Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hanzell Chardonnay and a nice dinner at Catalina Restaurant

So, I was thinking tonight, I shouldn't be such a bah-humbug about not writing about wine. After all, I am still drinking it, still thinking it, still working in the wine biz, just haven't been that inspired, I guess, to write in the ol' blog. But now, here I am.

Truth be told, I am still inspired by wine. Many things the last 2 months have gotten in the way of that, of course, not the least of which is the ECONOMY, the big news of the year; and before that, there was the election (very exciting), and then my whole job change thing. But today, I feel upbeat enough to share with you all about the fact that I still like/love wine.

Two nights ago, and this was a Sunday, my husband and I got together with our equally restaurant-loving friends for a nice meal out. This was the first time we got together with them since they had their baby only 7 weeks earlier. Prior to the baby, we had enjoyed fine meals together at a number of restaurants, including the Wilshire, Zazou, Cafe Pierre, and a few places up in Sonoma, where we spent a weekend together. They are fans of Chowhounds and consult there for good places to eat around the world.

Anyway, we convened at Catalina Restaurant in Redondo Beach, a small, family owned restaurant in Redondo Beach. I just recently opened this account last week! Nice, nice owners I was dealing with. Anyway, a relatively new restaurant, opened less than a year. When I had the owner, Reuben, taste my wines, he called out his chef, Art to taste along. Very cool! And when I saw the menu at that time, I decided that we had to come eat here.

So that day came on Sunday evening, and since our friends live in the south bay, it was the perfect meeting place. When we arrived there at 6pm, the place was quiet. Yes, six was early, but this was more a sign of the economy. So sad. Anyway, we got a nice table, and I took out the wine that I brought: 2005 Hanzell Chardonnay. I brought this specifically because the friends liked this wine - we went to this winery together about 2 years ago when we visited Sonoma. We had a great tour of the vineyards, the caves, and the tasting room, where the winemaker, Michael, opened for us a Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir to enjoy. We were hooked.

The Chardonnay on Sunday night was as good as we remembered it (though a different vintage): the style, like a white Burgundy - definitely oak on the nose and palate, but not overdone, more like a French oak spice, but no butter on the palate, just clean Chardonnay fruit and pie spice. An enjoyable wine, not overly alcoholic, and as elegant as a Chardonnay outside of Champagne can get.

The wine was a nice treat and got everyone in the mood for a nice dinner.

As for the food, we were presented with a fun amuse-bouche: mini-grilled cheese sandwiches which were actually tiny blini-like pancakes with truffle butter and cheese - very savory and delicious. Then we ordered appetizers: for Johan, the frog legs, which were sauteed and served with a pesto; for me, the rabbit pot pie - interesting, and tasted like chicken; for our friends, the flatbread with a balsamic dressing.

For the entrees, the others all got fish dishes, which looked really good, while I enjoyed lamb done two ways - a little mini-rack and lamb cheeks. I have to say that I enjoyed my lamb cheeks even more than the rack! I just like cheeks (veal cheeks, pork cheeks, lamb cheeks, even fish cheeks if they are big enough fish!)

At this point, we did order a red from the list, a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir under screwcap, which I found drinkable but not much more than that. I should have gotten a glass of 2007 Monchhof Estate Riesling which is now prominantly featured on their list! Monchhof rules, but honestly, I drink too much of it (dregs from my samples kit).

Finally, for dessert, each coupled shared something - I was way too full but did enjoy a few bits of beignets (Ben-YAYS!).

A great evening of stimulating conversation, jokes, and foodie fun was had by all. Catalina Restaurant is on my list of good places to eat in the South Bay, and I will definitely be back. And kudos to them for knowing a good Riesling when they taste it!!! Thank you Reuben!

1 comment:

Samantha Dugan said...

YAY!!! Nancy is posting about wine again....me thinks you were "impacted" as well. So glad you are back, and we got 2 new posts.
I will have to check out Catalina in the near future...makes me so sad when I walk into a restaurant right now, soooo quiet it is difficult not to get depressed.
Hanzell makes some great wines, great structure and balance, very fine California wines....see I just can't do the Burgundy comparison, they are just too different to me and I think that we should appreciate each for what they are....and where they are from....wow, kind of early for me to be such a pain in the ass huh?!
Anyway I loved your post and am so happy you are writing again!