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.
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.
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.
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 😉