Signature Table at St. Clair serves up delights

article2When I dolled myself up and asked my husband to do the same, he grumbled. We would be the only ones dressed up he told me. Then, we got to St. Clair Winery & Bistro just as someone walked out in short and flips flops, I got shot a pointed look from the man in a snazzy suit next to me. However, as we gave our names to be seated for St. Clair’s
Signature Table event and were brought to a side room filled with impeccably dressed diners, my husband glanced across the crowd and whispered to me, “Good call.”

The St. Clair’s Signature Table is a five-course experience to showcase St. Clair Winery’s premium D.H. Lescombes wines. Each course is paired with a glass that has been discussed with the winery’s staff and the Shamrock Foods chefs to enhance the pairing of both food and wine. “We are trying to create a very unique and intimate fine dining experience here is New Mexico,” said Christian Gallagher, Southwest Wines representative and host for the evening.

At the beginning with a clinking of a glass, Gallagher explained how the evening would work. He detailed the winery’s output, with 130,000 bottled last year, how the barrels for storage were made of charred and caramelized
oak, and how their vintners walk the vineyards and analyze the grapes in accordance to what variety they are and how they are being raised. “I talk to them too,” interjected Hervé Lescombes, the founder of St. Clair Winery, who was in attendance.

Shamrock Foods chef Donald Burns, who along with chef Starson Grey was the planner of the meal, then spoke about his affection for the wines and hoped that the meal they planned would be to our liking. First up was an amuse-
bouche, meaning happy mouth, which was a quick bite:cheese truffle paired with D.H. Lescombes Brut. I peered around to see how others were eating the small golf-ball sized cheese. I settled on a fork when others were enjoying the bubbly and not giving me a clue on a proper eating etiquette. Sweet and smooth, but not an overpowering taste, the cheese blended well with a dash of the brut. A good start.

The choreographed flow of the servers, head-to-toe in starched, black outfits, was also quite something to enjoy. You didn’t so much as set down your empty glass as it was already whisked away and promptly replaced with one just a touch different suitable for the next wine to be served.

On to the first course: achiote buffalo carpacio with fig-balsamic gastrique. Never having had buffalo before, I was eager to try it. The strips were as soft as butter and had an earthy, but nowhere near unpleasant, taste. My husband and debated the merits of the sweet gastrique — a caramelized sugar with vinegar to make a sweet and sour syrup — but it did go well to the D.H. Lescombes Chenin Blanc, which had a fruity taste of melon and apple.

The second course of baby beet salad made me wonder why there isn’t more affection for beets. This salad featured baby arugula and Maytag blue cheese (yes, grandsons of that Maytag family), and was plated with blood orange vinaigrette and sprinkled with candied walnuts. The blue cheese was strong, but the vinaigrette was a great addition to the beets and arugula. The D.H Lescombes Chardonnay made me sit straighter as I’ve lately discovered a love of chardonnay. I noticed a rich buttered mouth feel and a full body, and Gallagher asked us to try to find the
ripe banana notes. There was indeed a ripe banana in the complex wine at our table.

article2bI suddenly noticed that the talk had become louder in the room and with more vibrant laughter as those seated next to each other began to intertwine their conversations.

Next up was the third course of five-spice duck with fried rice, red wine figs, pea tendrils, and cherry-balsamic glaze. The duck was lovely and Chef Burns talked about milling the spices by hand. In our excitement for this dish, we might have forgotten that there were two more courses, especially after having what my husband and I deemed the best wine of the night, the D.H. Lescombes Petit Verdot. As I was still enjoying the chardonnay, my husband tried the Petit Verdot, paused, held his glass out to me and mouthed a “wow.” Currant, wood, spice, black cherry — all a mix of what St. Clair calls a “brooding” wine. It left us nowhere near brooding as we sipped it.

Fourth course is where I wonder how I might keep going. We’d just enjoyed duck! Glasses of wine had been had! And here they serve a D.H. Lescombes Petite Sirah. A member of the FBI speaking with Gallagher makes a joke to the Lescombes couple at the table behind us. There is an impromptu happy birthday song. I say “yes” to the brown sugar cured buffalo tenderloin and take it slow with the gorgonzola potato puree, roasted shallot-green beans, shallot
onion rings, red wine butter sauce.

Dessert is announced and servers fill small, cute, short-stemmed classes with D.H. Lescombes Ratafia, a fortified wine with less brandy than traditionally used, which leaves a sweet and spiced flavor.

Roasted Vanilla Bean Pear with hazelnut-marscapone mousse and a lemon-lavender honey drizzle? Yes, please. Tonight, a little gluttony can be enjoyed before hugs from newly made friends over wine.

If your mouth is watering and you’d like to try for a seat at the next event, you’ll have to drive up to Albuquerque, which is hosting the Signature Table on August 12 at its St. Clair Winery & Bistro.