $33.99/375ml (November 2013)
Wine Lines rating: 89

Marché Bacchus is located at:
2620 Regatta Drive, Suite #106
Las Vegas, NV 89128
(702) 804-8008

To make reservations for coming events, get on their email list, peruse their menu, or otherwise contact Marché Bacchus, click on the link below:

http://www.marchebacchus.com/

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Caymus Vineyards: Revisiting an Old Friend

By Glen Frederiksen

Attending the “simulcast” of the Wagner Family of Wines (mostly) 2011 vintage release event brought back a flood of memories for me. As I have chronicled, 1983 was the year of my wine epiphany. In the five years that followed, I attended countless wine tasting events, took wine classes, read dozens of books on wine, and joined several wine societies.

In the late 1980s, I felt knowledgeable enough to begin seeking out high-end wine events.

The first $100 wine dinner I attended was in Orange County, California, and was to celebrate the success of the much-heralded 1985 Cabernet Sauvignon vintage in California. Described as a salute to the “First Growths” of Napa Valley, the wines included the Caymus Special Select Cabernet Sauvignon. Others, as I recall, included the Groth Reserve, the Stag’s Leap Reserve, and the Beringer Private Reserve. My memory of the last wine is a bit fuzzy. It may have been the Heitz Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.

What made that night special for me was that, in the previous vintage, the 1984 Caymus Special Select had been named the Wine of the Year by Wine Spectator magazine. The wine had been wonderfully ripe and opulent, with trademark cassis purity in the nose and on the palate.

As good as the 1984 Caymus SS was, the 1985 bottling I tasted that night was just as impressive.

Just a few years later, in 1994, the 1990 Caymus Special Select was again announced as Wine Spectator’s Wine of the Year, the first (and only) time the same bottling from a winery has achieved the honor.

Through the years, I have tasted any number of wines produced at Caymus Vineyards. They were uniformly of high quality and quite tasty.

Besides Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon, the Wagner Family produces Mer Soleil Chardonnay from the Santa Lucia Highlands of Monterey County, Belle Glos Pinot Noir from the same region, and Conundrum, a white wine blend produced under the Caymus label.

On Saturday, June 29, I was in attendance (along with a few dozen others) at a showing and tasting of several Wagner Family wines at the Summerlin Total Wine store. Wagner patriarch Chuck Wagner led a tasting and discussion that was “simulcast” to 61 Total Wine stores throughout the United States.

We learned that the Wagner family has deep roots in the viticultural history of Napa Valley. Family members first arrived there in 1857, quickly purchased land, and planted their first crops in 1858. The first Wagner winery started production in 1915 — just in time to be shut down by the nationwide Prohibition enacted in 1919.

The present-day Caymus winery had its first Cabernet Sauvignon release from the 1972 vintage, then struck gold and public acclaim with the release of the 1973 bottling. The price was $4.50 a bottle. Then-patriarch Charlie Wagner famously said that he didn’t see why a top-notch bottle of Cabernet should ever cost more than that; little did he know how fame (and price increases) would come in just a few years.

All together, those in attendance at Total Wine sampled five wines from the Wagner Family portfolio. Here are links to those wine reviews:

2011 Caymus Conundrum, White Wine, California

2011 Mer Soleil ‘Silver’ Unoaked Chardonnay, Santa Lucia Highlands

2012 Meiomi Pinot Noir, California

2011 Belle Glos ‘Las Alturas’ Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands

2011 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

To find out more about Wagner Family wines, visit their website here.

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The Wagner Legacy Continues: Caymus and Beyond

By Glen Frederiksen

Fellow Las Vegas winos, there is a treat for you coming to town.

I have written in the past that the opening of (now two) Total Wine stores in the greater Las Vegas area has helped step up the retail wine game in our fair city. One of the things that Total Wine does is put on weekly wine tastings free to the public, as well as (for a fee) special wine classes and reservation-only special tastings featuring iconic producers and distributors.

On Saturday, June 29 at 12:00pm PT (3:00pm ET), Chuck Wagner, Owner and Winemaker of Caymus Vineyards will hold an exclusive live-via-webcast guided tasting of his newest release, the 2011 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. This exclusive webcast will happen simultaneously at 53 Total Wine & More stores around the United States. Here in Las Vegas, it will be held at the Summerlin store at 730 S. Rampart Blvd., Las Vegas. The telephone number is: (702) 933-8740.

The webcast will be followed by a tasting of other Wagner Family of Wine selections, including Conundrum California White Wine, Mer Soleil Silver Unoaked Chardonnay, Meiomi Pinot Nor, and Belle Glos “Las Alturas” Pinot Noir.

There is a fee to attend, but this is one of the early pioneers of California Cabernet from Napa Valley that made the world take notice. To find out more about this event and to sign up, go to this website:
http://caymuslivevegas-es2.eventbrite.com/Wagner Family of Wine

Hope to see you there!

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