DINNER WITH KARL WENTE
AT CITY GRILL
evening was spectacular. Combine a great array of wines with food prepared
by an acclaimed chef and serve generous portions to an impressive gathering
of gourmets in one of the countrys most beautiful restaurants,
and the ingredients are in place for a long remembered evening.
culinary affair was at City Grill, Karen Bremers magnificent
and palatial restaurant. Wines served were from Wente Vineyards, the
venerable and acclaimed California winemaker. A special appearance
be Karl Wente, a descendant of C.H. Wente, a German immigrant who founded
Wente Vineyards in 1833, supplied more magic to the event.
Here we were in dear Atlanta enjoying exquisite cuisine from a legendary
kitchen along with the glory of the grape from one of our top winemakers.
We gathered early in the cozy room on the second floor private room
in City Grill, located in the Hurt Building a stones throw away
from City Hall, the State Capitol and adjacent to Georgia State University.
It was still early evening with the sun ablaze and the moment called
for a glass of 2001 Wente Sauvignon Blanc. After a few sips, hors doeuvres
were served that blended perfectly with the citrus flavors and grassy
fragrance from the exceptional aperitif. This proved to be a harbinger
of things to come.
grand entrance by esteemed owner Karen Bremer, we sat down to a memorable
feast that was notable for the precision in pairing great Wente wines
with noble cuisine. Food and wine compatibility is not as simple as
it sounds, and to accomplish what we enjoyed during each of the four
courses requires an experienced and concerned wait staff, with outstanding
leadership in the kitchen.
We began with a roasted beet salad sprinkled with light citrus vinaigrette
and goat cheese, expertly paired with a 2000 Riva Ranch Chardonnay,
one of the most richly flavored varietals Ive enjoyed. Julia
Jones, an Atlanta attorney who joined me in the wine and food adventure,
said she was delighted by this Chardonnay, particularly how it
brought out the flavors of the salad. There was no doubt that
this delightful white wine was destined to become an evening favorite.
The Wente Reliz Creek Pinot Noir was the selection for the second course
of Halibut with Brie and wild mushroom risotto. Karl Wente, a fifth-generation
vintner who truly grew up with wine both at the dinner table and as
part of his everyday life at Wente Vineyards, introduced the wines
for each course and advised diners to lose misconceptions about wine
pairing. Red wine with red meat or white wine with fish is basically
irrelevant now, and really doesnt do much for enjoyment,
he explained. The Pinot Noir accompanied the delicate Halibut splendidly
and served to exemplify Wentes guidance.
One of the evenings big surprises was the City Grill cheese plate,
assortments of homegrown delights from Thomasville, Georgias
award winning Sweet Grass Dairy. While we devoured the morsels which
were washed down with an ample glass of Wente Cabernet Sauvignon, Karen
Bremer, who brings genuine passion into every aspect of the City Grill
experience, told the assemblage of gourmets about Sweet Grass and the
special relationship her restaurant has with the acclaimed cheese maker.
finale illustrated the flexibility of great, full-bodied red wine that,
when chosen with care, allows exceptional pairing with certain desserts.
The Wente Craneridge Reserve Merlot went down like it was to be consumed
only with the seductive flourless chocolate cake with cherry coulis
sauce. At my table, everyone was comfortably full and there was no
request for after dinner drinks or coffee. It was understood that everyone
had just enough of a great thing. Somehow, the finish seemed to be
part of a wonderful plan that worked to perfection.
There are wine tastings and wine dinners galore, conducted somewhere
almost daily. This is a healthy trend and serves to advance the interests
of wine and food enthusiasts. These serve as effective vehicles by
providing opportunities to explore a large variety of wines from different
parts of the planet. When a restaurant decides to really do this right,
the benefit inherent with intelligent pairing opens up new worlds of
flavor enjoyment. City Grills Wente Vineyards wine dinner was
a glowing example of an upper-scale affair that went far beyond reasonable
expectations. Ms. Bremers peerless staff knows what they are
doing and spare nothing in showcasing their majestic creations.
There are generally accepted fundamentals that make a wine dinner worth
the effort and expense. First, the restaurant must be serious about
its sponsorship with a ferocious determination for excellence. To assure
that a wine dinner is truly worthy, I contact the restaurant manager
beforehand and make some polite inquiry. Who will be speaking and leading
the diners through each course. Will the chef be available afterwards
for dialogue? Who will be the spokesperson for the wine? What are his
or her credentials? How is the wine being served? Is it to be poured
into stemware or plastic? Answers are cheerfully provided by any reputable
restaurant and advance knowledge will help you make an informed choice.
Karl Wente revealed that as a winemaker, his primary responsibility
is to oversee the production of Wentes reserve and single vineyard
wines. This focus on winemaking has led to the addition of small-lot
facilities, enabling him to focus on higher quality with some room
for experimentation. Thats welcome news for those who long for
the new pleasures that are almost sure to come from a little daring
in the evolving world of wine. An evening of wine excellence surrounded
by City Grills culinary wonders would be very difficult to duplicate.
Its the stuff of priceless memories.