Last night, I cooked dinner for a friend, a long-promised birthday present.
I planned the meal around bone-in ribeye steaks from Salmon Creek Ranch, as I’d been telling my friend how good they are for quite some time. He was eager to see for himself.
Dinner began with chilled tomato-cilantro soup topped with Strauss whole milk yogurt, jalapeno hot sauce and a splash of Hawaiian chile water, with fried Padrons alongside. The tomatoes were from The Patch, the Padrons from Beet Generation Farm. We had Iron Horse Vineyards 2007 Brut X alongside.
When it came time for the steaks, I realized I hadn’t planned the wine so I suggested several options and then decided to snag one of the special bottles I keep in the coolest part of the house. I knew which one I wanted but wasn’t sure where, exactly, it was on the shelf so I reached down blindly, grabbed a bottle and pulled it up: Bingo! It was Dehlinger 1994 Goldridge Vineyards Pinot Noir, exactly what I hoped it would be.
I pulled the cork–it broke in half but I managed to get both pieces out without trouble–and enticing aromas, full of what I call that pinot thing, all but jumped from the bottle. Our first sips brought smiles and sighs. The wine was, in a world, perfect, everything a Russian River Valley pinot noir should be, delicate on the palate and smooth as satin, with beautiful acidity and integrated flavors that suggested cool top soil, pretty red fruit and than nearly erotic quality that makes lovers of this varietal swoon with pleasure. For a wine that is now 18 years old, it was surprisingly fresh and bright.
The wine engaged with the steaks and its accompaniments seamlessly.
A couple of hours before I cooked the steaks, I rubbed them with a mix of freshly ground white pepper, freshly ground black pepper and salt. I cooked them to rare–as grass-fed beef should be cooked–and then finished them in the style of au poivre blanc, deglazing the pan with Madeira before adding cream and, because grass-fed beef doesn’t release much fat, a bit of butter. After adding celery root puree and wilted baby spinach with garlic alongside, I spooned the sauce over the meat and then topped it with sauteed maitake mushrooms.
We talked and ate and sipped and laughed and the evening slipped away deliciously. When it was time for salad–Little Gem wedges and homemade creamy blue cheese vinaigrette, topped with shaved red onion and shaved radishes–there was just enough wine left for a few sips with the salad.
Tom Dehlinger has long been a favorite winemaker and I raised my glass in a silent toast to him before tipping the last sip past my lips.
A bit later, we tucked into little bowls of dulce de leche ice cream topped with pomegranate arils.
This was what I’d call a happy meal. A real happy meal. Thank you, Tom, for making such a gorgeous wine.