On May 1st,, 2012, Ruth’s Chris Steak House hosted the US and World release of the new vintage, Penfolds Grange wine. Crave Local had the opportunity to cover this unveiling-this is our firsthand account of the experience.
A five course wine dinner showcasing some of Penfolds wines occurred simultaneously at 60 locations. We dined at the Winter Park location. The atmosphere was upscale but relaxed. We were seated in one of the private rooms with about 20 total guests.
A short video describing the process of creating the famed Grange, narrated by Penfolds Chief Wine Maker, Peter Gago, was viewed.
Ruth’s Chris staff were on hand with answers, to any further questions. Their enthusiasm and knowledge were welcoming, and typical of a Ruth’s Chris dining experience.
The first course consisted of a Chilled Shellfish Salad containing Tiger Shrimp, Sweet Crab Meat, Spring Greens, and White Balsamic Vinaigrette, paired with a 2011 Thomas Hyland Riesling. This wine spent some time on yeast lees, which gives it a stronger concentration of fruit and a softer mouth-feel. It had just the right amount of acidity to cut through the creamy lump crab, and a surprisingly clean and pure finish for such a juicy Riesling. This wine is rated 90 points on Wine Spectator, and a bargain at $15 a bottle. With summer on its way, this wine is ideal as an aperitif and pairs wonderfully with seafood or salads.
We were served a Spring Leek and Asparagus Soup paired with the 2010 Bin 311 Chardonnay for our second course. You could really taste spring in every spoonful of this wonderful soup.
The nutmeg spiked Crème Frâiche that topped the soup contrasted well, and brought out the minerality of the wine. This wine was matured for seven months in seasoned French oak barriques. Bin 311 would also pair well with chicken dishes, and truffles. This delicious, superb, Chardonnay retails $26 a bottle. I look forward tasting it again soon.
This was a truly a stand out dish for us, and we hope that Ruth’s Chris will give this asparagus soup a permanent spot on the menu.
For the third course we tasted a Duck Confit Napoleon paired with the 2007 St. Henri Shiraz. The black cherry demi glace and the cocoa flavors in the St. Henri Shiraz was my favorite aspect of this pairing.
Saint Henri is aged in large older oak vats, and does not rely on any new oak – unusual among Australian reds. Cabernet was added to improve structure, but the focus remains Shiraz. This full bodied velvety Shiraz has aromas of sage, pepper, meat, and mocha. It is plush, mouth-filling and big, with round tannins and structure.
A little known fact is that St. Henri is a wine that can age for many decades, just as its counterpoint wine, the Grange. Like many wines, it benefited from being decanted, instead of just poured straight from the bottle. This highly rated wine retails for $65 a bottle. Buy it now, and plan to store a few bottles to open in a year or more.
The fourth course featured Australia’s most famous wine, the 2007 Penfolds ‘Grange’ Shiraz. It was served with a Filet Mignon and Crab stuffed Lobster Tail. The infamous Grange is also a blended wine that sources grapes from a wide area. The 2007 was mostly sourced from the best grapes offered by the Barossa and Mclaren Vale, and Magill Estate. Unlike the St. Henri, the Grange gets 21 months in 100% new American oak hogsheads. Penfolds Grange utilizes fully-ripe, intensely flavored Shiraz grapes, and 3% percent Cabernet for structure.
Aromas of cola, peat, soy, black licorice with undertones of mocha, bitter chocolate, and coffee grinds, with tar, fig, and syrupy black cherry liqueur make it a luxurious experience for your taste buds.
This is a wine that should be enjoyed all on its own. It paired well with the filet, but the fruit in it overpowered the lobster. Personally I enjoyed the St. Henri with the filet, and the Bin 311 with the lobster. On its own the Grange, is surprisingly approachable. Opulent, rich, velvety deliciousness with a long, lingering finish. The 2007 Grange Shiraz is still at its infancy, and 20 years in a solid wine cellar would make this wine a rockstar. Peak drinking years are from 2014 to 2045. At $600 a bottle, this wine is out of price range for most, and based on Peter Gago’s description of what this wine will be like in 30 years, a time machine would come in handy.
For dessert, a Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cheesecake was served with Penfolds Club Tawny Port. The port had some spice, cinnamon, and caramel flavors, and a sweet long silky finish. It matched up delightfully with the fluffy cheesecake covered with chocolate ganache. This Port was rated 89 points by Wine Spectator, and retails for around $10. It certainly was a delicious end to a wonderful meal.
Ruth’s Chris has monthly wine and spirits dinners around the country. We highly recommend you make a date of it, and share in this one-of-a-kind experience.
At the Winter Park Ruth’s Chris location, Executive Chef Jon Zimmerman and General Manager David O’Bannon are truly passionate about the dinners they presenting. Be sure to leave your email with the hostess to get updates on their monthly wine dinners and special events.
If you happen to see Jon or David, be sure to tell them Dante says hello.