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Penfold’s Grange Release Dinner at Ruth’s Chris

by David Donalson  

photos by Jackee Donalson

On May 1st, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and Penfolds worked together to create an event celebrating the release of the 2006 Grange, widely considered one of the greatest wines in the world. This gave Angie from Penfolds an easy platform to speak of the Penfolds portfolio as well as some great food from Ruth’s Chris. This release gave cause to celebrate simultaneously nationwide.

 The Menu:

 Pre-dinner: 2009 Penfolds Bin 51 Riesling

 Course 1: Hong Kong-Style Sea Bass

2009 Penfolds Thomas Hyland Chardonnay

 Course 2: Colorado Lamb Chop with Sweet Potato Casserole

2008 Penfolds RWT Shiraz

 Course 3: Filet with White Oyster and Crimini Mushrooms

Creamed Spinach and Mashed Potatoes

2006 Penfolds Grange

 Course 4: Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Cream Cheese Icing and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

The night started with the 2009 Penfolds Bin 51 Riesling, a pleasant surprise for most at the table as it was not sweet. Instead the wine was almost bone dry with a sharp acidity balanced by flavors of kiwi, pineapple, green apple and lime zest, along with a crisp minerality. This style of wine is extremely popular in Australia but has not caught on in the United States yet. Here’s hoping it will.

After being moved into our seats, the dinner portion of the meal began with the Hong Kong-Style Sea Bass. The white fish was buttery, silky and even sweet at times, sitting atop an oriental slaw of cabbage, celery, scallion and cilantro with a teriyaki glaze that was both salty and savory. This provided a great contrast in flavors across the palate, especially when paired with the 2009 Penfolds Thomas Hyland Chardonnay. The Chardonnay had nice lemon, lime and Asian pear flavors, along with hints of brown spices and vanilla from oak aging. The acidity was able to hold up through the sauce and complement the entire dish.

The next dish of the evening was the Colorado lamb chop with a red wine reduction, green apple mint jelly and a sweet potato casserole with a pecan-brown sugar crust. According to Bill Curci, general manager of the Ft. Worth Ruth’s Chris, the sweet potato casserole won an award at the Big Taste of Ft. Worth award and I will vouch for the taste. It was sweet, savory, creamy and crunchy all at the same time. Fantastic. It was served next to a double lamb chop, seasoned with just salt and pepper. The gamey, slightly sweet flavor of the meat was a great pairing to the rich, concentrated, jammy black fruit flavors of the RWT that also exhibited background flavors of clove, vanilla and dark chocolate. Incredible.

For the main course and the main wine, Ruth’s Chris brought out a filet sitting atop white oyster and crimini mushrooms in a demi glace. This was served with a side of creamed spinach and mashed potatoes. Overall impressions of the food were solid as the meat was flavorful, the mushrooms were fantastic and the sides were good but the star of the show was the Grange. According to Peter Gago, head winemaker at Penfolds, you should not open a bottle of Grange for 15-20 years so tasting this wine was tasting for the future and what a bright future it is. Grange reminds me of a high quality Bordeaux because of the wide range of secondary flavors. After the initial burst of black fruit, there are spices like nutmeg, cinnamon and clove mixing with eucalyptus and mint, as well as the more common coconut, tobacco and black pepper flavors. Given proper time, this will be an impressive wine if people can make it that long.

Our final dish was a wonderful chocolate-raspberry cupcake with vanilla bean ice cream. The cupcake was dense and moist with the soft cream cheese frosting providing just enough flavor to accentuate that chocolate and raspberry in the cake. The ice cream provided a nice temperature contrast and clean flavor. Those of us who held on to some of the RWT were rewarded as this was also a great pairing for the wine, showing how versatile some wines can be at the dinner table.

This was the first wine dinner I have been to at Ruth’s Chris and I would recommend getting tickets early for the next one. With service, wine and food this good, I foresee these events quickly selling out and I for one do not want to miss any.

David was an invited guest.

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