Littorai Wines dinner at the Fifth Floor Restaurant in the Palomar Hotel, San Francisco

by Stevie on September 28, 2011

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
the gorgeous green-tiled Palomar Hotel, home to the Fifth Floor restaurant

the gorgeous green-tiled Palomar Hotel, home to the Fifth Floor restaurant

I’m thrilled to report to you all in blog-landia this super fun dinner, meet-the-winemaker experience that Hegui and I enjoyed last week. Littorai has become famous in California for Burgundian-styled Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. Just this month, they were given high praise in Wine Spectator’s annual California pinot noir run-down. And the Fifth Floor Restaurant in the gorgeous Palomar Hotel has been a sensation here in San Francisco for years. We’d tried neither the wines nor the restaurant before this “private client dinner,” making this an especially delightful time.

The event, as you might have guessed, was put together by Littorai Wines as a fun promotional thing for their wine club members and friends. We paid to attend but that didn’t put anyone off. The dinner was crowded. In fact, the organizer told me that it filled up in a few days, Littorai is that good.

Attending an event like this reminded us both of a wedding dinner. People were excited to be there, were well dressed and for the most part on their best behavior, though hardly anyone knew one another. So we had the wonderful opportunity of chatting with our elegant neighbors.

There were six pairs of people at our table, including ourselves. One was in the wine industry. One was in investment banking but had a small pinot noir vineyard in Anderson Valley as a sort of money-pit. There with his fiancée, they’re to be married this week or maybe next. Another couple were real food-and-wine lovers living in the Marina District in town. They splurged and ordered a whole case of the delicious 2009 Littorai The Haven Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir as the meal was winding down, which I thought impressive. These two were especially psyched about the Fifth Floor and its relatively new executive chef, David Bazirgan. The pair to our left were relative newcomers to San Francisco, having moved here from Minneapolis, MN about three years ago. They were especially fun to talk with, as they adored cooking. One recommended we try making sushi for brunch sometime and serve it with champagne. Apparently she does that quite often, to rave reviews.

sipping 2010 Littorai Lemon's Folly while awaiting other dinner guests

sipping 2010 Littorai Lemon's Folly while awaiting other dinner guests

heirloom tomato, melon, tomato leather amuse bouche

heirloom tomato, melon, tomato leather amuse bouche

Littorai winemaker and owner, Ted Lemon, explaining the Haven and Hirsch Vineyard pinots

Littorai winemaker and owner, Ted Lemon, explaining the Haven and Hirsch Vineyard pinots

I was a bit dismayed to be ushered to the Sixth Floor group dining room upon arriving at the Palomar, so I’m not yet convinced that we’ve actually dined at the Fifth Floor. But there were some perks, too, on the 6th floor. I’m a huge fan of evaluating restaurant bathrooms as part of an overall dining experience. Here the bathroom was really unique: it came with an entire hotel room, bed included. Cool!

We asked for the pesce-veggie menu as usual. As we waited for everyone to arrive, we early-birds sipped glasses of 2010 Littorai Lemon’s Folly, an off-dry blend of several grapes, including gewürztraminer. I liked it though Hegui, who remains a purist and red-devotee, wasn’t too sure.

Everyone started with an amuse bouche of heirloom tomato, melon and tomato leather. Tomato leather! That’s different. Really it tasted like sundried tomato but had the texture of one of those “healthy snacks” for kids, Fruit Roll-ups. Fun.

geoduck, razor and surf clam ceviche

geoduck, razor and surf clam ceviche

lovely cheese-filled ravioli with basil pesto and tomatoes

lovely cheese-filled ravioli with basil pesto and tomatoes

On the left, the 2009 Cerise Vineyard Pinot Noir, and on the right, the 2009 Savoy Vineyard Pinot Noir; both from Anderson Valley

On the left, the 2009 Cerise Vineyard Pinot Noir, and on the right, the 2009 Savoy Vineyard Pinot Noir; both from Anderson Valley


Next to arrive was a flavorful Geoduck, Razor and Surf Clam Ceviche. That was served with two Littorai chardonnays; the 2009 Mays Canyon, Russian River Valley; and the 2008 Charles Heintz Vineyard, Sonoma Coast. The wines were distinctly different and pleasant.

That was followed by the first pair of pinots: the 2009 Savoy Vineyard, Anderson Valley; and the 2009 Cerise Vineyard, Anderson Valley. We enjoyed ours with a cheese stuffed ravioli dish. The other diners had duck breast. The Savoy was drinking best of the two, though somehow I preferred the Cerise, which seemed more complex, and therefore, more interesting.

Last were two more pinots: the 2009 Hirsch Vineyard, Sonoma Coast; and the 2009 Haven Vineyard, Sonoma Coast. We had ours with a small dish of grilled scallops. The rest had lamb. The Haven was really nice and seemed less acidic than the Hirsch. Really all the wines were quite enjoyable.

grilled scallops with corn and padron peppers

grilled scallops with corn and padron peppers

four cheese dessert dish

perspiring four cheese dessert dish

Between courses, winemaker and Littorai owner, Ted Lemon spoke to us about his winemaking philosophy, the various vineyards he sources grapes from, his experiences working in Burgundy and fielded questions from the cheery audience.

We finished with a somewhat disappointing four cheese selection and re-tastings of any of the wines. (The cheese looked like it had been sliced and sat for a while, as they had beads of condensation on them. Not cute.) I had more Haven and Savoy and re-tasted the Hirsch, just, you know, to be sure 😉

me and winemaker Ted Lemon

me and winemaker Ted Lemon

Related Posts with Thumbnails

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Erica September 28, 2011 at 8:13 am

The food looks delicious and the event sounds fantastic!

Klara September 28, 2011 at 10:20 am

i thought that we have got the best quality pinot noir, i mean europe. (exactly France). BUT a few months ago my man was on a business trip in San Francisco, and he came back with a selection of californian red wines. and i clearly remember of a bottle Littorai Pinot Noir, which was the best we ever tasted. you are lucky to have the chance to drink these wines with the delicious foods as seen on the photos. i wish i ever could be there:)

Klara September 28, 2011 at 10:22 am

could you give maybe a link, from which Litteroi wines can be ordered? i didn’t found anything on the web, but i’m sure there’s a possibility to get some bottles here in europe. in shops i didn’t find them.
Klara recently posted..FettabsaugenMy Profile

Juliana September 29, 2011 at 3:34 pm

Wow, what a fun event…I’d love to try them all 🙂
Muito obrigada pela visita!
Tenham um bom final de semana…
Juliana recently posted..CINNAMON ROLLS IN CUPSMy Profile

fattydumpling September 30, 2011 at 10:36 pm

This sounds like it was quite the experience ;] When I was younger, I really wanted to have something like this: fancy, beautifully put together dishes with generous glasses of wine. So gorgeous, I wish that I liked wine.

P.S. I really enjoyed reading that comment that Stevie left on my friend Helen’s blog, mindfuckdaily. It was a thought-out answer that was interesting to read since he’s brought in a different perspective. And it’s SO neat that Stevie’s friend teaches at the university in Guelph–I might have been taught by him. Took an English course 3 years ago.
fattydumpling recently posted..Martha Stewart’s Oreo CupcakesMy Profile

Barbara October 1, 2011 at 4:47 am

What a disaster the cheese plate is. And after the other nice courses too. The wines sound interesting…I’ll look into them.
Barbara recently posted..50 Women Game Changers in Food: #17, Dorothy HamiltonMy Profile

pinot geek October 17, 2011 at 8:39 am

“What a disaster the cheese plate is. And after the other nice courses too.”

On the contrary. I was at the dinner. The cheese course was the best course served. Just a fabulous selection.

And the wine of the night? Sorry you red wine devotees, it was the ’08 Charles Heitz chardonnay. Stunning.

Joe October 17, 2011 at 1:37 pm

Cheese is much more interesting when you let it come up to room temperature they did it correctly.

Stevie October 18, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Joe

Thank you for your comment, and we wholeheartedly agree with you–cheese is better at room temperature. But after that, it starts to sweat a bit too much. My cheese looked like it had just run a marathon. It sounds like you fared better.

Stevie October 18, 2011 at 6:17 pm

PinotGeek

See my comment to Joe about the cheese.

As to the issue of the “wine of the night” though I really don’t believe in the concept, I am glad to hear that you admired the chardonnay. I really don’t appreciate that kind of wine much so it is good to learn from you. Though with your handle, I’m a bit surprised that you picked the white over red. It makes me think that you didn’t especially care for the pinots that night. Do tell more…

pinot geek October 18, 2011 at 6:21 pm

My cheese plate was spot on (I was at the front table).

I love Littorai, and I’m a long time devotee. Unfortunately I had several problems with the dinner. (1) The tight squeeze in the odd banquet room at the end of the hall, totally divorced from the actual restaurant. (2) It took forever for the dinner to actually get going. (3) The portions, up to the cheese course, were TINY. That’s fine at French Laundry, because there are 10-12 courses served. Not so for a 4 course meal. (4) My final quibble is really a function of Littorai dinners past. They traditionally go overboard on selections from their library, sometimes even from magnum. Here everything was from the current release. These wines need more bottle age to show their true glory!

pinot geek October 18, 2011 at 6:28 pm

Stevie,

Regarding my admiration for the Chrales Heitz chardonnay, I thought it was in a beautiful drinking window while the ’09 pinots, as I said above, need cellar time. For example, I drank an ’05 Littorai Haven last weekend and was crazy about it. It’s not like these wines are tannic young Bordeaux that need decades (although some certainly showed ample tannic backbone), but they do benefit greatly from least a few years

pinot geek October 18, 2011 at 6:31 pm

Stevie,

Regarding my admiration for the Chrales Heitz chardonnay, I thought it was in a beautiful drinking window while the ’09 pinots, as I said above, need cellar time. For example, I drank an ’05 Littorai Haven last weekend and was crazy about it. It’s not like these wines are tannic young Bordeaux that need decades (although some certainly showed ample tannic backbone), but they do benefit greatly from least a few years.

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

Previous post:

Next post: