Foodie Events / Restaurants

This River Oaks District Wine Tasting Dinner Makes Social Distancing Special — Le Colonial Creates a Real Event

A Houston Night Worth Venturing Out For

BY // 10.15.20

It was Le Colonial’s second fall wine tasting dinner and on this weeknight the highly lauded Caymus family of wines were featured. While we are reluctant to venture out too often due to COVID-19, our admiration of Caymus and our romance with Le Colonial’s menu of Vietnamese comfort foods and French-Asian fusion, we decided to sign on.

We ascended to the River Oaks District restaurant’s second floor lounge where groupings of towering palms had been added to camouflage the extended spacing between tables. There were no more than 20 guests in the Houston restaurant, some at tables of four, most at tables for two assuring that no one was seated with strangers.

Arrivals, all wearing masks, were welcomed and quickly escorted to their tables by Le Colonial general manager and sommelier Trevor Wiedeman, wearing his ever-present mask and gloves. It was a friendly welcome that did not allow for up-close-and-personal mingling. Social distancing was the order of the evening.

As Wiedeman explains of the special wine dinners, “We plan to host one of these every three weeks or so featuring a special winery up until the holidays. It gives our chefs a chance to do something different, to exercise their creativity.”

On this evening, Le Colonial executive chef Hassan Obaye wowed the connoisseurs with a five-course feast accompanied by an array of wines under the Caymus umbrella. As Caymus Gulf regional manager Kelsie Pennington noted, the family-run business has 15 labels under its umbrella and five of those were on the menu card for the Le Colonial dinner.

In pairing her wines with chef Obaye’s menu, Pennington saved the famed Caymus cabernet sauvignon, which retails around $83 a bottle, to be consumed with dessert, which was a seductive pod of Valrhona chocolate served with ginger passion fruit and raspberry sorbet.

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The remainder of the wines — Emmolo No. 2 Sparkling, Sea Sun chardonnay, Mer Soleil pinot noir, and Caymus Suisun Grand Durif petite sirah — come from the less expensive side of the Caymus family.

“Chuck Wagner (who heads the three generation family operation) loves that his wine has reached this iconic status but he is also a huge believer that wine is meant to be enjoyed with friends, family, and neighbors on a Tuesday night with a very casual dinner,” Pennington says. “So as Napa Valley has become increasingly expensive year after year, he has become innovative in creating wines that won’t break the bank for the average consumer.”

She adds that the Wagner family’s Bonanza cabernet sauvignon, priced under $25, is ranked No. 7 in the country after having been on the market for only two years.

Working withe Caymus, Chef Obaye exercised his talents with an impressive menu that included Yuzu Crab, jumbo lump crabmeat with avocado, jalapeno, chives and Yuzu sesame dressing; Yellowfin tuna, spice crusted tuna loin with haricots verts and heirloom tomatoes; Tea Cured Duck with parsnips, romanesco broccoli and cinnamon fig jus; Akaushi Short Rib, prepared sous vide serviced with kabocha squash, asparagus and lemongrass peppercorn jus; and the aforementioned dessert.

As for the California wine country fires, Pennington says that 80 percent of Caymus’ fruit had been harvested before the fires. The remaining 20 percent has since been harvested and is under special watch.

“We have our assistant winemaker tasting every single barrel twice every day to identify any kind of glycerin or any kind of taint at all,” Pennington says. “So far we have not detected a single thing.”

To date, she says, of the 600 or so vineyards that fill the 26-mile-long Napa Valley, some 200 wineries have been badly burned.

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