Thursday, June 25, 2009

Bitten by Rattlesnake

With only one shot at week two of Palm Springs Restaurant Week, we bee-lined for a sure bet in great food and wine: Jimmy Schmidt's Rattlesnake.

Rattlesnake's Palm Desert location at the Classic Club just north of I-10 off Cook Street is central and convenient. It's just enough off the beaten path to have special, perhaps secret destination status. But Rattlesnake is too good, no, make that great to be kept secret.

First up, we were thrilled to discover that the two two-ounce tasting glasses of wine included with our dinner were from Heron, the winery featured at our February Winewomen event held at Rattlesnake. Apparently, restaurant sommelier Francois Cinq-Mars enjoyed Laely Heron's wines so much that evening, he decided to add them to the menu – pretty cool.

Schmidt's ambitious cuisine convinced our foursome to order different dishes and let tasting forks rule. Tines flew back and forth in testimony to the flavors, seasoning and textures of each course. One tablemate saw fit to give a mini-soliloquy to the bread basket and a few courses later, the coffee. Service, to no one's no surprise, was impeccable.

Cinq-Mars deserves kudos for the restaurant's wine list. Selections are grouped by grape types with each variety highlighted by a brief yet pithy description of the fruit, its wine flavors, body and other qualities to help diners choose and pair appropriately. He also calls attention to sub-categories of "interesting" wines – some are blends, others are wines made from less-familiar or exotic grapes.

The handpicked list is obviously chosen with care and quite fairly priced. We counted charmers as well as special bottles for splurge or landmark nights. In fact, we'd love to have just about every one in our cellar, they're that good.

Best of all, or so we heard, Rattlesnake will offer this special menu during the summer. We'll confirm when, how much and other details or call the restaurant at 760.601.3690. Order a few tasty treats at their wine bar or try Rattlesnake for lunch. Either way, even though you might think of it as your special hideaway, you won't be able to resist letting your friends in on this local treasure.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

So Goode: Petit Verdot

Murphy-Goode has been a hot news topic since the winery posted a $10,000-a-month job for a social media maven. Yesterday's Los Angeles Times carried a story about the Sonoma winery's six-month position that entails Tweeting, Twittering and cyber-networking about wine and, we presume, Murphy-Goode wines in particular.

Winemaker David Ready Jr. is serious about wine, though humor is part of the blend. Murphy-Goode's portfolio sounds like wild nights in Las Vegas with names like Liar's Dice and Snake Eyes (Zinfandel), Wild Card and All In (Claret). We enjoyed them on a visit to their tasting room in 2007. One Murphy-Goode wine stood out above the rest, uncut and named solely for its grape: Petit Verdot.

We decanted our last bottle of the Murphy Ranch 2002 vintage last month. On deck for dinner were steaks with perfect marbling that promised flavorful tenderness off the grill. The wine poured deep purple with aromas of black cherry and flowers. One sip delivered a full and luscious mouthful rich with chocolate, cherry and plum flavors. Bright acidity gave the wine a juicy texture and finish with subtle vanilla notes on a base of minerality. Age had softened the tannins, which added just the right amount of framing to the wine's structure. It's true, Goode comes to those who wait.

We're glad to see more single-varietal Petit Verdot wines at local wine shops. The grape's concentrated and exotic flavors suit adventurous palates or those who seek a break from Cabernet Sauvignon. In Bordeaux, the French use Petit Verdot primarily as a blending grape. New World vintners have succeeded in making concentrated and balanced Petit Verdot wine from grapes grown in drier, warmer climates that allow the fruit enough time to mature and develop the flavor density fans of the wine enjoy.

Look for Petit Verdot from Sonoma's Alexander Valley, Napa, upcoming Suisun Valley, Paso Robles, Washington's Columbia Valley and yes, Virginia. We made sure to stash away a couple bottles of 2004 vintage Murphy-Goode River Ranch Alexander Valley, just in case. Will it be as good as the 2002 Murphy Ranch? Check back in 2011.

Back to that Really Goode Job. We sent the job post to a journalist who'd lost many talented colleagues to cut-backs. Here's the response we received: So do they give you enough Petit Verdot at the end of six months so you won't realize you don't have a job anymore?

Sounds Goode to us.