Friday, January 27, 2012

First Impressions

Last night I was invited to check out Darien Social, the newest restaurant in Darien. I’m not a first impression type of guy when it comes to restaurants that have just opened (or not quite opened) so I always refrain from opining about food quality and level of service. As a rule, I usually give restaurants three months to shake the sheet rock dust out of their ears and let the skillets season before I comment on the food quality and level of service. So here’s what I will tell you.

The restaurant is pretty darn big with a bar and dining area facing the Post Road and another large dining area toward the back facing Center Street. The interior is a warmer, more elegant Fat Cat Pie Company with exposed brick walls and recycled wide plank oak floors. I suspect when crowded the noise level will be quite high. The menu is well put together with a few twists on some classic dishes. It reminds me a bit of both Terroir and Balthazar in NYC, and Burger Bar in Norwalk. Their website is live and the menu is available. Here’s the link. Darien Social There wasn’t a wine list available for me to look at (I believe it was being printed today) but I know who they are working with which should lead to a solid selection of wines.

I sat at that bar which is warm and sleek with a white granite top. I must say I’m really happy to finally find a place with cozy bar seating. Easily the most comfortable bar seats in the area. The restaurant boasts 31 beers on tap. I was a little disappointed with the selection. It seemed to be a cast of the usual characters. They might just be playing it safe for the first couple of weeks. I hope so. That’s a lot of tap lines dedicated to basic. Their focus at the bar will be brown spirits and high end tequila. I saw a limited but good selection. I imagine it will grow over the next couple of weeks but it’s off to a good start. I wouldn’t expect to find a large gin or vodka selection and it looks like Chopin and its expanded line of wheat and rye vodka’s will be the featured white spirit.  There will also be a focus on innovative cocktails and proper bartending which I have to say I’m pretty excited about as well. There’s a lack of that in the area.  

I met some of the staff and in fact I know the Friday and Saturday night bartender very well. Some of you may also recognize a few faces behind the bar. The staff was all smiles, very friendly, eager to please, and eager to do the job right. That’s a plus, too. All in all, Darien Social is shaping up to be a great addition to Darien.  But as we all know, it’s about execution. And that’s the hardest part.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Weekly Tasting Notes

Getting back to this blog was like trying to get back to the gym. Well I managed to lose a little weight and am feeling a little bit more human. Now to work out the brain. To be honest, after the last post in October,  the holiday season just straight up kicked my ass. I had no brain energy to write and furthermore, could find no inspiration. So for the first post of the year I'm taking the easy way out, wine notes. Fear not, I plan to find plenty of inspiration this year and hope to fill this blog with plenty of entertaining and provocative pieces. Here we go!

2009 Rutini Merlot
Unsuspected star of the Rutini lineup this packs a lot of flavor into a tightly knit core. Those looking for big, extracted Merlot’s need not apply. This is Old World style through and through. Savory spice with notes of dried black berry and currant. Look for beautiful weight and a prolonged finish.

2004 Felipe Rutini Encuetro
If the Merlot is the unsuspected star than the Encuetro is the assassin. Wow. A blend of Malbec and Merlot, it’s a combined effort from Paul Hobbs and Rutini winemaker Mariano di Paolo. Beautiful dark fruit aromas laced with pencil shaving, mocha, coffee bean, licorice and graphite. Full bodied and just plain sexy on the palate with soft tannic core that rounds the wine and gives it polish. This is steal.

2006 Tabarrini Montefalco Rosso
A blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sagrantino from the Montefalco DOC. Good luck getting the percentages out of Giampolo, he’s slightly secretive about his process. The Sagrantino is really bringing out the rose pedal and floral tone of this wine while the Sangiovese adds that rustic, earthy tone. Cabernet and Merlot are providing cherry fruit to lift the wine and give it a great finish. It needs a little time though. Give this some air and some cellar time. Terrific bottle. Then again, I’m biased. I love Sagrantino.

2007 Jean Rijckaert Savagnin Cote du Jura
Savagnin has a very interesting history that dates bake to ca. 1000. It’s closely related to the Traminer grape and produces a sleek but flavorful white that showcases apple, orange rinds, almonds and touch of brown butter. But the acidity level that Rijckaert as managed to coerce out of this wine keeps the finish from becoming buttery and silky so it maintains its sleekness.

2006 Michael Michaud Chalone Chardonnay
For those of you that might remember, Michaud was the winemaker at Chalone back when Chalone actually made good wine. Well he’s back with a project of his own. His chardonnay conjures up tastes of CA old with big weight, lots of pineapple, buttery texture and a creamy finish. But all of it had balance and elegance. It’s really well made chardonnay. If you are looking for a big, bomb of a chardonnay this is it.

2006 Michael Michaud Chalone Pinot Noir
Remember when the movie “Sideways” was released and all anybody wanted to drink was pinot noir? While those shockwaves are still being felt in the CA pinot noir market it’s nice to find a pinot that reminds me of the CA pinots of the past. Ripe cherry and black berry flavors coiled with savory herb and spice notes with just a touch of earth. Really well made pinot noir.

2010 Comte Lafon Macon Milly Lamartine
The famous Beaune winemaker Dominique Lafon is out to prove that Macon can produce serious chardonnay. He planted 14 acres of chardonnay in various Macon vineyard site in 1999. His latest release is about as close as you can get to Chablis without actually standing on chalk. It’s cerebral Macon showing casing bright apple fruit that zips across the palate leaving edgy stone fruit and guava flavors. A very geeky wine.
2005 Chateau Robin Cotes de Castillon
There seems to be a sudden torrent of very good lower level Bordeaux coming into our market. The Chateau Robin is an outstanding value from Cotes de Castillon. It’s a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc that shows savory fruit characteristics highlighting black cherry, coffee, cedar and wet earth. A round and griping finish hints this wine still has a little life left in it. Nothing better than well made, affordable Bordeaux.

2008 Le Gode Rosso di Montalcino
Yes, we all know my soft spot for Tuscan wines but this is exceptional. Podere La Capella and Le Gode have got to be the two best estates in Tuscany. This Rosso is rosewood in color, erupts from the glass with plum, tobacco, cardamom, coffee and cedar aromas. There is just a slight touch of licorice. The palate is full bodied and very well put together leaving your palate satiated.

2008 Gary Ferrell Chardonnay
“There’s the sweetness of an apple, and then there’s the sweetness of a Twinkie. They’re not the same!” – Terry Thiese. But what happens when a slice of apple is topped with a Twinkie? The Gary Ferrel Chardonnay happens. It’s a curvy slut in silk pajamas eating a bowl of buttered popcorn.