Restaurant Wine Dinners Help You Discover New Favorites

Carrabba's Wine Dinner

Wine dinners are great because every course is paired with a different wine.   Yes, even dessert!  I get wine dinner email invites at least once a week.   I’ve been dying to go to one offered by Cooper’s Hawk but it’s always on a Tuesday and my Tuesday’s are dedicated to something else.   I was very close to partaking of the most recent wine club dinner where they introduced the 2018 Barrel Reserve but it sold out.

March has been a pretty good month because two Tuesday evenings were free so I took advantage of the dinner that wasn’t sold out.   I decided on the “Ciao From Italy” wine dinner at Carrabba’s Italian Grill.   When I got the invite in my email I immediately wanted to go because the picture looks just like the Amalfi Coast.  It looks like Italy so I was sold from the first glance.

By the way, the dinner for April isn’t as appetizing to me but if you haven’t been it’s definitely worth a try.

Carrabba's Wine Dinner

I haven’t been to Carrabba’s in years so I looked at this as a fresh experience on more than one level.

Carrabba's Wine Dinner

The first course, grilled asparagus with prosciutto paired with Belleruche Rose’.  The asparagus was delicious but I’m not really a fan of rose’.

The second course, shrimp & scallop linguine alla vodka paired with Santa Cristina Chianti Superiore. Perfect!

The third course was Chicken Bryan paired with Joel Gott Zinfandel.  Zinfandel….eh….

Carrabba's Wine Dinner

The final course was a strawberry cheesecake paired with Rosatello Moscato.  I wasn’t too sure about this one but the moscato paired very well with the cheesecake.   Did you know there’s a rule for pairing desserts with wine?   I learned about it when I interviewed Emily Wines.

My first wine dinner takeaways

In general

  1.  Wine dinners help you discover new wines.  Even though a rose’ may not be my favorite wine I enjoy trying them because “never say never”.  There’s something about the drying feeling on my tongue that I don’t like in a rose’.  Cooper’s Hawk has a sparkling rose’ I’ve tried multiple times but in my mind it’s nothing without food.   That brings me to my second point.
  2. Wine is better with food.  How many times have you been to a wine tasting and you tried wine after wine but nothing really resonated with you?   Going back to that sparkling rose’, the tasting notes say it pairs well with sushi.   I wasn’t a big fan of the wine until I paired it with sushi.

Specifically

The wine paired with Course 2 was delicious!  This was the Santa Cristina Chianti Superiore.   I researched this wine while I was sitting there awaiting my third course and found out it’s available at Total Wine & More.  However, when I went to the store to purchase the wine it wasn’t available so I decided to buy a Super Tuscan by the same company.

Carrabba's Wine Dinner

I don’t remember learning about a “Superiore” when I visited Italy.   I remember learning about Chianti, Chianti Classico, Chianti Reserva, Super Tuscan wines, etc.  The Superiore I tasted with dinner is described as a “Ruby wine with spicy aromas that combine with rich red fruit and cherry flavors for a delectable tasting experience”.

I’m not the best with pairing food and wine, I’m still learning.   My recent interview with Master Sommelier Emily Wines taught me the rule of regions.   If a wine comes from particular region it’s very likely that it will pair well with food from that region.  Hence the pairing of this Chianti and the pasta dish Carrabba’s served.  I’ll let you know what I think about the Santa Cristina Toscana.   Based on the description online it’s a Super Tuscan with Sangiovese, Merlot & Syrah grapes.

Other Wine Dinners

Ruth’s Chris

Like I said, I get at least one wine dinner email invite a week and the next one I plan to try is Ruth’s Chris.  It’s called Ruth’s Tastemaker Dinners.   The dinner for the month of April is a $95-$99 depending on which Ruth’s Chris location here in the Jacksonville area I decide to visit.

The good thing about Ruth’s Chris is that their dinners are on two different nights and at least for the upcoming dinner it’s on a Thursday, Friday/Sunday.   Those days are much more doable for me and I think I’m speaking for most people when I say this.

UPDATE:  4/12/18

The wine dinner at Ruth’s Chris in May is even more expensive, $110.

The featured wine is Napa Valley’s Freemark Abbey.

First Course:

Crispy coconut shrimp along with asian slaw & sweet chili sauce and paired with sauvignon blanc

Second Course:

Beet-cured king salmon with lemon cream cheese, melba toast paired with chardonnay

Third Course:

Beef and vegetable soup with potatoes, roasted peppers and sour cream paired with merlot

Main Course:

Petite filet with charred onion jam paired with cabernet sauvignon

Dessert:

Banoffee Torte with caramel filling, caramelized banana & cream paired with coffee

Seasons 52

Seasons 52 is also offering a wine dinner…sorta.   There’s a “Hello Spring” offer for less than $30 but here’s the catch.  The restaurant is suggesting wines by the glass as an extra.  The wines will pair well with the 3-course dinner.  The good thing about the dinner offered at Seasons 52 is that you get to choose your own soup/salad as well as main course…this instead of the restaurant choosing for you.

Ted Montana’s 

Ted Montana’s is also getting in on this…again sorta.   The restaurant known for it’s bison offerings has a Bison&Bourbon pairing dinner.  I found out about this one (even though it was 2 weeks ago) from a friend.

The Facebook post about this says it’s a 5-course meal with Grilled Shrimp on Ciabatta Toast as a first course along with an Uptown Manhattan to drink.   For the second course you get a Bar None Slider with a Buffalo Trace Bourbon.   The third course is Bison Short Ribs with Jack Daniels.  The fourth course is a Bison Filet with a Woodford Reserve.   The fifth and final course is the Salted Caramel Adult Shake.    The “adult” part is Jack Daniels.  The best thing about the dinner at Ted Montana’s is that it’s only 40 bucks per person.

UPDATED 4/12/18

Bonefish Grill

I just got this in my email for Bonefish Grill and their Perfect Pairings menu.  For some reason I’m not getting the $50 vibe they’re sending with this menu.  I don’t know if it’s because the second course seems a bit confusing or what.  I even called one location where I live and they were totally confused themselves when I asked questions.   I generally like Bonefish Grill so maybe it’s worth a try.

Carrabba's Wine Dinner

I likely won’t try the dinner at Ted Montana’s because it’s full of red  meat and I don’t eat red meat.    The Ruth’s Chris menu is more doable if I ask them to change one course.   Cooper’s Hawk was willing to change one course but I’m not sure other restaurants will be as willing but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Wine dinners are very similar to prix fixe menus or in other words a fixed price.   But when you can get alcohol included in that price, it’s even better.

Have you ever been to a wine dinner?

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