November 15, 2007

Vegas Wineaux Tastes on The Strip!

A brightly colored email caught my attention, and I decided to follow up on it even though it was located on The Strip, the bane of the locals. Not really – after all, the Strip is our economy’s bread and butter – but in order to be a “true” local, hating the Strip is an intrinsic ritual. For those of you who are not locals, the Strip is Las Vegas Boulevard, which provides the money shot of the casinos in most documentaries/movies/tv programs/Travel Channel, etc., about Las Vegas. But I digress.

Onda Restaurant at the Mirage, as it turns out, has a great wine tasting especially for locals every three/four Wednesdays or so. At $15.00, it is quite the steal.

The wine at Wednesday night’s tasting was Sonoma-Cutrer and a couple of its second labels. Terri Stamp, the On-Premise Market Manager of Brown-Forman, did the pouring honors.

The first wine was Bonterra 2006 Sauvignon Blanc, made from 52% Lake County and 48% Mendocino County grapes. Very fragrant, it has notes of citrus, lemongrass, cat pee, and some grassiness. On the palate, it is fresh and vibrant, with tropical fruit, grapefruit, and melon, and has a more assertive mineral backbone than most New Zealand Sauv Blancs. The happy part about this wonderful combination is the fact that the grapes are organically and sustainably farmed. Shame on me, I didn’t get the restaurant price, but it retails about about $13.00.

The next wine was Sonoma-Cutrer 2004 Les Pierres Vineyard Chardonnay. Even though the literature doesn’t state it, I’m guessing that it was aged in French oak due to the subtle creamy nature that has an overlying mineral backbone and good acid (that means food-friendly) core. Characteristics of Granny Smith apple, lemon, cream, and lime zest race across the nose and palate. In my opinion, it is a good balance between the attributes that oak imparts and the clear aromas and flavors of an unoaked Chard. It’s relatively austere compared to the “regular” Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay, but I feel that it’s much more suitable for pairing with a wider variety of food. Nice effort, enjoyable wine. Once again, I don’t know the restaurant’s price, but it retails at about $40.00.

Pinot Noir. Yum. The 2004 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir was my favorite. Not because it is an earth-shattering, life-changing wine, but because it’s so, well, *Pinot*!! What can I say? A quick sniff had me saying, “smells like Pinot.” Berries, cherries, strawberries, cola, earth, smoke, and more on the nose. On the palate, it had all the berries, with subtle earthiness and smoke. A good acid core guarantees that this wine is perfect with turkey (dark meat), as well as the usual food suspects. Yummy. If you can find it, it retails at about $25.00, and is comparable (in my opinion) to many higher-end Pinots. I understand that this vintage will only be available to Sonoma-Cutrer wine club members and restaurants. If you’re a Pinot Ho like me, it’s worth the effort to search for it.

The last wine tasted was the 2004 Mariah Zinfandel, Mendocino County, which was my first experience with a Mendocino County Zinfandel. On the nose there were berries, dark fruit, coffee, a touch of cocoa, and some pepper. It is a rustic type of Zin, with the typical Zin dark fruit and earthiness and a surprisingly smooth finish. It still does not come up to my standard (hey! I’m into Paso Zinfandels!!), but it is very tasty nonetheless. It retails at about $25.00 or so.

Now for the real fun part. The food! Along with the wonderful wines come appetizers. The first course is a breadbasket with a rustic bread, a baguette-style “regular” bread, and some delicious Gorgonzola-laced breadsticks. The individual appetizer plate was beautifully presented and consisted of Genoa and Cotto salamis, Manchego and Gorgonzola cheeses, marinated olives, and candied walnuts. OF COURSE there had to be further food experimentation, so an additional meat and cheese platter was ordered. The cheeses were TĂȘte de Moine, a cheese that can only be described as ethereal; Idiazabel, a Manchego-style Spanish cheese; Morbier, the French ash cheese; Duck Prosciutto (!!!), which is rich and wonderful; Quince preserves, and Cabernet and Shiraz jellies. Jeff Braun, the Assistant Executive Chef, came up with the idea to provide the Duck Prosciutto. He felt that people who patronized the restaurant would like something a little different. The Duck Prosciutto most deliciously fills the bill.

I have to mention Danny Smith, who was the server at our table. He was familiar with all of the items on the menu and the service was impeccable.

I had an opportunity to speak with Randy Zammit, the Manager of Onda. The staff came up with the idea to have wine tastings for Las Vegas locals in order to attract those of us who generally avoid the Strip. It was admittedly a gamble, but bit by bit, the number of customers grows at every tasting. I will admit that even though I’m also a Strip-phobic local, the lure of a periodical wine tasting at the Mirage is hard to resist.

Randy pointed out that Onda has “Rush Hour Wines” wine tastings every Friday night from 5:00 to 7:00 pm. The wines are complimentary, and while they get a few tourists, they have the red carpet laid out for us locals. That is, if we’re brave enough to confront the wilds of the Strip on a Friday night! It’s a great after work wind-down time.

So if you decide to go to Onda one Friday night, find Randy and tell him that Irene from Vegas Wineaux sent you. You won’t get anything other than what they have on the tasting menu, but, hey! He’ll know that there’s a network of locals who are willing to go to the Strip to take care of their wine Jones! And, yes, I plan to visit one Friday night and will definitely go to another Wednesday tasting. It’s a great value, especially considering the location. Four wines and world-class appetizers at the Mirage for $15.00. A deal in anybody’s book!

As I write this early Thursday evening, I’m also getting ready to go taste some Beaujolais Nouveau tonight at Khoury’s. This is going to be a BN fun run for the next few days/weeks, and I’ll be more than happy to share my opinion of this year’s vintage.

Stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. I was just on the strip and hating every minute of it. I wish I would have known of this