Steele Wine Dinner at Cioppino's, Nantucket
When we arrived at the elgant Cioppino's restaurant for our Friday Night Steele Winery dinner, it was evident both that the dinner had sold out and that the appetizers already making the rounds were quite delicious. The small, pink-walled rooms were jam-packed with festive people and linen-topped tables. Waiters and waitresses made the rounds with silver trays of intriguing creations. We were delighted to sample crispy spring rolls, stuffed mushrooms, medallions of chicken, spinach and gorgonzola on bread, and my favorite, sweet and sour grilled shrimp with a banana lime sauce. There was certainly something for everyone in the room that evening!
Matching with the appetizer selection was a Shooting Star 2000 Sauvignon Blanc. This was a fresh, lemony wine with a slightly grassy flavor, which paired nicely with the collection of treats being passed around the room. Eventually it was time for the meal to begin and we all found our seats, settling under large paintings of european landscapes.
To get us started, were were served a roasted beet parfait with lobster and goat cheese. The multi-colored, multi-layered appetizer was served in a champagne flute, so that we could admire its visual display. An additional sensation was found when we began eating it, and found an elaborate series of textures provided by the various ingredients. The flavors were actually mild, no one part overpowering the others.
The Steele Parmelle Hill 1998 Chardonnay was a nice pairing with this, its smooth, vanilla flavor and slight sharpness offsetting the mild flavor of the dish while not overpowering the textures.
Moving into the main dish, out came a pistachio crusted pork loin stuffed with figs and pancetta. This was also a feast for all senses, with its light and dark fig sauces, and the smooth, strongly flavored fig matching against the crisp snow peas. Going with this medley was the Steele Parmelle 1998 Syrah. The syrah was great with the dish - its spicy, fruity flavors were light and with little tannins. The spiciness of the wine paired well with the sweet fig sauce.
Finally, the dessert - a vanilla bean panna cotta fresh berry compote. Over a smooth vanilla flan-like cream was a collection of raspberries, strawberries and blueberries. We found this to be delicious, and chefs Paula Kaloustian and Benjamen Harriman outdid themselves with each dish, providing treats for all senses.
The crowning glory to the evening was the Sangiacomo Vineyard Late Harvest 1997 Chardonnay. As the dessert wine - which sells for $35 a half bottle - was being poured out, the Steele representative explained its unique origins. In 1997, gas stations were disappearing in sinkholes because of the heavy rains. Many wineries were giving up completely on their grapes for the year, but the Steele winemaker had hope. He let his Chardonnay grapes stay on the vines until they reached 45 BRIX. He then feremented them to 14% residual sugar and aged them for 2 years in small French oak barrels.
The resulting late harvest wine was called "creme brulee in a bottle", or "liquid gold". It was rich and smooth, with flavors of apple, pear and peaches. As I am an enthusiastic fan of ice wines and late harvests, this was just about the most perfect ending I could ask for at a wine dinner.
Kudos to Steele Winery and to Cioppino's for such a fantastic evening!
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Steele Winery Dinner at Cioppino's