March 26, 2014

Smoky wine dinner

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I'll say this again: I'm not a big steak guy.  I can appreciate a great piece of meat, but it's not something I crave.  However, I understand that many people love steak - especially together with wine - so I have had my fair share of steak and wine dinners.  Tonight was such an occasion.

David from Zachys periodically organizes small wine dinners to benefit Pebbles Project, a South African charity helping disadvantaged children with conditions such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.  I missed one such dinner last year whose theme was old Californians, and when I received the email about a dinner featuring wines from Sine Qua Non, I replied immediately.

The venue tonight was the Butcher's Club.  I had never been here before, but I did attend their Steak Rebellion pop-up at their invitation earlier this month.  I must admit that the steak was good, along with some of the other side dishes.  But in reality the real draw tonight was the opportunity to taste 12 different wines from the Sine Qua Non stable.

We started with some raw seafood, including marinated giant Cloudy Bay storm clams and Korean oysters, which tasted a little metallic, and pretty full-bodied.

There was also some scallop carpaccio with truffle oil.

I passed on the Pacific island style southern bluefin tuna poke, since I - with very few exceptions, such as my dinner at Sukiyabashi Jiro - don't eat bluefin tuna.  I'm sure my fellow diners didn't mind taking up my share.

Spiced rubbed and grilled Spencer Gulf jumbo king prawns - with bay leaves and served with horseradish crème fraîche.  Pretty nice.

Big iron pots of classic steamed black shell mussels in Chablis, butter, EVOO, purple garlic and lots of fresh herbs - the Canadian mussels are not bad, but mussels are not my thing.

Freshly baked pull-apart bread basted with beef drippings and dusted with dry aged beef salt - yummy.

David had picked out a slab of meat in advance and asked them to age it a little more than usual.  The Stockyard Farms ribeye had been dry-aged for 90 days, so we had pretty high expectations.

Beef carpaccio - we were served slices of the beef as is, without cooking.  Very tasty.

The beef was beautiful.  While everyone else went for a piece of the meat, I decided to reach out and grab a bone.  To me, it is always the part with the most flavor.  I just grabbed it with both hands and started gnawing on it like the dog that I am.  Sooooo tasty!  Others quickly realized their mistake and ended up going for the other bones, too.  I did, of course, end up having a few slices in addition to the bone.

Cooked thrice in duck fat hand cut steakhouse fries - BURP.

Of course there was also a big bowl of organic garden leaves with balsamic vinaigrette, and I made sure I got some greens to balance things out a little.  Emphasis on a little...

I didn't have much cheese, and since I'd already tried out the New York cheese cake a few weeks ago, I went for the Key lime pie instead.  Love the acidity, and this was very soft and fluffy.

I was pretty happy with the food in general, but unfortunately, this turned out to be one of the most disappointing dinners I've attended.  The reason?

The minute I arrived and stepped through the doors to the space, my heart sank.  This was a space with an open kitchen, and my nostrils were flooded with the overpowering smell of the spices used to age the beef.  Even before the beef was cooked, I knew I wouldn't be able to smell any of the wines tonight.  This was simply the wrong venue for a wine dinner, because the ventilation here was much too weak.

I must confess that I was livid, and pinged the friend responsible for the PR here.  After letting him know of the situation, it became obvious that efforts were made to ventilate the premises a little better, and I could feel a stronger draft for the rest of the evening.  Unfortunately the situation did not improve enough to clear the air.

I realize that most of the patrons who come to the Butcher's Club are here for the beef, and would therefore love to be surrounded by the smell of it.  Had this not been a wine dinner, I would have really loved the smell, too.  Unfortunately, this was a serious wine dinner - at least for me.  Of the not-insignificant sum of money I paid to attend this dinner, I would say that at least two-thirds went towards the cost of the wine... maybe up to three-quarters.  So you see, I came for the wines, not the beef.  And for me not to be able to smell the wines was simply too devastating.

Nothing against the Butcher's Club, but for any wine lover who thinks it would be perfect to pair the delicious beef with their prized bottles... don't even think about it.  Bring something cheaper when you go.  Leave your prized treasures for another occasion, when you can actually get the full benefit of the nose.

Anyway, the awesome line up of Sine Qua Non wines were as follows:

2010 Sine Qua Non The Monkey - 52% Roussanne, 23% Viognier, 19% Chardonnay and 5% Marsanne.  Full-bodied, very ripe.  Very sweet on the palate when taken with the clams, and the finish was a little bitter.

2002 Sine Qua Non Whisperin' E - 50% Roussanne, 31% Viognier and 19% Chardonnay.  More lemon and citrus, grassy and sweeter nose, almost candied.  Nice on the palate.

2005 Sine Qua Non The Petition - 37% Viognier, 33% Roussanne, 30% Chardonnay.  Pretty ripe and sweet, and not too bitter on the palate.

2007 Sine Qua Non Body & Soul - 71% Roussanne and 29% Viognier.  A little floral, white flowers, sweet with a little peach.

2002 Sine Qua Non Hollerin' M - 100% Pinot Noir. Nice and smooth on the palate, with a bit of forest in the nose.

2001 Sine Qua Non Ventriloquist - 82% Grenache and 18% Syrah.  Ripe and jammy, a little metallic.  Very nice and sweet on the palate.

1999 Sine Qua Non The Marauder - 100% Syrah.  Jammy, metallic, sweet with forest pine.

2001 Sine Qua Non Midnight Oil - 95.5% Syrah, 3% Grenache and 1.5% Viognier.  Nice with very fragrant nose of cedar.  Not bad at all.

2002 Sine Qua Non Just for the Love of It - 96% Syrah, 2% Grenache and 2% Viognier.  Metallic, smoky and meaty.  Very concentrated.

1997 Sine Qua Non Imposter McCoy - 100% Syrah.  Minty, metallic and mineral.  Pretty ripe and sweet on the palate.

1996 Sine Qua Non Against the Wall - 100% Syrah.  Really jammy, a little grassy, smoky with tangerine notes.  Was this corked?

1995 Sine Qua Non The Other Hand - 100% Syrah.  Farmy, smoky with black olives.

1998 Sine Qua Non Mr. K TBA - 100% Viognier. Nose of acetone, botrytis, grapes and honey.  Soooo sweet on the palate.

This could have been such an amazing evening, as it's rare to be able to taste this many Sine Qua Non wines together, and I loooooooove their wines!  Alas, it just wasn't meant to be...

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