Look – I admit it! I am a wine neophyte. My “art of wine” knowledge bank is not filled up much past knowing some wine comes in shades of red, white, and pink (ahem, rosé!) and that I really enjoy a glass of New Age every so often or one of those super sweet dessert wines most crinkle their nose at. So when I decided to attend Christner’s Prime Steak & Lobster’s special Wine Dinner with John Blazon, Master Sommelier, I was all bits nervous and excited.
Would they know I was a fraud? Would I be shunned for my obvious lack of understanding of what separated a wine from New Zealand from a glass of grape juice that had sat out too long? I could hardly pronounce Sauvignon Blanc, let along sommelier! Yet, I was both excited and determined to finally dine at Christner’s (which, I’ve only ever heard amazing things about from my foodie friends) and the chance to expand my appreciation of wine, and from a master (and local!) sommelier no less.
Can I start by saying that Alice Christner has to be one of the most welcoming hosts? The moment I stepped into the back dining space, my anxiousness dissipated as Alice welcomed me in and introduced me around the room. Every member of her team that moved through that room, including “Dan Dan the Wine Man” as she so lovingly calls the restaurant’s sommelier, was courteous, friendly, and personable. Sometimes, even when the food is just okay, being served by a friendly staff can make your dining experience all worth the while. Lucky for me, the food was AMA-zing, too!!
Master Sommelier John Blazon is a poet of wine. He did more than educate us about the presented Spire Collection wines and why he chose them to be paired with each mouthwatering course. He wove a conversation full of wine-making history, geographic differences in flavors and trends, wine brands, styles and fermentation, stories of Pinot Noir, Cabernets, Sauvignon Blancs, etc., and his journey into being a master sommelier.
A night of great food, great wine, and great company, I was surprised to find I felt less intimidated as the night went on. Maybe it was the wine, but I found myself following along with the wine conversations with a little more confidence with each course. John had an easy way about him, and I didn’t feel stupid asking my Wine 101 questions. He was patient as he tried to answer the many questions thrown at him about wine, about his experiences becoming a master sommelier (did you know there are only like 149 in the US and 236 worldwide!?), and all the randomness in between.
Did I mention the food? The food! Now this, this is my comfort zone. Just a look at my waistline will tell you that. One of the most surprising courses for me was the beefsteak tomatoes and sliced onions. When I first read that, my first reaction was, “That. Sounds. Lame.” I should know by now, don’t hate it until you try it, because dang-it was it delicious. It was so refreshing, with so many flavors between the sauce, blue cheese crumble, tomato and onions, and it didn’t make you feel too heavy before the main course.
Mountains of mashed potatoes, seas of lobster mac & cheese, valleys of baby asparagus were the perfect landscape to surround one of the most delicious cuts of meat I’ve had the pleasure to have.
I can see what all the fuss is about.
I’m a steak sauce kinda girl. I’m pretty sure it would have been a sin to put steak sauce anywhere near these three beautiful filets. It came served with two sauces, and while both were delicious, it didn’t need it. Each bite melted in my mouth, and it took a lot of self control not to pull a “Hey, look over there!” on my neighbor, so I could take his plate.
I was quite satisfied by this point. Plates cleaned, stomach full, my glass of 2012 Mt. Brave, Mount Veeder, Napa Cabernet Sauvignon nearly empty, as John Blazon shares a story about his wife’s mischievous wine mix-up leading up to his master sommelier test. I knew dessert was still to come, but I figured “Mandarin Orange Cake” might be a tiny, orange colored bundt cake, and I still had a bit more room for that.
Good golly, holy orange cake! No one prepared me for what came into the room at the end, and it seemed I wasn’t the only one impressed by the size of the cake that was sat before us. Three thick layers of soft and fluffy cake, covered in a beautiful, pillowy frosting took up the whole plate, and I assure you the size of it was not compensation for lack of flavor. Somehow I found the courage not to shove the entire thing in my mouth, because I wanted to enjoy this baby the next day, but what a sweet end to an amazing dinner.
The moral of the story? First, step out of your comfort zone. Yes, there will be those wine snobs (I see you over there scoffing at me!), who can make you feel too intimidated to go to wine events like this, but that can be found in any community, and shouldn’t keep you from great experiences like the one I had at Christner’s with MS John Blazon. I had so much fun gathering a better appreciation in the art of wine with the other dinner guests, and though I normally drink white one, my favorite of the night was definitely the 2014 Gran Moraine Pinot Noir.
Two, I think I’m really starting to understand how a great pairing of wine can really make even the best food shine.
And three. I do not think I would ever have the patience to become a master sommelier, so hats off to you MS John Blazon, and thanks for the great evening!