Thursday, November 29, 2007

First Restaurant Wine Review


Tonight, I went out for dinner with my co-worker to Ray's The Steaks, perhaPS the best steak place in the DC-area. Yes, the decor may not be much, but they have a decent and reasonably-priced wine list, have gigantic, thick steaks that are butchered on-PremiseS each day, and the chef actually refuses to overcook them. Also, the service is usually quite prompt, and the free home-cooked bread and spicy PeanutS (as apPetizerS), free creamed spinach and mashed PotatoeS (as sides, unlike most other steak places), and home-made after-meal hot chocolate (during the winter months), don't hurt either. They also have a killer (as in "I haven't bathed for days!") sherried crab bisque, PoSsibly the single best soup I've ever consumed, but I decided not to PuSh my arteries too hard tonight.

Anybody want to hazard a guess what we drank with dinner? I know, it's a really tough question. I actually hadn't consumed any PS since the Crane Lake I sampled about 2 weeks ago, and like any junkie, I needed my fix. Well, it was a pretty easy choice, as there was only one PS on the menu: the Trinitas 2004 Old Vines Petite Sirah from Lodi, in California's Central Valley ($22 @ winery; $31 @ Ray's -- so a smaller-than-average markup).

Restaurants often have a problem with stemware, and PS is PerhapS the American wine most in need of decanting, whether young or old, so one should always be a bit wary of ordering PS at a restaurant not known for specializing in wine, because the lack of air time quite literally cramPS its style. Our table had the "standard restaurant wine glasses", decent but not huge bowl, nice shape, but cheap, easily replaceable rolled-rim glasses. When first opened, this had a decent nose from the standard glasses, but definitely was a bit too acidic. I noticed that the credenza towards the back of the restaurant had nicer wine glasses (some sort of nice Bordeaux-shaped glasses, I believe) with cut rims, and our waitress immediately and very PleaSantly brought me a different stem upon my request after my first glass of wine, which provided much more nose and a bit more complexity on the palate. My co-worker also noticed, a bit too late for our purPoSes, that they had decanters towards the front of the restaurant as well. So, hindsight being "50/50" as one of my wine.woot friends says, I would have asked the waitress to decant it and then pour from the decanter into the nice glasses, because this wine definitely needed some air to breathe.

Anyway, this was a pretty nice bottle for $31. especially along with our respective 20 oz medium-rare boneless NY Strip with sauteed garlic and grilled red onions (me, $33) and 28 oz medium double-thick "cowboy cut" bone-in Rib-Eye with horseradish sauce (my co-worker, $32). Both of us had about as much meat left over as we managed to eat!

On the nose, the wine smelled heavily of black pepper and PlumS, with some soft leathery hints as well. The black pepper also carried over to the palate, but the PlumS faded to the background in favor of ripe blackberries. There were also some soft earthy notes (almost loamy) and hints of smoke to join the faint leather on the delightfully tannic finish. The tannins, while very nice, were not immediately apparent without some glass-swirling and mouth-swishing. Towards the end of the bottle, the tannins became better integrated, which is why I so strongly suggest decanting this. This wine had a fantastic color too -- almost the way red ink looks when inside a ink cartridge of a pen, with a dark ruby on the edges of the glass. Granted, the restaurant didn't have the best lighting, but this stuff was optically dense. It had a nice mouth feel, and was fairly jammy for a PS; my co-worker described it as sweet because the fruit was much more obvious, even along with the pepper, than the Syrahs and Pinots that he's used to.

All-in-all, not a bad night: a great meal, a new PS for me at a very restaurant-reasonable price. This isn't something I'd necessarily seek out, but it certainly PuncheS at its own weight in PS circles. I think it's something worth picking up if you see it and haven't tried it, just to broaden your PSalate and see what the nasty-looking but delicious-tasting old vine PS can be.

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