Thursday, July 15, 2010

Left Coast Vacation 2010: Day 3 - Opus One Winery, Bouchon and Schramsberg Vineyards

Our third day was filled with even more tours and tastings at wineries and incredible food. What an arduous vacation! We began our day at Opus One Winery. Since Robert Mondavi is synonymous with Napa wines, MW suggested we visit his most prestigious venture. Although the actual size of Opus One paled in comparison to the Robert Mondavi Winery, conveniently located across the street, we enjoyed our tour. Fortunately, the tour concluded in the tasting room as MW an I savored our wine on an outdoor terrace where we were able to enjoy the view.

Following Opus One, we drove back to Yountville and Bouchon Bistro for our lunch reservation. After hearing The Chief's experience at Bouchon Bistro in Las Vegas, I was excited to try it for myself. The restaurant mimicked a classic bistro from an aesthetic standpoint. Tile floors, a magnificent bar proudly displaying fresh, "fruits de mar," and high ceilings reminded us both of our time in Paris. We were immediately brought Mini-French Baguettes from the neighboring Bouchon Bakery alongside Butter and House-Made Aïoli.

Doing the majority, and by majority I mean all of the driving, I ordered a Fever Tree Ginger Ale. It had a robust ginger flavor without being overly sweet. On the other hand, MW ordered a glass of the Copain, Vin de Table - California (2009). We originally saw this wine listed at on the menu at Ad Hoc and is a blend (75% Pinot Gris and 25% Pinot Noir) that's chilled like a white.

To start, MW ordered the Soupe à l'Oignon, or French Onion Soup. A layer of gruyère enveloped a bowl containing caramelized onions and croutons in a heavily reduced stock. A bistro staple, this version had an incredible depth of flavor to it, but was ultimately too salty. The best part of the soup was the bits of slightly caramelized gruyère stuck to the bowl.

After hearing The Chief sing its praises, I had to order the Rillettes aux Deux Saumon, or Salmon Rillettes. Chunks of both Smoked and Fresh Salmon preserved under a layer of fat and eaten with Toasted Croutons was as good as advertised and more. Rich and smokey yet surprisingly light, the combination of salmons elevated this favorite to another level. As with my experiences at Keller's other restaurants, I was given a plate of freshly toasted croutons midway through the course, a nice touch if I say so myself.

Moving on the our entrees, MW chose the Moules à la Basquaise. A small mountain of Maine Bouchot Mussels steamed with White Wine, Chorizo, Peppers and Garlic Confit came alongside a cone of steaming hot French Fries. The mussels were quite plump and absorbed the supporting flavors well. The french fries were terribly addictive, perfectly fried and seasoned, they just begged to be finished.

On a recent episode of No Reservations chef Keller demonstrated how to properly roast a chicken. I've often heard and believe that you can judge a chef by their ability to roast a chicken. If the Poulet Rôti, or Roasted Chicken with Red Rice, Pickled Grapes, Wilted Arugula, Candied Hazelnuts and Tarragon Chicken Jus is a measure by which all chef's are measured by, then they succeeded. The chicken was succulent, moist and just burst with flavor.

Overall, the food at Bouchon Bistro was good but was far from great. Maybe my hopes were inflated for this Michelin-rated restaurant, or maybe I've just come to expect too much from anything owned by Keller. But nitpicking aside, the restaurant serves classic French staples with a gourmet twist, served at all hours of the day. But judging the restaurant by these standards, Bouchon epitomizes everything that a bistro should be.

We walked next door to pick up something sweet at Bouchon Bakery. While I've visited the Manhattan location countless times for their Florentine Cookies, MW and I enjoyed some "Chocolate Bouchons," which is the French word for a cork.

Sated, we passed on dessert, keeping in mind our dinner reservations later at Cyrus. We then were off again to Schramsberg Vineyards, known all over the world for their exceptional Sparkling Wine. Honestly, I'm not much of a Champagne or Sparkling Wine drinker. Save New Years Eve or a special event like a wedding, I hardly touch the stuff, but I thought this would be a nice break from the countless wineries we'd be visiting on this trip.

A small group of us were led around the Schramsberg Estate before descending into their wine caves. Here, we learned and observed first hand how sparkling wine is made and ended our tour with a tasting of several different varieties. The caves, though a bit dank, were nice and cool, creating a unique ambiance to enjoy our glasses of sparkling wine.

* For a recap of day 1 click here or here.
** For a recap of day 2 click here or here.

Bouchon Bistro
6534 Washington Street
Yountville, CA 94599
(707) 944-8037

Bouchon Bakery
6528 Washington Street
Yountville, CA 94599
(707) 944-2253

To see all our pics click the flickr link.

Bouchon on Urbanspoon

Bouchon Bakery on Urbanspoon

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