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What's Open Owen? - June '22 Edition

Alinea - a part of a piece of writing, marked by beginning the first sentence on a new line.

Every once in a while, you have a dining experience that is not just unorthodox; it changes how you think about food. Alinea is a juggernaut when it comes to defining the future of fine dining cuisine. I recently had the opportunity to sit and dine at the chef's table, situated right in the kitchen, with a unique inside look into how one of the most famous restaurants in the world operates. Alinea also recently received three Michelin stars once again, marking it as the only three-star restaurant in Chicago.

We decided that it would not be a celebration without a proper premium wine pairing to go with our meal. While I didn't want to give away any secrets or surprises during the experience, I took special note of the paired wines. Here they are, in order, along with my tasting notes. This was indeed a night to remember.

Pierre Moncuit, "Cuvée Nicole, Villes Vignes"

Blanc de Blancs Champagne Grand Cru, France 2006

A fantastic way to start dinner! Blanc de Blancs indicates that this wine is 100% Chardonnay with a declared vintage (see my previous Champagne post) and a Grand Cru designation. This wine is also not made every year and is made with over 90 years old vines!

It had such a beautiful, lees forward expression, showing off those toasted buttery notes. The wine had lovely, fine effervescence, which was the perfect palate cleanser. It was borderline gluttonous how luxurious the wine felt on the palate as we paired it with caviar and Meyer lemon. I thought it was well within its drinking age and a perfect sip to start the celebration off right.

Domaine du Vieux, Télégraphe, Clairette Blend

Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Southern Rhône, France 2019

My heart swoons for Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc. This wine was a blend of 40% Clairette, 30% Grenache Blanc, 15% Roussanne, 15% Bourboulenc.

It was medium plus-bodied with tropical fruit notes of pineapple and mango. It expressed phenomenal acidity, which drove the wine on the palate, and finished on its minerality.

It was paired with a smoked maple arctic char which was itself charred. It was placed on a pedestal that, once overturned, was hiding a smoked char roe. Both were incredible pairings.

Domaines OTT, "Château Romassan" Mourvèdre Blend

Bandol Rosé, Provence, France 2020

Bandol is a famous region in Provence known for the Mourvèdre grape varietal. This particular blend was 60% Mourvèdre, 20% Cinsault, and 20% Grenache.

The wine was minerality driven, showing off its strong citrus notes of orange and lime. Provence Rosé tends to be very crisp. It was incredibly light and acidic yet balanced.

This wine was paired with Niçoise, keeping the soul of the pairing Mediterranean.

Corpse Reviver #2

The only cocktail of our tasting. It was a play on a gin gimlet, but with Lillet Blanc and Absinthe essence. The zinging acidity and burn of the absinthe were sure to awaken the senses.

We needed it for what was in store next.

Reichsgraf Von Kesselstatt, "Goldtröpfchen #5

Riesling Auslese, Mosel, Germany 2013

One of the themes of dinner was exploring the cuisines of Thailand and Japan. For this course, we needed a sweet wine.

The dish was a lightly spicy curry, perfectly balanced by this lightly sweet Mosel Riesling. It had notes of ripe apricot and honeysuckle but still remained incredibly complex.

At almost ten years of age, the wine was beginning its drinkability window, and at only 7.5% ABV, I could have sipped it all night.

Domaine Jean-François "The Twelve Rows, Sanford & Benedict"

Pinot Noir, STA. Rita Hills, Santa Barbara, Califonia 2018

Santa Barbara has been in the limelight recently for not just its Pinot Noir, but for its play on the classic GSM, or Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre blends. I did a whole post on Santa Barbara Pinot Noir, but this bottle was especially unique.

It was a rugged expression of Pinot Noir but still very light. It also expressed violets and characteristics of ripe red fruit. It was rightfully paired with Uni, a Santa Barbara staple, solidifying the ageless expression, "what grows together, goes together."

Masi, "Costasera" Corvina Blend

Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico Riserva, Veneto, Italy 2015

Oh, Amarone… a perfectly raisined and iconic Italian wine. The process used to make this particular wine is called appassimento.

This is where the winemakers lay the grapes out on bamboo racks to dry the grapes, thus concentrating their flavor. It was ripe with deep plum, cherry, and stewed strawberry notes.

The food pairing was a play on Elote with what looked and tasted like corn grilled with lime and mole. Upon further inspection, it wasn't corn at all!

Please note: this is not a wine for the faint of heart at 15% ABV.

Benjamin Romeo, "La Viña de Andres Romeo" Tempranillo

Rioja, Spain 2012 -

This course gets a special shout-out: A-5 wagyu topped with black truffles. I mean, come on!

Indulgent doesn't even begin to describe how savory and umami-driven the course was. This needed rustic Tempranillo to balance it all out.

This Tempranillo had more of a jolt than others I’ve tasted in the past. It was deep and flavorful with tastes of dark red fruits and a dusty finish. It was bold with a great tannin structure to pair with the wagyu fat. The wine also showed a good amount of oak, which was pleasant against the boldness of the meat itself.

Villa Calcinaia, Trebbiano Blend, Vin Santo Del Chianti Classico

Tuscany, Italy 2011

Now we are into dessert territory. This wine tasted like liquid caramel. The same family has run it since 1524, so they certainly know what they are doing.

Some call Sauternes Liquid Gold, but I would argue that Vin Santo Del Chianti Classico is the actual commodity.

The sweet must is aged for eight years before bottling, giving the bottle a nearly decade-long journey before it is ever consumed.

The wine was full-bodied and almost sticky, a pairing match made in heaven for the many types of ice cream-style desserts laid out before us. The chefs literally painted dessert on our table, set to a Eurythmics song fit for a dream-like dessert. It was a masterpiece.

This was truly a masterclass in food and wine pairing theory. I cannot wait to see what Alinea does next.

Have any questions or comments? Don't be afraid to reach out and let me know what you have open this month!


Owen Huzar

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