Salmon and Sommeliers

Last night Tom, Amparo and I had dinner with The Armstrong Family in San Clemente, CA.  The Armstrongs are good friends of my parents in Hawaii, and I met them over last Christmas.  They’re daughter Rachel and her fiance joined us for dinner too. They are really wonderfully sweet people.  They took us out to a local restaurant that looks over the harbor, really beautiful. Dinner was really amazing, Rachel and I split two different kinds of Salmon – Grilled and Caribbean Jerk Salmon, it was so wonderful.  I ordered a glass of Tobin James Merlot from Pasa Robles, and it was really delicious wine. Mike ordered two different bottles of Cabernet for us to try, the first was a 2006 Honig Cabernet from Napa Valley and was also very good.  I had a glass of the Tobin and the Honig in front of me at the same time, and really liked them both.  The Tobin was really very smooth and actually light for a Merlot.  The Cabernet was also smooth, but had a little sharper kick to it.  Then Mike ordered a second bottle of wine:  Jordan Cabernet. It was good, but had a lot more spice and pepper in it.  I liked it, but I liked the Honig Cab better.  Mike asked me my opinion on the two, and I told him what I thought, that the Honig was much smoother for me, whereas the Jordan was much bolder.  He told me that the Honig was a $40 bottle of wine, whereas the Jordan was an $85 bottle of wine.  I got a little nervous at first that he was going to be offended that I didn’t like the $85 as much, but then he told me he completely agreed with me, and we had a short conversation about how a higher price doesn’t necessarily mean better wine.

Rachel had told me about a wine bar, Eno, at the Ritz Carlton, where her and her fiance, Chad, are getting married in July.  There is a sommelier at the wine bar, Shannon that Rachel said is really amazing.  So after dinner, they insisted we go up to the Ritz Carlton for some wine.  It was really wonderful.  Everyone either had a 3-glass flight or a glass of wine, and everything that I tasted was excellent.  I had the “French Connection”  which was a selection of old world French wines that included:  a 2003 Clos Badon Thunevin, Grand Cru St.-Emilion from Bordeaux, France;  Domaine Barons de Rothchild, Chateau d’Aussieres from Languedoc, France; and finally a 2003 E. Guigal, Chateauneuf-du-Pape from Rhone Valley, France.  I really enjoyed all three, they were all very classic old word – musty, mushroomy, dirty, which all sounds terrible, but I actually really enjoy.  I haven’t had French wines in a long time, so it was definitely a treat for me.  Out of the three, the St.-Emilion was my favorite.  It had an oaky note in the background that I really enjoyed.  Here is the notes from the tasting card:

‘From the right bank of Bordeaux, this wine is mostly Merlot with a good portion of Cab Franc blended in which lends to the violet character of the wine.  Aromas of blackberr, black currant, and cedar are complemented by a hint of cocoa on the palate.’

I also really enjoyed the Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  I’ve had Chateauneuf-du-Pape in my wines classes at RIT, so I knew what I was in for, and I was satisfied in the end. It was much spicer than the St.-Emilion but in a good way.  Mike had a glass of a 2006 Oakville Estate Vine Cliff Cabernet and he passed it around for everyone to taste.  It was really amazing.  Possibly one of my favorite wines so far (other than the Frank Family Cabernet from dinner earlier in the week).  Other than wine, we also had an array of meats and cheeses on the table, and everything was very good.  We had a duck prosciutto and I almost died, it was the most amazing thing I’ve tasted.  I love prosciutto, so duck prosciutto was even better then I could’ve imagined.  Then afterwards, they brought us out some surprise desserts: a goat cheese and fostered walnuts and I believe orange.  It was so decadent I loved it.

After all the food and wine settled, I stopped Shannon, the Sommelier to pick her brain.  She was unbelievably helpful!  She wrote down  a list of sommelier schools for me to look into.  She even gave me her user ID and password for one of the sites so that I can go on and take the practice exams and be able to poke around the website without having to pay.  She also gave me her card with her contact info and encouraged me to email her with questions if I need to.  She told me about her background and her path to becoming a Sommelier.  She is a 2nd level Sommelier, so she’s still working towards her Masters.  She attened theater school in NYC before studying wine.  At the time she was a manager of a restaurant, but she needed to drop down to being a server so she would have time to study for her Sommelier exams.  She said that that is the most important part of becoming a Sommelier, having the time to study.

The Armstrongs kept saying to each other “Couldn’t you see Meara doing this?”  Which was great to hear, because that’s exactly what I want to do eventually.  It was really great to hear that.  After everything, they showed us where Rachel and Chad are getting married.  It was an amazing place, and the Armstrongs were so amazing for taking us out, I couldn’t thank them enough.  I look forward to getting in touch with them again soon to share more wine recommendations. I also am going to email Shannon and try and pick her brain a bit more, although she’s already given me such amazing advice.   I’m very lucky to have made the contacts I have so far in this industry.

Also – I spoke with Fatima from Best Beverage in Rhode Island and made an appointment to meet and discuss a potential job with them.  So I’m going into Best Beverage on Monday afternoon. I’m ready to have a job and be completely immerged in this industry.  I love everything I hear and see so far, so I’m ready.  And thankfully, I have opportunities.

side note:  the wine bar’s name was Eno, which I notice on their card that it’s actually oenology (oENOlogy), which is the science and study of all aspects of wine and winemaking.  I just thought that was a very cool name.

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