Doc Lawrence

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 Atlanta’s 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 I’ve 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 O’Brien’s enormously popular tales of the British Navy.

Dick Dore’s glorious story added enormously to an otherwise auspicious food and wine affair. Thus, the evening took on more meaning and permanence. City Grill’s 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 Grill’s magnificent courses, and Mr. Dore’s 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 Governor’s daughter. Together they had 14 children and left a large estate which is the site today of much of Foxen’s 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 Foxen’s 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 Holbrook’s Grilled Quail Brest with preserved figs and purple pea puree paired with Foxen’s 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, label wines.

The third course contained a surprise. Cabernet Sauvignon is not produced in Santa Barbara County, at least until Foxen’s 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 Atlanta’s 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 Daily’s.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Wine, gourmet dining, legendary restaurants like Atlanta’s City Grill and rising star chefs are regular features of Doc’s News. The enthusiastic reader response affirms our commitment to share more worthy epicurean news with the community. Suggestions for future profiles and features are welcome. Contact us at


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