The Capital Grille recently invited Jill and I to co-host an intimate media dinner to celebrate their 8th Annual Generous Pour Summer Wine Event. We thought about that for exactly zero seconds before putting together an invite list of like-minded local food writers and media folks.
In arguably one of the sexiest restaurants in town, situated in the sparkling University Town Center, our group began the evening in the bar, where we enjoyed the house signature martini, a pineapple infused vodka, cleverly named the “Stoli Doli,” hereinafter referred to by me as “you have to have one of these!”
The ultimate goal of the night was to experience The Generous Pour in the same style as any other guests. For this occasion, we gathered in the private “Board Room” to meet with The Capital Grille’s corporate Master Sommelier, George Miliotes, who spoke to us about his thought process in selecting wines for this annual extravaganza.
To give you an idea how special it is to meet a Master Sommelier, you should know the first Master Sommelier designation was earned back in 1969, and since then there have been only 234 professionals worldwide to hold this esteemed title! Let that sink in for a second!
In a nutshell, The Generous Pour Summer Wine Event works like this; with the purchase of any dinner entrée, diners can choose to add The Generous Pour to their meal. This year’s wine selection celebrates the women who created eight of California’s most amazing wines. This years line-up includes the debut of Proprietress Drew Barrymore’s Pinot Grigio, along with other offerings from noted winemakers and visionaries.
The menu price per bottle ranges from $40 to $150, and pours are two ounces each. This is essentially a personal, customizable wine dinner. How cool is that? Whether you run the table of all eight, or decide that you found your personal favorite and want to stick with just that pour, it’s up to you! OK, so what’s the cost I heard someone just say? It’s only $28! This my friends explains the name and nature of this event, the single biggest annual wine event for a restaurant in North America, running from July 6th through August 30th this year.
Master Sommelier George spent the best part of an hour talking about the various vintages, varietals, and nuances of each wine, as we made side-by-side contrasting tastings of Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, the oaky, creamy Stonestreet “Bear Point” Chardonnay (awarded 95 points by Robert Parker for those of you scoring at home,) a 2007 Kinton Syrah, (exclusive to Capital Grille and acknowledged by Master Sommieler George as singularly the best vintage in the history of California.) It occurred to me at the time that this was akin to getting an hour-long singing lesson from Andrea Bocelli, or a private dance lesson from Rudolph Nuryev. Seriously!
In any case, you can see the entire line-up, along with tasting notes and brief bios of these accomplished ladies by clicking HERE.
On to the dinner, and the quality you can expect when you get here! There’s a reason that The Capital Grille has twice been named as “America’s Top High End Restaurant,” as well as garnering Wine Spectator’s “Best of Award of Excellence,” as well as numerous other kudos and awards.
Our menu was actually an abbreviated version of the impressive full one. Good thing, too. As the full menu states, “Like a good book, a good menu is hard to put down, making it tricky to eat your Porterhouse.” Truer words I cannot recall.
Our group shared several appetizers – the Pan-Fried Calamari with Hot Cherry Peppers, Miniature Lobster and Crab Cakes, (which by my estimation weren’t so miniature,) and my personal “best in show” of Prociutto Wrapped Mozzarella with Vine Ripe Tomatoes in all their creamy-salty deliciousness. With wine being such a subjective and personal beverage, you’ll just have to sip your way to nirvana on your own here!
For entrée selections, everyone opted for one of the three steaks offered. The 10 ounce Filet Mignon is reportedly the top-selling menu item at the Sarasota Capital Grille, just don’t tell that to the other steaks! How about a Bone-In Kona Crusted Dry Aged (for 18-24 days) NY Strip with Shallot Butter? Or the Porcini Rubbed Bone-In Ribeye with Olive oil and 15-Year Aged Balsamic? See, I told you this wasn’t going to be easy.
Alas, Jill and I both succumb to the lure of their rib-eye steak with its mouth-watering marbling, cooked to exactly medium rare, and with the perfect char on its exterior. Up the wine line-up, I found my perfect happy place, enjoying my steak with the Mt. Brave Cabernet Sauvignon, hailing from Napa Valley’s Mt. Veeder appellation.
And I would be remiss not to mention the Accompaniments For The Table. The four we were offered were a decadent Lobster Mac ‘N’ Cheese, with serious chunks of sweet lobster meat, Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Smoked Bacon, a classic Grilled Asparagus With Lemon Mosto, and Roasted Fingerling Potatoes. Everyone agreed that they had found a favorite, or four, of these!
But wait! There’s more! Photos AND food!
Throughout the evening, seamless and impeccable service were provided by Dominic and Ashleigh, and shortly after they had cleared our dinner plates, coffee service was offered, and the not-to-be-missed dessert choices of Flourless Chocolate Espresso Cake; as rich and creamy as anyone could ask for, a Coconut Cream Pie that almost caused “dueling spoons” at the table, and a Cheesecake With Seasonal Berries rounded out the evening.
From arrival to departure, Managing Partner Tim Fanning, and restaurant Wine Director Blake Shelton (no, not that one) managed to perfectly craft the oft-attempted, not-so-oft-achieved dining experience. When I chatted briefly about that with Tim, he brought to my attention that yes, the food, beverages, service, and ambiance are something all restaurants focus on. Here, all that is superseded by the relationships they forge with their guests. Bingo!
The only thing I would add here, is don’t wait for the next rainy season to treat yourself and your friends and family royally, because raining or not, this place is pouring!