It was a packed room at Grace on Wednesday night as the restaurant teamed with Möet Hennessy to do a sumptuous wine and food dinner. After a pre-prandial glass of Möet Hennessy’s most famous wine, Möet & Chandon’s Brut Champagne we sat down to a wine dinner with a difference. The guests did not know what the wines were! At least, when it came to the reds they did not know which wine was which.
Our hosts were gentle with us at the start. Before the mystery reds a memorable white wine was served. 2010 Cloudy Bay “Te Koko” Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand was served with Smoked Washington State Sturgeon with peekytoe crab, yuzu sorbet and upland cress. This sophisticated wine is less acidic and grassy than most New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs while retaining that essential national character and sturgeon is a welcome change in the catalog of fish on Dallas menus.
On to the reds. Guest knew that there were these wines are from the Möet Hennessy portfolio:
2011 Newton Cabernet Sauvignon “Unfiltered”, Napa Valley.
2011 Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River, Australia.
2009 Numanthia, Tinta de Toro, Toro, Spain
2009 Cheval des Andes, Mendoza, Argentina.
They just did not know which wine was in which glass!
Advanced Sommelier Ryan Tedder returned to the restaurant where he once worked to emcee the proceedings and throw out hints to the intrigued attendees. “2011 was a cool year with small yields in California” he proffered, a tipoff that the bell-pepper scented first wine was the Newton. Guessing some of the other wines were much harder. In particular, the Cheval des Andes is a personal nemesis of mine. While being a Cabernet Sauvignon blend, it is velvet smooth with any incipient green pepper edges smoothed off. The first time I tasted it blind I got it totally wrong. I vowed to commit it to taste memory and, knowing it was on the list last night, got it right. Despite the difficulty guessing it was popular with the attendees.
We shared thoughts and it turned out that the Numanthia was also a favorite of some attendees near me at the table. This famous wine is made from Spain’s leading red grape, Tempranillo and its red fruit and earthiness made it a copacetic choice with no fewer than three of the courses on the menu.
Grace execuchef Blaine Staniford continues to evolve from his days at Lola (RIP) and Fuse (RIP). His Culinary Institute of America training and early experience under Marcus Samuelsson and Michael Mina shines through his sophisticated New American food. I tried the red wines with his Texas Sweet Corn Agnolotti (with corn milk, summer truffles and mascarpone) and the tannins in the Cabernet Sauvignons emulsified under the onslaught of cream. Sweet corn was a good choice with these red wines as the sweetness of corn is one of those renditions of sweetness that can be incorporated in a main course without the dish becoming cloying (elsewhere, I have had ‘jam’ and ‘marmalade’ accoutrements that were best just nudged gently to the side of the plate).
Staniford’s Pork Jowl (with summer squash, heirloom tomatoes and house-made lonza) is cooked sous vide for twelve hours. Its copious fat components had most leverage on the two Cabernet Sauvignon wines. They mollified the “abrasive tannins” and “rigidity” of the Cabernet, as Tedder described them.
The Colorado Lamb (with spicy roasted baby carrots, lamb ribs, yogurt and barley) was suitable for all the red wines but ideal paired with the Numanthia. This is not surprising given that so much of the Spanish food experience with red wine is with lamb.
As dessert was served the identity of the glasses was revealed, doubtless to some embarrassment and gnashing of teeth. Blind tasting is, above all, a humbling experience.
All of these wines are in wide distribution in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. If you have not been to Grace recently, check back in. Although most restaurant openings may be in the West 7th District right now, remind yourself of how vibrant and human-friendly downtown Fort Worth is.
Given my experience at this meal, I can recommend the next one “Clam Bake” on the Terrace, Saturday July 12th, 6:30pm. With wine pairing $95+t&t. With beer pairing $75+t&t. Dress code: clam bake casual. Go online or call 817.877.3388 for reservations. I was an invited media guest.