Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The 2011 Generous Pour Event at The Capital Grille-This Summer Only!

Every year The Capital Grill’s Master Sommelier George Miliotes selects top wines for a two month special. Order a regular dinner, and for $25 more, have a special tasting of some or all of his nine wines, with an optional interactive “tutoring” available from your server!
    I’m no stranger to wine dinners and wine tastings-I seek dinners where the chef and sommelier have taken the time to thoughtfully pair wines with food. I like the wine dinner's educational style. While you can dine at Capital Grill year round, the “Generous Pour” event is limited, from now till September 4th, 2011.

    I’m not that up on finer nuances of wines, and probably never will be as I’d like. I can tell a good from a bad wine. I miss the fleeting whiffs that some pick up on. I can’t tell a peach from a strawberry’s bouquet; blackberry from red currant, or graphite from chalk. My life is fine without being gifted with an oenologist's nose and palate. That said, I enjoy trying different wines with a dish, to taste the unique interactions and taste transformations. Compare and contrast-a good mantra to have when faced with glasses of wines!
The Naples Capital Grille's proprietor, Peter Lopez, has assembled a superb team of 90 chefs, cooks, servers, bartenders and others. He’s a perfectionist with an easy going friendly demeanor. His team is what I hold up to most other restaurants as an attainable ideal; the gold ring of service and food quality. It’s unique in a world of people satisfied with bronze and leaden rings, and a few pop-top rings thrown in for good measure.
Last night I was treated to a media event where a live internet interaction with Sommelier Miliotes takes place, then one samples some or all of the nine wines. I’ve dined at the Naples Capital Grille many times, and well know the fine level of service. I’m writing about the “Generous Pour” event because it’s great bang for the buck. You get to try a generous pour of wines that retail for $30 to $200 per bottle with your dinner. This wine tasting is set above others by the quality of the wines, the variety, and the superbly guided tasting of wines tailored toyour dinner entrée selections.

I could go on about the characteristics of each wine, however I know that not only would I would have a different opinion were the wine paired with a different food, you would certainly have your opinions and way of describing your perceptions as well. Having tasted gerat, good and bad wines along the way, we’d probably agree that these wines are a great selection.

What sets Capital Grille apart is consistency. The cuisine and service are top notch every time I or friends visit-we’ve not had an off night. Servers differ in personality and style-there’s no cookie cutter consistency about that! The consistency that sets all Capital Grille servers apart from many other servers is in their professionalism. It’s not easy dealing with some “picklepusses” and demanding folks with attitude problems, and I have a feeling that these servers would do their best to make even a pessimist look at the bright side.
Dining at the Capital Grille when the Generous Pour promotion is on is a bonus, as the servers, if you let them, can truly educate and “tutor” you about the wines, and lead you on a fun tasting journey oven a relaxed evening. Let “Compare and Contrast.” be your evening’s motto.

Your evening couldl be pretty much like mine-there's a good variety of apps, mains and desserts to try, with some seasonal specials as well. Each server’s challenge is to quickly ascertain your wine preferences, and help you pair a suitable wine with your dinner. Kinda like playing “20 questions.” It’s fun, it’s not rocket science. It’s an exploration of the wines with the senses. Jump in-there’s no grade or “right and wrong.” Kinda like wondering how “that couple” ever fits together, right?

I enjoyed the sparkling white Marquis de la Tour, Cremant de Loure Brut with a selection of passed appetizers. Smoked salmon on onion pita crisps; fresh tomatoes bursting with flavor with Mozzarella crostinis; and the earthy wild mushroom and Boursin crostinis -all go great with the delicate fine bubbles and crisp fruit finish.
There’s not much I’d pass on pairing with Champagne or a good sparkling wine.
Two top appetizers are medium spicy pan-fried calamari with hot cherry peppers, and the prosciutto- wrapped melted Mozzarella with vine ripe tomatoes. I order the spicy hot calamari every time I visit, and take some home!
 I was very surprised to know that the calamari is a big seller in Naples-a city know for milder, Midwestern tastes. Go figure. The delicious Mozzarella cheese is hand made on premises, every two hours. Who else does that for freshness?
Prosciutto- wrapped Melted Mozzarella
 I’m hooked on the molten Mozzarella-so luscious, so decadent. Hot and spicy calamari, or smooth and savory Mozzarella-not an easy match! The fun starts with comparing and contrasting the two suggested white wines-the buttery, oaked Chateau St. Jean Belle Terre 2008 Chardonnay, and the lighter, crisper La Cana Albarino Rias Baixas 2010. A sip of each wine before tasting an appetizer tastes quite different from a sip after tasting. Not sure what “oaky” tastes like? Here’s your chance!
Kona-Crusted Sirloin with Shallot Butter
I often get the dry-aged bone-in Kona-crusted dry aged sirloin with itscomplementary shallot butter. I’m not one to order filet mignon when dining out-I like the bolder beef taste that comes with the cut, further amplified by dry-ageing. This sirloin is paired with the Italian Conte Brandolini, Vistorta Merlot 2006, and with the Napa Valley Chalk Hill Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006, which has good tannins. Two great reds, two very different tastes before, and then two different tastes after tasting the steak and its sauce. I sampled my companion’s 10 ounce filet mignon, and it is one of the best around, tender and flavorful, soft as butter, especially paired with my evening’s favorite wine, the Freemark Abbey Cabernet Bosche, Rutherford 2003.
Filet Mignon
 I was very happy with the Tarima Hill Monastrell, Alicante 2009 a ripe red from the Monastrell Spanish grape. I never heard of it before, and you’ve probably never have either. It’s a keeper. I enjoyed comparing an aged 2003 New World Cab against a young 2009 Old World uncommonly sampled grape.

The cedar planked salmon with tomato fennel relish is a popular dish.
 I appreciated the clever pairing of fish with the Byron Pinot Noir Santa Barbara 2009 red. To me, like a "universal donor", a good Pinot Noir can go nicely with quite a few seafoods, and pair as nicely with meats and game. It’s unimaginative to always pair whites with seafood and reds with most meats. Mix things up!

I always take home some Lobster mac “n” cheese- it’s so luscious. It seems there’s most of a “chicken” lobster’s" obvious chunks swimming in each order!
 The four molten cheeses are decadent-this is not your mama’s mac “n” cheese!
A “legal” Tawny Port is made in Portugal, however the cheeky Aussies have come up with a lighter version, the RL Buller; The Portly Gentleman.
 It’s aged, and not syrupy as some Ports. It has a good complexity and delightful finish-perfect for sipping alone, or with desserts. I opted for the Strawberries Capital Grille dessert;
my companion had the flourless chocolate espresso cake. Berries or cake-your call. Just save room for a dessert!
This evening with the nine- wine option give you a change to taste different wines and have fun mixing and matching. Tasting 9 terrific wines for only $25 is a great deal. The tasting and comparisons make an enjoyable evening go by fast. Now, if you just want to taste say, the Freemark Abbey and no other wines of the group, you will get a generous pour of that. That works. I prefer to explore new varietals, compare and contrast, and broaden my wine knowledge.

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