Chalk Talk: Tasting 90+ Wines at Ruth’s Chris In Fort Worth

2009 Planeta Chardonnay had a deep gold color

I love wines with scores higher than my IQ, so when the peeps at Ruth’s Chris in Fort Worth invited me to a meal organized in conjunction with Wine Enthusiast Magazine and accompanied by wines that scored 90 or more points out of 100, I jumped at the chance.

We started with a sparkling wine from Italy. Ferrari Brut Metodo Classico, Trentino is a 90-point non-vintage crisp sparkling wine made from 100% Chardonnay grapes grown in the Trentino region in the northeast of Italy. This wine is designed to be a perfect substitute for Brut (dry) Champagne: Same grape, same style, same method of production. However, it is at a lower price point. It sells for around $25, and can be considered a good value. We had it as the pre-prandial and with the first course of warm brie and pecan tartlet with savory apple-mango chutney and guava sauce. This wine’s perfectly honed acid level enabled it to harmonize with and lift the cheese and pastry at the heart of this dish.

Next, a 91 point 2009 Planeta Chardonnay from Sicily. Sicily, you say. Not exactly a place one normally considers Chardonnay country, true. However, the warm climate doubtless contributed to the ripeness of the fruit in this (tropical) fruit bomb of a wine. Striking in its ripeness and creaminess from French oak, this will be a hit when served to unsuspecting Chardonnay lovers. The one drawback: the wine representative told me that it sells for around $40 and there is a lot of competition in that range. From $30-$40, California makes some very good new world style Chardonnay and frankly some of them will express themselves as more complex examples than this wine.

Chef served a fresh and seasonal salad with this although the wine would also be enjoyable as a quaffing wine on hot summer days.

Next we went on to reds and the most memorable wine of the tasting. The 2007 Santa Rita Triple C, Maipo Valley, Chile is a example of the more individualistic wines now coming out of Chile, a country that started as a good-value exporter of wine that everybody else made. The ‘Triple C’ doesn’t refer to my foot width, or the performance grade that Nancy gave me on the last evaluation, rather it refers to the first letters of the grapes that comprise the wine (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Carménère). It is the latter of these that gives this wine its distinctive aromas and flavor profile. Despite being only 15% of the blend, the Carménère displays its characteristic green pepper notes (pyrazine is the more technical term). Green pepper, when taken to excess, is a flaw and often indicative of lack of ripening. But in small quantities it can provide subtle aroma and flavor nuances that embellish the fruit-driven properties that are most forward in new world Cabernet blends. The nose on this example has green pepper, cassis, blueberries, and cinnamon. In the mouth the dark fruit flavors are impossibly intense and backed up by tannins that, after five years, still grippy but lush and indicative of a wine lavished with lots of new French oak. The finish lasts the best part of a minute. Its character reminded me of another wine that is often considered to be the best in Chile (Casa Lapostolle’s Clos Apalta) but this wine sells for about half the price. I did not get the local price from the wine representative but it lists for $35 on the Internet. Wine Enthusiast scored this wine 90 points, but I think it deserves more.

The Triple C was served with my favorite course of the night: a lobster and chorizo risotto with a cognac spiked creamy lobster sauce. Let’s call the sauce lobster bisque, as that is really what is was. It was rich and just beckoned to be soaked into the Arborio rice of the risotto. I respect any chef who goes through the laborious three-stage process of making lobster bisque (stock->velouté->soup) but this Ruth’s Chris chef went even further, pulling off a perfectly executed risotto as well.

At this point I have to break the flow and say that this glorious dish and this wonderful wine went together like the combination of Borat doing the keynote at a Southern Baptist Convention. This same menu was served on the same day at over 30 Ruth’s Chris locations hosting this 90+ tasting meal, so it came out of corporate. What they were smoking when they made this pairing is beyond me. The wine killed the food. It is designed for steak, or lamb, or venison. I ate the food, and then slowly sipped the wine on its own.

Next was the 2007 Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino from Italy. It scored 94 points and, while a pleasant enough wine, left me wondering how. It did not have the complexity I have found in other Brunellos. We tasted it with an ostentatious filet mignon Oscar with sauce béarnaise accompanied by Ruth’s garlic mashed potatoes. You might call this ‘meat and potatoes’ I suppose, but it amply lived up to the reputation of the house.

Finally, we had a pleasant German wine with dessert. The 2009 S.A. Prüm Graatcher Himmelreich Riesling Spätlese from the Mösel (92 points) complemented a fresh strawberry shortcake and dark chocolate covered strawberry.

An impressive suite of wines that all lived up to 90+ points. Great dishes too. I hope Ruth’s Chris does this more frequently, say each quarter, and expands it to their Dallas location and puts the wines from the tasting on the regular menu as a tasting flight. That would be very nice.

Lobster and Chorizo Risotto with a Cognac Spiked Creamy Lobster Sauce
Fresh Strawberry Shortcake and Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberry