Greetings wine fans! The Thirsty Kitten is back in the saddle and ready to continue reporting on our recent Northern California wine country escapades. We cannot thank you enough, dear readers, for your expressions of support in response to our last two posts about the passing of our dear friend. You have lifted our spirits with your kindness and compassion and have affirmed what we’ve always believed: wine fans have big hearts. Thank you. We are grateful.
This week, it is our great pleasure to tell you about our dinner at The Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg, one of the highlights of our trip. Your raconteur for this dining experience will be none other than my Dear Darling Spouse, who has graciously set the stage and documented every sip and morsel.
One of our favorite stops on our periodic trips through the blissful Northern California wine country is the town of Healdsburg, situated about 60 minutes north of Sonoma amongst three of our favorite regions—the Alexander, Russian River and Dry Creek Valleys. We always stop through this gem of a town because it has everything we love: a quaint small town feel with a traditional center plaza surrounded by wonderful restaurants, fun shops and numerous world class wineries within a 15 minute drive.
Situated right on the plaza is the Hotel Healdsburg. Lucy and I have been ogling this hotel for several years, with its caché of luxury, its contemporary vibe and European feel. The hotel is a great destination unto itself, but what makes it even more irresistible is the fact that world class chef Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen is connected to it. We had an amazing dinner there in 2004 and have always vowed to return. Since we were celebrating our 23rd wedding anniversary, we decided this would be the perfect excuse for a romantic dinner and overnight stay.
The Dry Creek Kitchen’s wine list is literally a book featuring over 600 Sonoma area wines, which makes the task of selecting a bottle a joyful chore. We watched one couple pour over the list for close to an hour before deciding. We are not as disciplined and could never survive that long with only water in our glasses, so we took the easy way out and chose the Six Course Chef’s Tasting Menu paired with specially selected wines for each course. After all, if you are going to celebrate something important, why not do it right?
Course #1 began with a glass of the non-vintage J Brut Rosé from the Russian River Valley, a 90 point wine according to Wine Spectator, with a gorgeous full body and beautiful color, not to mention the crisp raspberry flavors and hint of lemon. The wine paired perfectly with Flash Seared Hamachi (a Japanese Amberjack, for those not in the know) that was served with Yuzu Cantaloupe Gazpacho, Pickled Watermelon and Lemon Balm.
For Course #2, we were served the 2008 Hafner Alexander Valley Chardonnay paired with a Sweet White Corn Soup that sent our tastebuds into the stratosphere. We were amazed at the flavors of this seemingly simple yet incredibly complex creation which included a Scallion Emulsion, Smoked Shrimp and Créme Fraiche. The medium-bodied Hafner Chard had flavors of lemon and toasted vanilla and was smooth on the palate.
Course #3 consisted of a Lemon-Ricotta Tortellini with Basil Oil, Heirloom Tomato Water and Poached Cherry Tomatoes, which was paired with a 2010 Capture Les Pionniers Sauvignon Blanc from Sonoma County. The tortellini was exquisite and delicate, as were its accompaniments. The Les Pionneirs had aromas of lemon with flavors of pear, and a balanced, crisp mineral acidity.
By Course #4, we were really hitting our stride. This course featured a Seared Hawaiian Ahi Tuna with Smoked Duck, Pickled Hon-Shimeji Mushrooms and a Porcini Puree. [We always know a dish is going to be good when we can’t pronounce half the things in it.] The tuna was matched beautifully with a 2008 Marimar Torres La Masia Pinor Noir from the cool, foggy Green Valley— the smallest appellation in Sonoma County. A gorgeous, full-bodied silky Pinot with flavors of currant and spice, the Wine Enthusiast rated it 96 points.
Course #5 had the big guns— Beef and Cab. The wine was the 2007 Three Sticks Durell Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from the Sonoma Valley. The beef was an American Wagyu Flat Iron Steak with Shallot Tartare, Parsnip Mousseline and Charred Scallion Bearnaise. Wagyu Beef, we learned, has a pedigree like Japanese Kobe. Lucy began to give up near the end of this course, in order to save room for dessert, which happily resulted in a little more beef for me. The Cab was big and bold, as Sonoma Cabs often are, but wonderfully balanced at the same time, harnessing beautiful fruit and tannins.
Course #6 allowed us each to choose our own dessert. I headed straight to the Warm, Chocolate Orange Cake topped with Popcorn Sorbet. This was paired with Graham’s 10 Year Tawny Port. Lucy indulged in the Dry Creek Peach Shortcake with Almond Lemon Sherbet, accompanied by the 2006 Arrowood Late Harvest Reisling from the Alexander Valley. Whew!
Needless to say, a good time was had by all.
So this week, as we gratefully recall our decadent anniversary dinner in all it’s glory, we raise our glasses to treating yourself to a special experience when the occasion merits. After all, what better way is there to honor an important milestone than by creating a wonderful memory you’ll have forever. Cheers!