As my wife and I were going up the escalator in the Westin Hotel to enjoy our first experience at the 2nd Floor, I knew this was going to be good. Clos Pegase brought the wine and J Chastain and Scott Gottlich brought the food and I brought my appetite. If you have not been in the Second Floor, it is a beautifully modern bar with an 8 page scotch menu, including tasting flights! For that reason alone Second Floor earns a return visit, especially on a guys night out. But I did not come here for scotch, I came for wine.
After being seated in the back room, we were given the first wine, 2009 “Mitsuko’s Vineyard” Sauvignon Blanc from Carneros. Winemaker Richard Sowalsky was there to describe the history of Clos Pegase as the room started sipping on the Sauvignon Blanc. Sauvignon Blanc is a great way to start a dinner as the acid and flavors really get your mouth watering and craving food. The Mitsuko Vineyard was juicier than I am used to, showing hints of pear and apples to go along with the standard lemon-lime and grass flavors.
To pair, the chefs brought out a peach and cantaloupe gazpacho. This was actually my favorite course of the evening as the sweetness of the peach and yellow tomato really sang. I could actually smell the peach and cantaloupe as they were bringing the dish, a testament to the aromatic nature of the dish. A great start.
Next came the 2009 “Mitsuko’s Vineyard” Chardonnay paired with a seared scallop dish. The winemaker spoke of how the goal during the Chardonnay production was to soften the buttery component of the wine by using a different bacteria during fermentation. The end result was an interesting combination of apples, lemon, brown spices with some vanilla and butter flavors, though not as much as one might expect from Napa Chardonnay. This paired well next to the seared scallop. The scallop had that wonderful crust you expect, sitting next to black rice mixed with golden raisins and sauteed brussel sprouts.
A conversation with burger expert Rob Banes about scallops and how they are best when kept simple and not overworked and these were a great example of what to do. This was the favorite dish of the table.
Making the switch from white grapes to red grapes, it was time for Carneros Pinot Noir from the same Mitsuko’s Vineyard (2008 vintage). The wine was complex with lots of fresh bing cherry, raspberry and strawberry mixed with cola, vanilla and brown spices. The acid from the Pinot was a great foil to the potato gnocchi. While the gnocchi were not as pillowy as I would have liked, they did provide a good base for the haricots vert, tomatoes and Parmesan. I just wish there was a sauce to balance the plate as it felt like there were 4 well-made ingredients but needed something to tie it together, like in the next dish.
When you see Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, you know you are going to get a steak and J and Scott did not disappoint. We were presented with a perfectly medium rare tenderloin with a potatoes anna, grilled asparagus and a truffle demi. The demi was to die for and raised the beef to another level. The 2007 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon was jammy, a staple of the vintage, with a backbone of rich brown spices, vanilla, cedar and eucalyptus. While sitting at the table, I decided to do an experiment to see if another wine could also pair. Surprisingly to most, the Chardonnay was a great pairing to tenderloin. The reason for this is that the Chardonnay has some tannins to counteract the fat in the steak but has the fruit and spices to enhance the beef flavors.
Finally it was time for crème brulee. The version served was flavored with an apricot jam base with the custard sitting on top, with pistachio sandies and blackberries. Absolutely delicious. The sandies were especially on point, with a wisp of blackberry jam in the center. The dessert wine brought by Clos Pegase was a 2006 late harvest Chardonnay. Chardonnay is not well known for making dessert wines so I had to ask Richard Sowalsky how they decided to make a dessert wine from the varietal. His response was that there was a lot of boytritis on the Chardonnay in 2006 and they could either try to make it into dessert wine like Sauternes, which also is effected by boytritis, or toss it so the choice was clear. This was a tasty mistake. The wine tasted like honeyed apricots, poached pears and warm brown spices. An excellent match.
Chefs J Chastain and Scott Gottlich created a menu to show off the flavors of the wine and I believed they did a very good job. The wine was good, the food was good and I went home fully sated. Now I just need to get the guys together for a scotch flight. Any takers?