By JOHN DeMERS
Amidst the richly hued loveliness that is Fleming’s, I attended my first-ever video-interactive wine dinner. And since last night’s wine selections featured all of Caymus’ greatest hits, from the famously floral Conundrum to not one but two years of its Napa cabernet, technology connecting 42 different steakhouse locations in real time still wasn’t the best thing on the menu.
All of the evening’s eating and drinking (in my case, at Fleming’s City Centre location) were accomplished live and in person, thank goodness – hosted by operating partner George Malek and his stylish crew. But a lot of the usual wine dinner information was delivered via videos shot both at Caymus itself and at various places in northern California. One additional triumph (for no machine blew up in our faces during the night) was connecting all 42 restaurants to a live Q&A session from the Fleming’s in Palo Alto. Questions were emailed from the individual restaurants. On the screen here, you see company director of wine Marian op de Haar, Caymus owner-winemaker Chuck Wagner and company executive chef Russell Skall.
For me, this was the foundational dish of the dinner: a peppercorn-crusted Prime New York strip with Bordelaise sauce, sauteed escarole and fingerling potatoes. The Bordelaise (Bordeaux) reference was 100% appropriate, since the wines poured with it were the 2000 and 2008 Napa Valley Special Selections. Before that, we sipped Conundrum (its “flowers” from viognier and muscat in the blend) with little flatbread squares topped with red onion and Danish blue cheese, and then refreshingly unoaked Mer Soleil Silver from the Santa Lucia Highlands of the Central Coast, with an heirloom tomato salad with creamy burrata cheese.
Dessert was described as an English berry trifle, but somehow it collided with an all-American strawberry shortcake on the way to our table. The sour cream pound cake and amaretto mascarpone cream were perfect with Caymus’ Mer Soleil Late 2004, a lightly sweet viognier that also hails from the Santa Lucia Highlands.