I get really excited about wine. I get really excited about Shakespeare. This post examines both – be prepared, my friends
Bonus: I’m writing this from Vinted – where they serve up half price bottles of wine on Sunday evenings. Having the Blue Back Square as your back yard carries its advantages.
Why is there a Vogue magazine in the above shot? Why, because I was entranced with a story on a new musical, Hamilton, which sets the story of one of Founding Father’s to a hip hop soundtrack. This is pretty rad in and of itself, but it ties nicely to what would appear to be a new theatrical trend in the works – as our very own Hartford Stage has a very limited run Breakdancing Shakespeare: Hamlet tonight, and through August 11th at the University of St. Joseph! The project has existed for several years through the Greater Hartford Arts Council Neighborhood Studios, and it inspires to bring classical works to people of all ages through an infusion of relevant coolness and creativity. More info and tickets available here. Can’t wait.
Now, on to the main course of this post (pun intended) the magnificent Generous Pour at the Capital Grille. I was invited to attend for the second year in a row with Carolyn, who joined me last year also:
This picture is from last year. It’s magnificent and also a very accurate depiction of our friendship. From here on out – photo credit for all pictures goes to Carolyn
The Generous Pour is an annual event at the Capital Grille. It is running now through August 30th, and the concept is simple: sample eight exceptional wines (generous samples, as you can see from above) for $28 with the purchase of an entree. We happened to time our visit with their Taste of Hartford menu, which unfortunately has come and gone for this year, but it’s still well, well worth the visit in order to dive, nose first, into some truly exceptional blends:
Behold all the beauties.
The wines ranged from lightest (Sauvignon Blanc) to deepest (Syrah)… here are some highlights from each and every glass:
Galarie “Naissance,” Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley (Winemaker: Laura Diaz Munoz): A light and bright wine, with a very thin mouthfeel but a smooth and creamy finish. Fruity and perfect for summer sipping. I tend to gravitate more towards New Zealand Sauv Blancs, but it’s lovely to find the hand picked all stars from Napa, which featured very heavily on this list.
Barrymore, Montery, Pinot Grigiot (Proprietress: Drew Barrymore): Whoa. I didn’t know Drew Barrymore had a vineyard. Talk about a class act. And her wine matches her reputation – summery, citrusy, tart, described as a “crowd pleaser,” – just like Drew! – and very able to live up to the name. I have bad, bad associations with Pinot – think a warm oversized bottle, diluted by ice cubes to the point where it’s just not worth the effort drinking it. But this wine reminded me why it’s important to keep an open mind – and palate – when it comes to blends.
Stonestreet “Bear Point,” Alexander Valley, Chardonnay (Winemaker: Lisa Valtenbergs): Again, another thin mouthfeel (makes me believe that the sommelier had an eye out for summery blends when creating this list), with lots of spice, and a very classic take on the ‘big Cali’ Chardonnay style – lots of personality and lots of oak. Would and did pair quite nicely with food – but more on that in a minute.
Let’s break here for a picture of me in my “happy place”
On to the reds:
Cambria “Julia’s Vineyard,” Santa Maria Valley, Pinot Noir (Winemaker: Denise Shurtleff): I love, love a good Pinot. It’s a rich, complex, moody complicated wine which is disastrous when executed poorly but oh so good when it’s done right. And this particular blend’s grapes all come from the vineyard – a rarity, and every single one of them came together to create a truly delightful wine. A mouth load of poppy and cherry, and a nice mineral quality to finish which made me want to close my eyes and picture myself at the vineyard (wouldn’t that be lovely).
Matanzas Creek, Sonoma, Merlot (Winemaker: Marcia Monohan): I’m planning a visit to see my sister in November, and she is considerate enough to live in San Francisco, which means we’ll be paying a trip to Sonoma as well as eating the finest Mexican food outside of Mexico (hello, Mission District). This vineyard may be worth a visit, with a nice chocolatey palate to the merlot, balancing out some dark fruit flavors nicely into a well rounded blend. If you’re drinking this at the Capital Grille – and why wouldn’t you? Do yourself a favor and pair it with a steak. A very happy companionship that would be.
Arrowood Reserve Speciale, Sonoma, Cabernet Sauvignon (Winemaker: Kristina Werner): Not familiar with Cabernet Sauvignons? I was not personally, but it’s a nice, relatively new combination of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc grapes, and it’s easy to grow and a crowd pleaser. This particular variety is, however, quite rare and also accordingly expensive. The vineyard it resides in (another Sonoma – hurrah) has century old vines, and this particular blend only pops up occasionally on wine lists due to its limited quantities. Flavor wise, it’s just a really nice, classically executed Big Cali red. If you’re into that sort of thing like I am, it’s not one to miss.
Mt Brave, Mt. Veeder, Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon (Winemaker Laura Diaz Munoz): The second wine from Ms. Munoz on the list as well as the second and only repetitious blend, this ruggedly beautiful red has deep crunchy notes, big red flavor, and an explosively smooth palate. It packs quite a punch and will take you nicely into your flourless chocolate cake if you choose to partake in that – but more on dessert in a minute.
Kinton, Santa Barbara, Syrah (Wine visionary: Julia Jackson): With a list like this, it’s important to end on a high note. This magnificent Syrah delivers a smooth, cherry, vanilla visionary taste with a very creamy palate and delicate balance of flavors. A special vintage year, this Syrah finished off our tasting in excellent style.
Oh yes – in addition to the wine, the Capital Grille spoiled us with food. The “Taste of Hartford” pre fixe menu is available during two weeks in the summer and the winter, so watch out for January’s cycle at www.tastehartford.com. My meal started with the above pictured Bleu Cheese and Applewood Smoked Bacon Wedge
Closely followed by this magnificent burger the “Chef’s Signature” Cheeseburger and parmesan truffle fries. I can’t say enough about the Capital Grille burgers. When you’re somewhere that loves and pays such close attention to beef, the results are going to be superb, and this one was no exception. My only complaint – a dried out bun, but considering we ordered off the lunch menu at 3 pm, when the kitchen was switching over to dinner, I think this small fault is justified.
To end things: Flourless Chocolate Espresso Cake. I’m not an expert so I won’t say that these flavors are a perfect accompaniment to the deep reds at the end of the Generous Pour, but the flavor notes in most reds were present on this dish, and I certainly enjoyed putting the two together.
All in all, we enjoyed a very magnificent meal and lovely patio seating al fresco, enjoying the downtown hustle and bustle of Front Street. Thanks again to the Capital Grille for their hospitality and excellent service, as always. So go, try this list, before it runs out at the end of the month.