Valentine's Day at Viognier Restaurant

What a discovery thanks to! Looking for a place to have a special dinner on Valentine's day can always be a bit of a challenge. Especially for my date and I, who are both quite demanding of our wine to deliver as much satisfaction during the meal as the food. I was referred to use by a family member, and I was so impressed with the way the system works. Much like, you can specify details of the restaurant you are looking for, and find out all the available times for reservations and book online. I stumbled across Viognier Restaurant all too easily since it fit the bill of exactly what I was looking for, and was so aptly named for one of my favorite Rhone varietals. I was able to view the special menu for the evening, and see the options for wine pairing. Perfect!

Upon arriving, we were told our reservation was running a few minutes behind, but that we could enjoy a glass of wine in the bar. The bar area was fairly small, but offered a few high tables to sit for a few moments. The "By the Glass" menu was decent, without being too focused on Napa wines as many Northern California restaurants are. The prices weren't outragous either, with one of my favorite easy to drink wines, Masi Campofiorin Ripasso, Verona, Italy, Corvina Veronese 2004, for only $10.

When our table was ready, we were escorted to a quiet corner table overlooking the plant-filled balcony and given some of the best bread and butter to munch on while waiting. The menu was pre-fixed with a few different options, and we decided on adding the wine pairings as well. Our menu consisted of the following:
  • Local Garden Lettuces - Red Wine Vinagrette, Fresh Goat Chevre, Shaved Carrots with 2007 Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc - Russian River Valley, CA
  • Jumbo Lump Crabcake - Apple, Mache, Remoulade with 2005 Gerhard, “Hattenheimer Hassel” Riesling Spätlese - Rheingau, Germany
  • Pan Seared Scallops - Napa Cabbage, Forest Mushrooms, Smoked Bacon with 2007 Wandering Wallaby, “Reserve” Chardonnay - Margaret River, Australia
  • Tenderloin of Prime Beef - Celery Root, Roasted Carrots, Cippolini Onions, Black Pepper with 2005 Terra Valentine Cabernet Sauvignon - Spring Mountain, CA
  • Apple Bread Pudding - Apple Caramel Sauce, Sautéed Apples with 2003 Royal Tokaji, “Red Label” - 5 Puttanyos - Hungary
  • Chocolate Cherry Tart - Peppermint Ice Cream, Cherry Sauce with NV Meyer Family, “Port” - CA

My date and I split everything, as we always do, so that we could try as many things as possible. Favorites of the evening were the Crab cakes and the Scallops (always a seafood lover). The thing I liked about these the most were the wine pairings. The Riesling was a lovely surprise to compliment the crab, offering a citrus and wet stone nose complimented by a crisp, dry, light fruit and high acidity palate. Perfect for the slightly sweet crab! The scallops were delightful with the Chardonnay, and although I am rarely a fan of Chardonnay, this Australian choice complimented well with just a hint of oak that avoided overpowering the bright fruit characteristics of the wine. The subtle melon flavors and creamy mouthfeel made it the perfect match with the mushrooms and bacon.

Though there was some slowness in the service and the overall price ended up being higher than anticipated, this meal was a memorable one for the books. I would recommend this place to anyone traveling through the San Mateo area, especially because it is located above the Draeger's Market which is a fantastic kitchen store that I could spend hours browsing. Stop by and enjoy their open kitchen, French-Californiam fusion cuisine, and award-winning wine list!

Back Wine Bar

After moving back from London in December, I spent a few months living in Sacramento in limbo on my way to San Francisco. Since the last time I lived in this city was well before I was of drinking age, I had to go out and discover some wine spots where I could get my "fix". An old coworker from San Luis Obispo had started working at a newer place called Back Wine Bar in Folsom, CA and it appealed to me because he said it had the same cozy feel as the bar we worked at in SLO. I went out in January to check it out, and was thoroughly impressed!

Although the space is small, they make it work really well by offering lots of bar seating, and cosy little tables along the wall and outside on the patio. It has a sleek, dark look to it with the stainless steel bar and velvety couches, but still offers a welcoming feeling with the warm lighting and warm smiles behind the counter. The Back's, a husband and wife team, run the bar and strive to offer a unique selection of wines, high quality foods, and events to draw the neighborhood in. The bar offers about 30 different wines for tasting or by the glass, and many more available to purchase by the bottle. There are also a few beer available on tap and by the bottle, and thanks to their beer connoisseur staff members, they are usually harder to find selections. But the best part of this bar is the food menu! Along with the traditional meat and cheese plates, they offer mini pizzas, four delectable types of bruschetta, and a seasonal Crème Brulée made from fruits of the season (blood orange the day of my visit).

I joined the mailing list on my first visit, and started hearing about all the events and tastings they offered over the next month. When I heard about their Valentine's Eve tasting of Champagne and oysters, I had to drag my boyfriend out to share in the treats. Everything was so reasonably priced ($0.50 oysters on the half shell and $6.00 glass of Champagne) that I couldn't resist over-indulging. The staff also opened several other bottles from their store and private collections, and were more than happy to share and educate anyone who was interested.

This place is a fabulous addition to the Folsom wine scene, and well worth the trek all the way from downtown Sacramento. Just be careful about driving home!

Check it out!