June 13, 2007

Lunch at Marché Bacchus

As an addendum to last week’s review of Sweet Water, I discovered a little tidbit. Food & Wine July 2007 issue just happens to have an article about wine prices in restaurants. Interestingly, the author, Lettie Teague, indicated that high prices in Vegas restaurants are normal. I inferred from the article that she covered only the “Strip” establishments. Many of them, however, do have BYOB policies, even if their corkage is outrageous (does it really cost you $50.00 to open my bottle of wine and bring a suitable glass?!? Gimme a break!) Repeat after me: “Unscrupulous.” "Greedy." "Unconscionable." Very good.

And now, to a real food and wine experience that should be experienced b
y anyone who is living in or visiting Vegas. The Tex and Fritz’s wine club thing that meets nearly every Saturday at noon-thirty at Marché Bacchus had its usual gathering. We generally arrive early to enjoy the free tastings out on the front patio, even on days where there are wine events/tastings at other members’ homes. We’re a pretty dedicated group of wine folks! This also gives us time to shop for wine, which they will hold for us when we’re finished with lunch.

This last Saturday, June 9, there were nine (count ‘em) of us there. I don’t go regularly enough, but felt that this would be a good day to enjoy the warm Vegas sunshine and have lunch and wine with friends by the lake. Marché Bacchus is located in Desert Shores, a gorge
ous community in NW Las Vegas, well off the beaten path. The back of the restaurant/retail wine shop *is* the lake and makes for wonderful ambiance.

Their wine list is the wine store, and the prices are what you’d expect in any low cost retail establishment. You can order your food and then browse among hundreds of bottles of wines for something suitable for your meal, or you can ask Rob, the ubiquitous sommelier, to choose something suitable. He’s good. Really good.

Because we as a group are always in learning mode, we have our wine poured into decanters so that we can blind taste our way through it to figure out what it is. This can be a humbling experience. This weekend was no exception.

The usual number in the group is less than six, so one bottle of wine is usually enough. However, we decided that two bottles would be perfect for such a large number of people.

Because we are regulars, Rob and Agathe (one of the owners) conspired against us. We were served two wines, both red, both decanted.

The first wine had us nearly reduced to fisticuffs as we argued whether it was old world or new world. It was new world, in my opinion, because of the fruit on the nose. It was old world in others’ opinions because it had a lot of earth along with the fruit. (Don’t even ask. I was wrong. But I digress.) The nose indicated cherries, plum, leather, and a touch of vanilla, and the earthy quality began to assert itself more as the wine opened. However, the one quality that totally scrambled the nose at first was the amount of alcohol. It smelled hot! Once the alcohol blew off, a bit of blackberry, earth, and flowers started appearing. Then we tasted, and the confusion continued. It was fruity, but this is where the earthiness really came through along with lots of spice. It was almost Zin-like in character. I finally threw up my hands and declared that I had no clue. The “old world” “new world” argument is the only thing that continued. The verdict? It was 2003 Pigmentum Malbec, from Cahors, France.

We were stunned. Several of us (me included) did not know that Malbec was still being grown in any amount in France. Apparently, it is. What’s more, this bottle of tasty wine retails at Marché for only $11.95. Quite a bargain. By the way, in spite of the heat on the nose, the declared alcohol level was 12.5%. Tex called the winemaker a liar.

The next wine was poured once the ruckus subsided, and we were
transported into olfactory heaven. Tex asked the group, “what do you get on the nose?” My reply was, “I don’t know. But I want to bathe in it.”

The nose was incredible. Dark fruit, berries, flowers (I told Agathe that it smelled like Red Viognier and she rolled her eyes, lol), romance, perfume, spice, along with oak characteristics. It had an incredibly rich, velvety mouthfeel, and the taste validated the nose. The one thing we all agreed on (finally) was that it was new world. Stunning wine and completely luscious.

We didn’t realize that we’d been given a very special treat. 2004 Duckhorn Merlot, Three Palms Vineyard. Completely worthy of worship. The retail price made us gasp, but because we hadn’t been expecting anything so dear, Agathe and Greg gave us a break. I love them!

By the way, we all bombed out on figuring out the varietal on this one, too! But as our waiter said, many of us are so used to drinking blends that we don’t recognize single varietals easily any more. Because this is the most high-end merlot I’ve ever had, this was an epiphany. We decided that in order to sharpen our palates, we need to drink more wine! Good wine.

We were there for about two hours. Marché’s prices on food and wine are extraordinary, and we had a glorious time. This is how a restaurant experience is supposed to be. There were nine of us, the conversation was constant and flowing (even when we were arguing), the food was wonderful, and the wines were spectacular. Can’t get much better than that.

Prices? I have had lunch there which consisted of a bowl of soup and a sandwich, a glass of wine (French Rosé which they pour by the glass. Can you imagine?!?), and the total came to about $22.00 which included tax and tip. All of this while dining on the patio, contemplating the beautiful landscape. A bargain in almost anyone’s book.

If you’re from Vegas and haven’t been there, shame on you. If you’re going to be visiting Vegas, you must make this a destination spot. It’s out of the way (wayyy out of the way if you’re on the Strip or all points east), but well worth the drive. If you’re there on a Saturday, join us!


Next week, back to Paso Robles!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this great post! It was a trip down memory lane for me. We lived in Las Vegas (Summerlin) for a number of years, and were frequent visitors--loved the photos also!