Recently, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse has been partnering up with some heavy-hitting international wineries and I had the pleasure of being present in Dallas when the Antinori wines came rolling into town. Antinori is one of the biggest names in Italian wine, having one of the original Super-Tuscans (Tignanello, which we would be tasting later) as well as some domestic wines. Antica is actually owned by the Antinori family and stands for Antinori California.
We braved the construction nightmare near the DFW airport and made it just in time for a truly packed house and a great meal. (Literally, the entire dining room was allocated for the dinner, something like 70 people though I did not get an official count).
While I was not able to meet the Marchese, who was hosting the New York City dinner, Jane Degler, the local representative for Antinori was more than capable leading us through the tasting. Our first course was an arugula mix with a white balsamic vinaigrette, Gorgonzola, green apples and candied walnuts paired with the 2009 Antica Chardonnay. Everything about this pairing was about acidity and crispness.
The wine had subtle toast notes but was predominately about the green fruit (green apple, lemon juice and hints of pear and tangerine) to cut through the vinaigrette and accent the spiciness of the greens. It was a great start and the acidity really got my mouth watering.
The second course would normally be a nightmare for a sommelier to pair, a roasted tomato and crab soup. Pairing a wine with a mainly liquid course is nightmarish because it is liquid on liquid and you are not able to work with textures but the staff at Ruth’s Chris was up to the task and brought out the most surprising wine of the night, the 2006 Marchese Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva. As in the first course, it was all about matching the acidity and Chianti is more than capable of holding up to the acidity in a tomato broth.
The key was actually a reversal in roles, with the wine having enough substance to actually become the texture to base off of the soup. The wine made the crab in the soup brighter and sweeter while the soup helped accent the depth of dark fruit and black licorice in the wine.
Do you know what makes a great meal better? Door prizes! Generous donations of olive oil from the Antinori estate, custom shirts courtesy of Lombardo custom apparel or a dinner with wine pairings from Ruth’s Chris were all up for grabs. I could use a new shirt.
Back to the food and wine as the 2007 Guado al Tosso was being poured. This is a Bolgheri blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot that is “modern grapes meeting traditional style”. It needed that traditional style to hold up to the wild mushroom risotto, otherwise it would have been lost in that thick, starchy goodness. A traditional Italian pairing for risotto would have been a Nebbiolo but this blend seemed to have that same weight and tannin but with the more modern flavors that one expects from this style of blend.
For the main course, what do you think Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse would serve? If you guessed a “surf and turf” combination of filet mignon and lobster, pat yourself on the back. Oh, did I mention the broccoli rabe and creamy polenta?
There was enough food in front of me that I could have just eaten this course and been more than stuffed! However, as I am a large individual and not one to waste good food, I dug in and ate…and ate…and ate.
The food almost held its own against the wine, one of the original Super Tuscans, Tignanello. Tignanello is a blend of the best of both the Guado al Toso and the Marchese Antinori Chianti Classico Reserva. It was a rich, full body blend of strong red and dark fruits with a piercing acidity to help accentuate the food while constantly maintaining balance on the palate.
Extraordinary! Thank you for the invitation, Ruth’s Chris.