We couldnt help but despair when we heard that one of our favorite places in Russian River Valley would soon be sold. Experience has shown that few restaurants improve after they change hands. I was there the last night under the original owner to say good-bye and thought that might be my last visit.
Yet soon the positive reports started coming in: freshly painted interior and new decor, new crystal, charming French manager who loves to pull out his guitar and serenade the ladies, more extensive menu, and a happier than ever Steve-o in the kitchen. I was delighted to have the opportunity to check things out first hand when my friend Michael invited me to a celebratory dinner with a couple special bottles that I matched with a pair from my own cellar.
For starters we had the seared scallops with a lemony sauce that was absolutely perfect with his bottle of 1979 Robert Ampeau Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrieres. The 22 year-old white wine was amazingly fresh and bright with a clean acidic cut, seemingly in suspended animation. The citrus notes and almost salty minerality contrasted with the succulent scallops. The ravioli filled with pears in gorgonzola sauce were the right foil for my last bottle of1989 Kuntz-Bas Eichberg Grand Cru Gewurztraminer. The lush lychee, gentle spice and sweet edge of the wine added another dimension to the fruit and rich flavors of this appetizer.
With our entrees we had a side-by-side tasting of 1993 Robert Groffier Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Haut Doix and 1993 Robert Chevillon Nuit-St.-Georges 1er Cru St. Georges. The previous bottle of the Groffier Id opened was over-the-hill so I had some trepidation with this one. Fortunately, this one was just coming into its own with well-developed bouquet and expansiveness on the palate. It indeed earned its nickname of mini-Musigny. The Chevillon was much more backward and less ready to drink. Still compact and thickly constructed, you can safely put any bottles away for two to five years more aging.
We enjoyed these with the signature rabbit three-ways in mustard sauce. Michael lapped up every bit on his plate. The last day of local salmon season, I indulged one more time in a thick salmon roast with a pumpkin seed crust and served with chipotle sauce. The sauce had just the suggestion of warmth and I liked the way it had been painted in flame shapes on the plate.
With no room for dessert, the manager insisted that we order the cheese plate to finish up our wines. I had saved a bit of the Gewurztraminer, as I feel this varietys best role on the table is with a mature and pungent cheese. The cheese course offered up local and imported cheeses aged to perfection accompanied by toasted baguettes, warm walnut bread, and fig cake. The proprietors are presenting a serious cheese course, I hope their customers will appreciate the effort.