WINE IN ATLANTA -
THE BEST OF TWO WORLDS
Dick Dore, the esteemed Santa Barbara, California winemaker came to
Atlanta recently where he spent an evening with some old and new friends
at City Grill, the elegant culinary shrine located in Atlantas
architectural landmark, the historic Hurt Building. Joined by City
Grill owner Karen Bremer and guests known for epicurean preferences,
Mr. Dore, who is as easygoing and natural as anyone Ive met in
the wine business, told us the family-based story about the origin
of his land where his superior Foxen wines are produced. His narrative
could have been part of the opening paragraph in one of Patrick OBriens
enormously popular tales of the British Navy.
Dick Dores glorious story added enormously to an otherwise auspicious
food and wine affair. Thus, the evening took on more meaning and permanence.
City Grills wine dinners are in an environment that allows such
grand moments to unfold, and Mr. Dore was perfect for the occasion.
The greatness of his heralded wines combined with City Grills
magnificent courses, and Mr. Dores charm made the affair unforgettable.
While we were enjoying glasses of the 2001 Foxen Viognier, Mr. Dore
revealed that his grandfather, William Benjamin Foxen, the commander
of a ship in the Royal Navy, landed unexpectedly on the California
coast in 1837 due to a mast broken in a tumultuous storm.
Welcomed by the Mexican governor, Commander Foxen decided to stay put
after falling in love with and marrying the Governors daughter.
Together they had 14 children and left a large estate which is the
site today of much of Foxens vineyards. I thought of the Commander
with each glass of wine.
During the first course of pan seared Maine scallops with hoe cake
and lemon confit, Dick Dore poured Foxens 2000 Chenin Blanc,
a dry, fruity delight which whetted a penchant for more wine. Mr. Dore,
brimming with interesting anecdotes, told us how he got into wine making.
I was lucky to keep a great deal of our ancestral land,
he said, but I had other careers and even lived and traveled
in Europe, where I developed a love of wine.
While enjoying Chef Kristian Holbrooks Grilled Quail Brest with
preserved figs and purple pea puree paired with Foxens majestic
2000 Pinot Noir from Santa Maria Valley, the eloquent guest of honor
described his successful wine producing arrangement with Bill Wathen,
another central California product who spent valuable time early on
under the tutelage of several viticultural groundbreakers, particularly
wine pioneer Dick Graff. Graf, who mentored Bill Wathen at Chalone
Vineyard, taught Wathen traditional French winemaking techniques and
the minimalist winemaking philosophy, which is evident today in Foxen,
third course contained a surprise. Cabernet Sauvignon is not produced
in Santa Barbara County, at least until Foxens owners went against
all advice, according to Dick Dore. Our Cab, he explained,
can best be described as a noble red made in the French tradition
with lots of California sunshine. Indeed. The ample serving of
this superior wine, the 1999 Foxen Cabernet Sauvignon, drew praise
from the assemblage of dinners who were well into grilled Yellowfin
Tuna with Georgia Crown Edamame Mousseline, marinated Porcini mushrooms
with beet and ginger sauce. Mr. Dore considered this vintage to be
a coup attributable to well-developed growing techniques and commitment
to winemaking excellence even in the face of risk. Go to the
edge to find new worlds, he confided while I was still imagining
the adventures of his Naval ancestor.
Every City Grill Wine Dinner is like a memorable romance novel. Here
was the great lady and restaurant pioneer, Karen Bremer, and the gallant
man, the renowned winemaker Dick Dore. The common ground for their
respective offerings of beautifully presented courses perfectly paired
with exquisite wines, was the elegant dinner table, resplendent with
linen, china, silver and crystal. And, like all heroic stories, there
was a beginning, middle and an end.
The end came, of course, but not without drama and fanfare. A drum
roll was needed when the Peach Panna Cotta- prepared with Georgia grown
fruit- was placed in front of each pampered guest along with a genuine
surprise, the Foxen Late Harvest Viognier, that had just enough acidity
for the marvelous dish.
Such elegant and enlightening evenings would have been rare or even
unthinkable in Atlantas dining scene just a few years ago. We
have come a long way. Progress in elevated lifestyles, which includes
dining, is not an accident. Few things meaningful are anyway. Much
of what we are witnessing in the growing popularity of fine wine and
great dinning is attributable to the pioneering efforts of Karen Bremer,
one of the original founders of several trend setting restaurants including
the Pleasant Peasant on Peachtree. Her commitment to high wine and
food standards are showcased at her two acclaimed establishments, City
Grill and Dailys.
EDITORS NOTE: Wine, gourmet dining, legendary restaurants like
Atlantas City Grill and rising star chefs are regular features
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