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Under Syrah’s Spill

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This month, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar launched a new series of wine events, which will take place on a monthly basis at the restaurant. According to manager Chris Horton, “We will be hosting monthly wine dinners featuring different regions, winemakers and wine varietals. Also, we will be hosting wine and food tastings designed to offer remarkable wine and hors d’oeuvres in a less formal atmosphere.”


For those who might be unaware, Fleming’s has one of the most extensive wine lists in the state, offering more than 100 notable wines by the glass, with another 100 or so available from their reserve wine list. That’s a lot of options for anyone wishing to experiment with different wines.


“Syrahs From Around the World” was this month’s wine dinner at Fleming’s, featuring wines made from Syrah (or Shiraz, if you’re an Aussie) grapes, paired with dishes created specifically for the dinner by Fleming’s chef partner Donavon Tejero.


Now, I attend a good number of wine dinners. But the Syrah dinner at Fleming’s was one of the most enjoyable, in large part due to Chef Tejero’s cooking. Too often at dinners where specialty wines are paired with food, chefs tend to go overboard, strutting their stuff with complicated, overwrought dishes. Frequently, the result is that the food is so complex that finding good wine matches is nearly impossible. So kudos to Chef Tejero and Chris Horton for keeping things simple, but delicious.


E. Guigal Tavel Rosé is one of my favorite apéritif wines and, at Fleming’s it was a perfect starter, served alongside smoked salmon crepes hors d’oeuvres. The strawberry and watermelon flavors of the luscious Rosé, along with its crisp feel on the palate, provided a pleasant contrast to the smoky salmon topped with crème fraiche.


Hors d’oeuvres were followed by Tuscan tomato soup with andouille sausage, paired with Jean Luc Columbo Crozes-Hermitage La Tuiliere 1999. Lots of red fruit, black currants, spices and tannins helped the Crozes-Hermitage stand up to the acidic tomatoes and spiciness of the andouille sausage.


Another of my favorite wines is Joseph Phelps Le Mistral California. So I was happy to see the ’99 vintage accompanying Chef Tejero’s phenomenal herb-stuffed beef tenderloin. This is what I mean when I say that sometimes simpler is better. The herb-stuffed tenderloin was not a complicated dish, but it blew my socks off, especially when paired with the jammy, rich Le Mistral. Slam-dunk.


A braised lamb shank Provençal the size of my forearm was equally wonderful with a glass of Australia’s D’Arenberg Shiraz-Grenache McLaren Vale d’Arry’s Original 2000. This delectable wine is soft, yet earthy, with coffee and chocolate flavors and a hint of mint that paired nicely with the tender, meaty lamb shanks. Too bad I didn’t get to drink more of it, but in the middle of a conversation about wine spills that end up looking like Rorschach tests, right on cue I managed to somehow launch my D’Arenberg directly onto my dining companion’s white blouse. The power of suggestion.


In between mopping up spilled wine and making apologies, I managed to lick my dessert plate clean of Chef Tejero’s chocolate raspberry almond torte, served with Cline Late Harvest Mourvedre Contra Costa Big Break Vineyard 1999. I’d like to tell you about that dessert wine, but I was so embarrassed about dumping the D’Arenberg that, in truth, I really wasn’t paying too much attention. You’ll just have to try it yourself.


Upcoming wine events at Fleming’s include a Napa Valley Zinfandel Wine Dinner on Nov. 6 and a Beaujolais Nouveau Party, tentatively scheduled for Dec. 9. Phone Chris Horton at 355-3704 for information.

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