Wednesday, August 20, 2008
EVERY THURSDAY - $8 SUSHI APPETIZERS
EVERY WEEKEND - PRIX FIXE MENU
This weekend I have a couple of truly special treats. Friday, I am able to offer Hawaiian Blue Prawns (so named for their brilliant blue shells). Sweet as lobster meat, but as tender as Snapper, these very difficult-to-get delicacies are the ONLY shrimp/prawns in the world that are considered so pure that they are sashimi graded!
Saturday, we are offering wonderful rabbit, that was locally-raised at the Rare Hare ranch. The rabbit is certified organic and humanely-raised; the quality is the finest I have ever seen. Slow-braised, so that it is so tender it falls right off the bone, I am finishing this with Tuscan black truffle “gravy” and fresh morel mushrooms from Oregon. Now how can you miss out on that?
This Weekend’s Specials
Fresh Oyster of the Week – Gold Creek, Puget Sound Washington
Thursday, August 21 - $8 Sushi Appetizer
Nigiri of Hawaiian Blue Prawn
Maki Roll of Hawaiian Blue marlin with fresh peaches and Sambal Chili
Poke of Hawaiian Escolar (Walu) with ponzu sauce and toasted sesame
Friday, August 22
Soup – Cream of Morel (fresh from Oregon)
Special – Ultra-fresh, Hawaiian Blue Prawns crusted in macadamia nuts and pan-seared, finished with coconut-green curry sauce, and topped with fresh kiwi and banana salsa, served on a bed of five spice roasted sweet potato puree, with grilled zucchini and crispy plantain chips.
Suggested wine pairing – Poet’s Leap Riesling Columbia Valley Washington
Saturday, August 23
Soup – French Onion with authentic Gruyere
Special – Fresh, Kansas-raised rabbit, slow-braised and finished with Tuscan black truffle sauce with fresh, Oregon Morels and English sweet peas, served on a bed of roasted sweet onion and Yukon Gold potato mash, and herb-roasted baby carrots, garnished with fried sage leaves.
Suggested wine pairing – Louis Jadot 2005 Pommard Burgundy (Pinot Noir)
This Weekend’s Prix Fixe Menu (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) - $58 (for the entire menu)
Amuse Bouche – Fresh Strawberry with Sweet Grass Dairy Camembert and Balsamic Reduction
Appetizer – Pan-seared Australian Kangaroo filet on sour dough crouton, finished with Bleu Cheese salsa
Entrée – Friday – Macadamia-crusted Hawaiian Blue Prawns, Saturday – Braised Kansas Rabbit with fresh Morels
Dessert – Belgian Chocolate mini cake with chocolate ganache topped with Macadamia nuts, and served with homemade coconut sorbet
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Here is a look at some of our special events in the upcoming months:
November 15 - Beaujolais Nouveaux Kick Off with special French Menu
November 22 - Thanksgiving Dinner Special Menu 11am to 6pm
November 29 - Sushi Dinner
December 2 - Shaw and Smith Wine Dinner 7pm
December 8 - K-State Graduation
December 9 - Special Sunday Brunch 11am to 2pm
December 24 - Christmas Eve Dinner
December 27 - Sushi Dinner
December 31 - New Years Eve Dinner
A couple of notes on some changes and events at 4 Olives:
SUSHI DINNERS – I have relented to your request to do more sushi dinners on Thursday nights. Once a month I will fly in fish and put on the sushi spread. I can’t say exactly which week of the month, because I plan my sushi around the times when fishing is the best, and I can get the freshest product possible. Many of you have also let me know that offering the dinners along with our full menu, allows you to bring along your non-sushi spouse without any complaints. I do intend to continue offering the dinners this way.
THANKSGIVING DINNER – I put a lot of effort in working the menu this year to be the best Thanksgiving I have offered to date. I have been working the menu again and again, until I have become sick of Turkey, and yet it still tastes fantastic. I also scored my mom’s recipe for sweet rolls, which I believe to be the finest baked product on earth. Believe me it is a real treat to have these. Why suffer all the stress of preparing a huge meal with all of your family hanging around and have that huge mess to clean up and leftovers nobody wants. Have your family join mine on Thanksgiving, and let me do all the work!
NEW YEARS EVE – I haven’t put the menu together as of yet, but you can bet it is going to blow your socks off. I have a couple of ideas that I am really excited about. A little tip, if there’s no bowl game this year, then reservations will fill up early. Don’t miss out.
WINE LIST – The finest yet, lots of new wines from Australia, Bordeaux, Argentina, California, Oregon and Washington. The 2005 Burgundies are soon to arrive, best vintage in a really long time and I bought a bunch. It hasn’t been released yet, but we are going to be the first restaurant in Kansas to ever receive an “Award of Unique Distinction” from the Wine Enthusiast. We are excited about the issue coming out later this year.
COFFEE – I have switched all of our coffee to Prebica Vienna Roast. This wonderful coffee and espresso is 100% Arabica beans, shade grown, and certified Free Trade and Organic. We are now grinding to order, and I believe we are now offering some the finest coffee available anywhere.
That's about all for now, but stay tuned for more updates!
Friday, September 28, 2007
If you live around the Manhattan or Kansas area, and happen to be watching Good Morning America/Today Show/Etc... You might be fortunate enough to catch the completed spot... but if not... You can view the compressed video uploaded to YouTube!
Friday, September 07, 2007
This weekend Scott is doing a couple of fantastic specials, and as is with the history of the restaurant, this will be the ONLY TIME EVER, that you can get these particular specials with this particular preparation!
This Weekend’s Specials
Fresh Oyster of the Week – Denman Island, British Columbia
Friday, September 7
Soup - Tomato and Basil
Special – Grilled Pompano from the Bahamas, finished with Maui onion cream sauce and kiwi fruit coulis, served on a bed of pomegranate mashed sweet potatoes with grilled purple asparagus.
Suggested wine pairing – Marcel Deiss Pinot Gris
Saturday, September 8
Soup - French Onion
Special – Pan-seared Cervena Venison from New Zealand, finished with Madeira and Mission Fig demi glace, on a bed of sautéed baby spinach with a carrot gratin, served with fresh figs.
Suggested wine pairing – Guilliams Cabernet Sauvignon
The wines he has paired with these specials are EASILY two of my new favorites. We carry 7 varietals of Marcel Deiss wines. Each are phenomenal. My personal favorite is the Grand Cru Riesling from Altenberg. Marcel Deiss, a producer from Alsace in France does some spectacular work with wine. While some of his varietals may be a little sweet on the palate, they are each exceptionally well made and have a smooth, elegant character. Almost everyone I have recommended these wines to has purchased a bottle and left MORE than happy.
My other new MAJOR favorite is the Guilliams Cabernet Sauvignon, which is paired with the Cervena Venison for Saturday. This Cab was by far my favorite from our trip out to Napa. We are currently pouring the 2003 vintage. Smooth, Refined, yet fun and drinkable. I'm not nearly the wine expert as Scott, but for someone who enjoys a solid drinkable cab that's not overly spicy and pairs superbly with food, I love it! We had the opportunity to meet John Guilliams' wife, Shawn. Let me say, their personality definitely comes through in the wine! If you haven't had a chance to check this producer out, definitely pick up a bottle! (trust me! a glass WILL NOT be enough!)
This wine is even featured in our upcoming commercial spot! Thanks to help from some of our wonderful guests, we have put together a 30second commercial spot, shot all in High-Definition Video. Once the commercial is complete, expect to see some extra footage and maybe a quick behind the scenes detailing the work that went into the project uploaded to YouTube!
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Day 1 (repost)
I'm going to try and keep my posts short and sweet... especially with as much detail as Scott goes into! So with that said... the trip has been phenomenal thus far, and I can't tell you how grateful I am to be here... Each winery is completely unique with a culture and style all its own. I'm just thrilled to get on with today and see where things go! Enjoy the photos, there is a link posted below to the full photo gallery, and I will be updating it daily. Also, feel free to watch the short video posted below... just some quick shots to show each winery, and help us to remember every detail of our trip!
Click here to visit our photo gallery from Day 1.
It was difficult to wake up at 4am, but a visit to Napa seemed to be enough of a natural rush to get us to the airport. We flew on Midwest, and I must say that with the reasonable rates, I was not expecting the very comfortable flight that we had.
San Francisco Airport was not nearly as enjoyable. The map to the car rental terminal was like looking at a terrible Salvador Dali painting in faded pastel colors. Negotiating the stairs, escalators, elevators, trams, and elevated rail system was as much fun as being in a live action Donkey Kong game. At Dollar Rental, we spent yet another wasted hour bargaining like a tourist at Moroccan bizarre, to get a car even remotely close to what we had confirmed three times already.
Finally on our way to Napa, the trip is much faster than in the past, the roads to Napa Valley via Oakland are vastly improved.
The first winery we visited was Grgich Hills. Mike Grgich became famous in 1976 when his Chardonnay beat out the French wines in a blind tasting; this became one of the pivotal moments in California wine history. Grgich Hills is not a place, but in fact is a partnership with the Hills family (famous for their coffee). Like almost every winery, tours are not often offered on Sundays (they need a day off as well). We were offered a tasting of Grgich Hills’ current release wines. I found that the 2004 Chardonnay was my favorite wine. Just being released, the 2005 Chardonnay was also good, but not as ripe and well balanced as the 2004 (we only have a few bottles left on the list now, and I really wish I had found out just how great this wine was in this vintage a little earlier). The 2005 Fume Blanc continues to be a spectacular wine, and one of the best selling on our list. I found that the reds were all really super-ripe and jammy (and all good), but lacked in the balancing of the corresponding components (and sometimes were a little tannic). One red was outstanding, the 2002 Reserve, it had it all. Sorry, but it is only offered at the winery. By the way, most guys purr like a kitten over the smell of a new car, for me it is the aroma of oak barrels and wine in a cold cellar.
It had been a number of years since I last visited Duckhorn, our next stop. The grounds are beautiful, and worth the visit by themselves. I love Duckhorn wines, and I was hoping that this would lead to a love affair with the wines for Brandon and Travis as well. The wines certainly came through; the only argument was over what was the best wine. In 1978, Duckhorn became the first winery ever to bottle as a “Merlot.” (Sterling also bottled a Merlot this year). That commitment to the grape has never waned, and Duckhorn still proved to be the go to winery for Merlot. The Napa was excellent, the Howell Mountain was excellent, but the Estate 2004 was my favorite (and one of the best wines I have had in years). I kept coming back to the Sauvignon Blanc, the 2006 is yet another excellent vintage. It has always been on our list, but I would expect to see it by the glass very soon. A beautiful tasting room in a relaxed environment.
We had a little extra time, and decided to end the evening with a little bubbly at Chandon (not on our schedule, but on the way to the hotel). We stopped in just a little too late to catch the last tour, but the very nice hostess told us that we could still enjoy a flight of wines in the tasting room. Unfortunately, Chandon has decided to turn the tasting room into a wine disco club on Sunday evenings. Shouting over a bar crowded with young San Franciscans up in Napa to get their drink on, we were able to finally get a hold of one tasting of two wines for all of us to split (in filthy glasses). The Etoile was outstanding, and the Chardonnay was also a very solid wine (built like a brick turkey, it managed to be a total butterball and still be good). I liken the atmosphere to a packed Aggieville bar, where the bartender somehow manages to get everyone’s order but yours. After waiting almost an hour to try the Pinot Noir, I just gave up and left. We saw very nice couples going into the tasting room for a relaxing sip of some fine bubbly, and turning right around the same way we did. To our “Bartender” Nancy, way to go. Lucky for Chandon that they make such fantastic wines (the Blanc de Noirs is hands down my pick for the best value in a sparkling wine). We just didn’t feel the love.
By this time of the day we had been traveling for 18 hours, and due to the delays, we still had not had time to eat anything (it was actually getting rough to drink any more wine). We were excited about dinner at Celadon (in the town of Napa on the riverfront). I had been here before with my very great friend and former boss Keith Paden, and we had enjoyed it. Celadon is now in a beautiful new location and is much larger than the four tables it used to be. After our waiter checked our IDs (I guess I'm never going to get past my baby face), we ordered a beautiful bottle of Saxon Brown Pinot Noir (by the way Keith, you need to get this wine back in Kansas) spicy and elegant.
The appetizers were outstanding. Our waiter informed us that the menu had been changed only a few days ago. I had seared pork belly with fresh watermelon in a citrus-soy glaze. I would have left out the spicy pickled carrots, but I still thought it was to die for. Unfortunately our waiter was seriously off his game, and this detracted from the overall experience. Of the entrees, only my seared scallops with fennel cream sauce was a knock out. Brandon's duck was WAY overdone, as was his corn and bacon risotto, the flavors were spot on, but only the bacon had any crunch left, and it kind of had a baby food feel to it. I think that when they work out the kinks it will be an excellent dish. Travis' Moroccan spiced lamb, and my bread pudding were both good, but had so much clove that I felt like wearing a pineapple ring back to the hotel.
Click here to visit our photo gallery from Day 2.
Monday July 16
Our first full day in Napa was both busy, and thoroughly enjoyable. There really wasn't a single unpleasant event or wine. Even our breakfast at Denny's was on target.
We first made two unscheduled stops at Luna Vineyards and Darioush. Arriving at Luna a few minutes before they opened at 10am, we got right to work at forcing down wines. The winery is a beautiful Tuscan inspired building surrounded by vineyards, and the owner's Ferrari parked out front added to the Italian ambiance. I have always thought that Luna had one of the most solid line of wines in California, and the tasting served to prove just that. The new 2006 vintage of the Pinot Grigio is the best ever, and while all the wines were excellent, the Merlot continues to stand out as my favorite. We have all the wines on our list, and one not to be missed is the Super Tuscan styled blend named Canto.
The next visit was to Darioush. Last time I was here they were in the beginning phase of construction of the winery, and the tasting room was a lovely double wide trailer. The completed winery is another story, a fantastic reproduction of a Persian temple, complete with an indoor water fall and meticulous grounds. The wines were super across the board, all demonstrated an ultra-rich style and superior wine making techniques. The real stars for me were the Chardonnay (ripe, lush and massive) and the impressive Shiraz (super-ripe fruit, smoke and spice, but all in complete balance. The staff were very attentive and knowledgeable (a complete reversal from Chandon) and even though the tasting room was busy we always felt well accommodated.
Our first scheduled stop was Franciscan. The winery had a special tasting menu set up for our lunch created by the winery's chef. We tried a variety of wines, but the Franciscan Reserve Cuvee Savage Chardonnay stood out as one of the finest I have had in a while, I will make certain the bring it in as the wine pairing for the Lobster this Friday. The tasting menu was excellent, and included wild salmon with corn salsa, Moroccan inspired lamb chops, and local cheeses, the wines were all well paired to the foods. I spent some very enjoyable time speaking with the chef, and overall the winery was a very gracious host.
We next speed up to Clos Pegase in the northern end of the Napa Valley. The winery itself is a work of art, surrounded by original sculptures and Italian fountains. The wines were excellent, most notably the reserve red Bordeaux style blend called Hommage. We offer a number of vintages of this wine on our list, and the current release was also outstanding. Jan Schrem, the owner of Clos Pegase, personally took us on a tour of the 22,000 square feet of wine caves. He was a congenial host as always, and showed a real passion for his winery that was easily felt.
We next made the winding drive up the Howell Mountain to visit Viader. Viader rules. This is the first time I have seen the new winery and the beautiful tasting room with a truly spectacular view overlooking Bell Canyon reservoir and the northern end of the Napa Valley. The wines were out of this world. The Cabernet Franc under the Dare label was excellent (and I think they promised to find a way to get a few cases to the restaurant), the V was a spectacular wine made from mostly Petite Verdot, and the new 2004 release of the Viader (the core of the winery) was mind blowing good as usual. We offer eight vintages of the wine on our list, and every one is a different wine, all are beautiful.
After a short nap and a loaf of locally baked black walnut sour dough bread, we were ready for dinner. Tonight we dined at one of the Valley's hot spots, the Martini House. Lucky for us, our tasting room guide at Grgich Hills on Sunday, had been Tim Costner. Tim was also one of the pastry chefs at the Martini House and hooked us up with the VIP treatment. I enjoyed the chef's tasting menu, all of the food was solid and well executed (though I thought they should have prepared the fish and the lamb to medium rare instead of medium). The best food item was an extra course that Tim sent us, a petite amuse of scallop pana cotta. The desserts were all spectacular and unexpected in style, even if you skip the Martini house for dinner, you should not miss the desserts and the cocktails. As part of the chef's menu I throughly enjoyed the Ladera Cabernet Sauvignon, we really need to find a way to get this winery in Kansas!
An enjoyable day with no disappointments, tomorrow we spend all day on Spring Mountain.
Click here to visit our photo gallery from Day 3.
Tuesday July 17
We started this beautiful morning with a light breakfast at Dean and DeLuca. We also spent some time browsing the retail wine store there (I was a little suppressed not to find Rudd wines), and then picked up items for a light $200 picnic on Spring Mountain. (I love Dean and DeLuca, but sometimes I think it would be cheaper to hire a private chef to cater lunch, then to pick up sandwiches there).
We had a few minutes, so we walked next door to the Flora Springs tasting room. We tasted through most of the current release wines. I was very sad to hear that due to declining sales of Merlot (known as the “Sideways effect” after the movie that launched Pinot Noir and killed Merlot) the Windfall Vineyard Merlot was no longer produced. A real loss, since it was one of the finest Merlots in the world, and half the price of most Napa Valley Cabernets. All of the wines were solid; I enjoyed the Soliloquy Sauvignon Blanc and the Cabernet Sauvignon most. The Barrel Fermented Chardonnay, which is usually the highest scoring wine, was released early and needs time until it settles into greatness.
Leaving for Terra Valentine I still thought we had plenty of time. That was until I saw that traffic in St. Helena was already at a total standstill at 10am on a Tuesday morning. It didn't help much that I missed the turn onto Madrona Ave (because it the wisest of moves for a tourist town, Madrona Ave on the left is Fulton Lane on the right). In yet another time saving move, I turned around at Beringer, which as it happens is one of the most visited parking lots in California. Terra Valentine was able to fit us in with another group from the restaurant Go Fish (this turned out to be another excellent hookup). Seemingly out of nowhere, the winery is a castle that looked as if Nichols Hall had been dropped onto the side of a mountain. For some reason Terra Valentine decided to make a Viognier, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir with fruit from the Russian River Valley. None of the wines were bad; I just didn't see any reason to make them. The real disappointment for me was the 2004 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (the only wine we can get). We LOVE the 2003 vintage on our list right now, it's big, rich and expressive of the region. The winemaker wanted to move away from that style, and made a very light wine in 2004. To me Spring Mountain is about big wines, don't try and be something that you're not.
It was only a short drive up to Schweiger. The winery is beautiful and tastefully done. This is a real family operation, the owners were there pouring the wines, and the family holds down most of the rest of the jobs including winemaker. I had visited the winery before in 2001, and again I was shocked that my favorite wines were the whites. Schweiger makes an impressive Chardonnay on the Estate. It was a beautiful balance of fruit and acidity, and proof that this region is able to produce more than just red wines. The sauvignon Blanc is made from a friend’s vineyard in Sonoma, the 2005 is the most impressive vintage I have tasted. It was clearly one of the best Sauvignon Blancs we tasted, and we are going to offer it again by the glass (along with the Chardonnay as soon as it comes in). We also enjoyed the port, and although it is only supposed to be sold at the winery, we convinced them to send us a few cases. If you go to Napa Valley, please take the time to visit Schweiger. We finished by enjoying our picnic lunch in front of the winery overlooking the Napa Valley. We were told that one of the winery dogs enjoyed harassing little boys, and Travis and I enjoyed watching the dog turn Brandon into his little toy.
We next made the drive over to Cain, which is isolated on the southern end of the region above Newton’s Vineyards. The Estate Cain Five vineyards were both impressive to view and taste. We were also able to walk unescorted through the vineyards with the mild advisory, “Watch out for rattlesnakes and be back by dusk, we’ve seen a couple of mountain lions.” Cain Five is a Bordeaux-styled blend, and is the estate’s top wine. I was really impressed; it was expressive of the region, yet refined and elegant. It is unique enough that we will not only be adding the wine to the list, but also holding some back to create a vertical selection. We already have the Cain Concept on the list. Concept is a fascinating wine, with fruit coming from the elevated vineyards on both sides of the Napa Valley. I loved the 2003 vintage. The Cain Cuvee is also a fantastic wine. The Cuvee is an interesting idea, a blend of two vintages to maintain a house style (almost like Champagne houses do). The wine was the best Cabernet Sauvignon I tasted for the money, look for it to be added by the glass on our list. Impressive alone, what was even more amazing was all wines had a common link together, and an obvious reason for being made. A lot of wineries make a disjointed selection of wines that may hit a high note now and then, but Cain has somehow found a way to put it all together. I’ve been doing this a lot of years; it’s refreshing to know that I can still be “wowed.”
We were having such a great time at Cain that we almost missed our last stop of the day, and that would have been a huge mistake. Guilliams was fantastic in every way. We all enjoyed the family and the concept of husband winemaker, and wife manager team being the only employees of the very small winery. Guilliams makes three wines, two of which, the Merlot and the Reserve, are only sold at the winery. That’s alright, because my favorite wine from Guilliams (and perhaps the favorite of the trip) was the estate Cabernet Sauvignon. It is everything I want from Spring Mountain, elegant, powerful, perfumed, a hint of toasty oak on the finish in balance with the lingering black fruit. I could have enjoyed it for hours (and in fact we did, but none of that is fit for the blog). How enjoyable to find such a treasure, this is what having a family in the winemaking business is about. Everything you taste is grown, crushed and made right here from the beautiful mountain vineyards that surround you. I suggest that you all enjoy this wine now, because someday soon Wine Spectator is going to hear about it, and then rate is so high that we may have trouble finding the wine. This made the trip for me.
We traveled back down the mountain to St. Helena for dinner at Go Fish, one of Napa’s new hot spots. The restaurant has an open, modern feel to it with a long and winding sushi bar. Due to our meeting the managers up at Terra Valentine, we were offered a number of extra courses and we really got a good feel for the restaurant’s food. The menu is a collection of traditional sushi and Asian-inspired entrees. The restaurant has an impressive (if not a little intimidating) list of sake, and a nice 250 bottle wine list focused mostly on whites. We ordered a bottle of the excellent Domaine Carneros Le Reve, the wineries top sparkling wine, which was marked up a modest 400% (ouch). I thought the sashimi was excellent, though it was cut thick and was very firm. The sushi rice was very well textured, but we all though it lacked enough rice vinegar, and was a little disappointing. Presentation throughout the meal was top notch. I had the crispy skinned snapper, which was one of their signature dishes. It wasn’t crispy, but it was overdone, and was finished with a consume which really didn’t add anything. The vegetables on all of our dishes were fresh, and I thought were the high points of our meals. The entrees fish portions were a little on the light side, but I thought were priced well for what we were served. The dessert were all not good. I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this, but I believe that they should look at starting over on the dessert menu. The service was excellent, especially considering the scope of the menu. My overall feeling is that the restaurant needs a little time to work things out, and is likely only to keep improving.
Click here to visit our photo gallery from Day 4.
Wednesday July 18
We had to leave extra early to make the long, winding and narrow road across the Mayacamas Range and down into the Sonoma Valley. Located at the northern end of Healdsburg is the historic and beautiful Simi Winery. The winery sits at the junction of the Dry Creek, Russian River and Alexander Valley regions of Sonoma. This perfect location played a large part in the diversity of the wines produced in the large river stone building. Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Sirah (Travis’s Favorite), Chardonnay, and many other wines are produced. All of the wines were well made, which is very unusual given the scope of the products. The winery treated us to a fantastic lunch created by Simi’s very enjoyable Sous Chef Boris Olvera. This was easily the finest meal we had in California, the pork tenderloin with exotic mushroom risotto was fantastic (and the first thing I had in days that was not overcooked), the nectarine bread pudding was the best dessert, combining a crisp top with a perfectly baked interior. Simi’s winemaker joined us for lunch, and we tried a final blend of the 2006 Sonoma Zinfandel even before the President of the winery. James, the senior wine educator, took outstanding care of us.
We next speed over to the spectacular Chalk Hill winery. Chalk Hill’s estate is truly second to none in beauty, not to mention the culinary center, indoor equestrian facility, and meticulous vineyards. We were treated to tasting of the current releases, which were all excellent, particularly the Chardonnay, however the red wines were markedly improved and the 2002 Merlot was fantastic (although they made very little of it). We were taken on a tour of the beautiful vineyards, the vineyard manager is top notch, and made some very gusty calls with the plantings he did years ago, it is reflected in the quality of the wines.
For the remainder of the day we join my very good friend Pete Perry of Dutton Goldfield. Pete took us on a very, very interesting tour of the Dutton Ranch Vineyards, and was extremely informative about why each vineyard was so important. This was perhaps the highlight of the trip for me. My style of cooking comes from my wine background, focus on the finest products and try not to mess it up by overdoing it. Although we can’t get them, Pete let us try the each of the single vineyard wines that form the components of the Dutton Ranch Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Each of the wines was spectacular, and each showed the distinction of the vineyard. The Dutton Goldfield Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are two of my favorite wines on the list. Both are beautifully made from outstanding vineyards, I simply can’t think of two wines on the list that would pair well with so many of our dishes. Pete treated us to dinner at Zazu just outside of the small Sonoma town of Graton. You may recognize the restaurant as it was featured on the cover of last month’s Wine Spectator. The menu is a solid representation of rustic Italian countryside comfort foods, and many of the items came from the restaurant’s organic gardens located on site. Brandon’s calamari with house-made pasta was the best entrée, and while my rabbit tenderloin fried with a lavender crust and served with maple waffles was interesting, it lacked a little something to keep it from being too dry (like sawmill gravy). The restaurant certainly did have a lot of character, and the staff took excellent care of us. I really enjoyed the extra time Pete spent with us, and I want to thank him for staying out so late (in fact our car got locked inside the Dutton Ranch facilities and we had to wake the winemaker out of bed to let us in).
Click here to visit our photo gallery from Day 5. (UNDER CONSTRUCTION)
Thursday July 19
The final day and we are all a little tired from late nights, tons of wine, heavy meals, and a lot of driving. Perhaps it was all the wine, or maybe the French steam showers at Chalk Hill’s cottage, but it took Travis a little extra time to get downstairs this morning, and I am going to have to haul ass to make it all the way to Ravenswood on time. Unfortunately we hit a serious traffic jam in construction on US101, and we had to call Ravenswood to let them know we would be ten minuets late. They said that they couldn’t help us out, and so we turned the car around and started back towards our last appointment at J Vineyards.
At this point we now had some extra time, so we made an unscheduled stop at the beautiful St Francis winery. The very lovely Vanessa took excellent care of us, tasting us through the current releases and some of the reserve releases which we can’t get. The wines were excellent, the Sonoma Chardonnay is one of my top picks for the price, and all of the reds were massive wines. For me the Old Vine Zinfandel wasn’t as good as previous vintages, but California is having a tough time with that grape in the last few years (in fact I didn’t try a single Zinfandel on the trip that I could highly recommend). The tasting room also offers dried berries, nuts and crackers with the wines, which were a welcome relief to our breakfast free morning of wine tasting.
Still a half hour ahead of schedule when we arrived at J, we decided to make a quick stop in to Rodney Strong, which is located literally in the same driveway as J Vineyards. The winery grounds are lovely, and the architecture is interesting. I enjoyed the self guided tour. What I didn’t really enjoy were the wines. Not a single one was anything to write home about and a few were really off. Most of the reds had drying tannins that left my mouth feeling like I had lost some enamel on my teeth.
The final stop was at J Vineyards, we had a blast. The tour was informative, and I was glad that Travis and Brandon got the see the method for producing sparkling wines so well laid out. They were bottling during our visit, which is always extremely interesting to watch. J has always offered a selection of mini appetizers to pair with each of their wines. This was an excellent example of why food helps wine, and wine helps food to reach the peak through a combined effort. The 2002 Sparkling Brut is a stunner, it’s already on our list, but now it is going to be offered by the glass as well. The Pinot Gris, which is also already on the list, was my pick as the best non-sparkling wine (though they were all really good), it is an excellent example of the elegance that wine can achieve. This was simple a fantastic end to our trip.
The drive back to San Francisco was surprisingly relaxed, this time we traveled down 101 to cross the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge. Returning the car was much easier than renting it, and except for Travis having to throw any all his shampoo because he was over the weight limit, the check in was easy.
I would like to thank all the wineries who were so very gracious in hosting us. We tried a metric ton of great wines, and made a lot of new friends. I will be updating the menu and wine list this week to reflect all the wines we enjoyed the most being promoted so that we can offer the best wines possible. Thank you to Dorothy at Standard Beverage for totally hooking us up. And thank you to all of you who chose to dine with us all year, and allow us the opportunity to try all the crazy specials I make. I hope that this trip creates new ideas for us, and allows my staff to be even better at their jobs serving all of you.
Friday, July 27, 2007
We are very pleased to announce that Wine Spectator has honored 4 Olives with a “Best of Award of Excellence” for 2007!
We had previously received an “Award of Excellence” in both 2005 and 2006, this is the first year we have received the much more prestigious “Best of Award of Excellence” and it is the FIRST and ONLY time any restaurant in Kansas has received this special honor.
The Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence was created to give special recognition to restaurants that clearly exceed the requirements of the Award of Excellence. Wine lists must display vintage depth, vertical offerings from top producers, and excellent breadth spread over major winegrowing regions. Also considered is the overall wine program, including wine storage, glassware, wine training, and menu. Only 748 restaurants in the world received the award.
Napa Travelogue Update: I know some of you are getting a bit antsy waiting for our blog posts, but let me assure you that they are well worth it. We plan on having the FULL travelogue with photos/video uploaded and ready for your viewing pleasure by next Tuesday, July 31st. Stay tuned and thanks for your patience!
Friday, July 20, 2007
Unfortunately several of our stops on the trip did not have ANY internet access (which I honestly had not expected), and the one day/night we did have access, blogspot turned the blog off thinking it was a "spam blog". (you can read more about spam blogs on wikipedia here)
The upside is... we have a full trip worth of photos (over 900 before review), 3.5 hours of HiDef video, AND Travis and Scott were kind enough to write blog entries EVEN THOUGH we did not have internet.
SO... the end result is:
We will be posting ALL of the materials as soon as possible. Hopefully within the next few days... So please stay tuned as there is a TON of fun stuff to come!
(PS: for the record... the trip was phenomenal... I might even describe it as life-changing...)
In any case... I need more sleep... especially considering we finally got into town around 5:00am... with that said, I'll write more later... :)