Friday, April 29, 2005

Dinner With Pursuit

Thursday night, instead of being a good patriot and watching the president's news conference, Mrs. P and I went to a wine dinner last night. The dinner was at Carlos, a restaurant nearby that is reputed to be one of Chicago's finest. I'm a bit of a holdout in that assessment, but I will admit it is very good, and our meal last night was excellent.

The featured wine was from Milat Vineyards, a small producer (3,500 cases annually) located in St. Helena, California. Mike Milat made the trip out, and was a delightful host, giving us an overview of each of the night's wine selections. Milat vines were planted in 1949, and wine making began in earnest in 1986. Overall, I was impressed with the selections. Here was our menu, with wine notes:

Mixed Seafood Terrine with an Apple and Jicama Salad
2004 Milat Chenin Blanc

The terrine was excellent. Seafood wrapped in a Salmon outer layer blended nicely with the apple and jicama salad providing texture and sweetness. A hint of saffron was present which brought the terrine in balance with the salad.

The Chenin Blanc was good, but not my favorite. With residual sugars at 2%, I thought it was a little sweet, and the nose had a hint of yeast. An average wine.

Grilled California Squab Breast, Florettes of Broccoli Rabe and Seven Spice Reduction
2002 Milat Pine Station Red Table Wine

Not traditionally a huge fan of sqab, I quite enjoyed this preparation. The seven spice reduction gave off a hint of asian taste, and the florettes of broccoli rabe packed intense flavor.

The Pine Station Red, was my favorite wine of the night. A blend of 45% Cabernet, 29% Merlot and 26% Zinfindel, it had a cherry front, with a long finish and excellent balance throughout.

Cocoa Crusted New Zealand Venison, Ramps, Fiddlehorn Ferns and smoked Cherry Demi Glace
20001 Milat Cabernet Sauvignon

mmmmmmmm smoked cherry demi glace. While the venison itself was a bit of a disappointment, I found the meat to be tender, yet somewhat flavorless, the cocoa interaction with the demi glace was an inspiration. Ramps are a springtime treat with anything and I enjoyed them here.

How many meals have the Cab as an up-front wine? Typically the answer is zero. However this cab, which had been opened for about five hours, was smooth and well balanced. Perhaps a bit too much so, as I've come to expect my California cabs to deliver a story with each mouthful. In this case, I suspect the wine was too young to drink, and the extended breathing time made it acceptable for this course, but also caused it to lose some structure. I would like to try this again right after it has been opened as I suspect it may be celerable.

Crispy Veal Sweetbread with Braised Carrot, Endive and a Black Mission Fig Reduction
2002 Milat Merlot

The sweetbreads were the best course of the night. By far. I love sweetbreads, and these were fantastic. Crispy exterior, melt in your mouth interior, with the carrots a perfect match.

The merlot was the second best wine of the night. Full bodied, with a nice long lasting mouth, this is merlot as it used to be.

Goat Cheese with Assorted Greens, Oven Dried Tomatoes and Pine Nuts
2002 Milat Zinfandel

The goat cheese finish was excellent and the zin, with its berry forward taste was a perfect match.

Chocolate Creme Brulee with Fresh Berries

A wonderful finish.

We ended buying a case of the Pine Station, which was hard to pass up at $16/bottle. Overall I'd recommend those that like the big California style give Milat a try, as it is quite good, and reasonably priced between $15 and $35.

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